Think of this as a waterwheel: peaceful, but always moving, and there is power in the movement. Metal strings shake in hard strokes; brittle harpsichord sound with a bit of echo. The simple lines vary, go upward, and repeat in rolling fashion - as I said, a waterwheel. It's called Triple Heater, but the nervous theme is far from sunshine. It's more like hands before a candle, the traveler never knowing when he'll have to leave. And still you hear hope, the promise of a better day. With that it fades, and we await the next song, hopeful ourselves.
"Tarlika's Shadow" spreads wide as thick bass dives deep. Martin starts leisurely; high pluckings turn strong when the bass envelops him. A strong phrase repeats itself, and George Koller strums anew; a vigorous earthy sound, reminding me of autumn. "Orison" is spring, right around sunrise: nylon strings ascend, a graceful and a hopeful sound. The tenor is classical, as blunt notes sound like plucked violins. Strums take it another direction, the notes roam awhile, and the disciplined theme reigns it back in. The title means "horizon", and this one is endless. "Bounce" brings that thunderous bass, and a folksy theme turned active. It ambles upward, gets louder with handclaps, and then it turns intricate: a music box. "Burning Bush" sets banjo-like twang against a visceral strum; Martin plays alone, but it doesn't sound that way. The cheer rolls in, a new theme moving up with persistence: The Little Tune That Could. Catch the ending: a mood like Steve Tibbets, and Martin slashes the "three" beat; a most effective drummer. "Spinal Chords" is the odd man out: a crackling electric strolls, and the whammy bar gets a lot of use. It's a sound like pedal steel, and simpler than his acoustic work. To me, it's a bit restrained, and I prefer when the juice is turned off. I think you'll agree - Martin has all the energy he needs.
"Son of Finlay" comes from the Highlands, where facile lines roll with a delicate strength. The echoes ring loud, but this has quietude: a man on the moor. The notes get springy at the end, with the tinge of a dulcimer, and high pings make like a distant bell. Dedicated to a friend of Martin's, this makes me wish to know him.
"Jeweled Lights" wisps in: as lower strings form a bottom, the top strings step lightly. It's a thought more than a song: played at low volume, figures rise briefly and then disappear. And "Joao's Gem" (another friend) is wonderfully dense: some strings drone, others bat a rhythm part (think autoharp) and the top strings soar with sinuous curves. Like many of these, it churns a circular melody, but with an intensity unique to itself. A fist pounds the strings: a tambourine. A high chord answers: a piano. The "many sounds at once" approach was tried elsewhere; here is its best use. The title says it sparkles; true indeed. Also true for most of the album: with rapid fingers and evolving landscapes, Martin Posen has power, precision, beauty and warmth. - John Barrett