Monday, July 02, 2012

Song of the Day 33: 'Navi Whisperwilde - The Forest Sprite and the Mana Spirit in Eternal Recurrence'

Navi Whisperwilde quietly comes across as being another one of Espers' best tracks. It has a transient quality and doesn't feel as bound by the time signature as many of the other tracks on the album. I would consider it the perfect lead up to the last track of Espers, a solo piano performance.

Navi Whisperwilde, like many of the tracks on Espers, fades in. The fade in comes with a very nicely designed synth with a lot of texture, functioning as a bass, but also retaining some high range sounds and something of a swirl. Atmospheric effects fade in along with the main synth and come in a variety of forms: what I'm going to term a "shooting effect" (SciFi style to be sure), something of a muted bell, and some light and brief saw stabs (with possible lower stabs being held back by a low-pass filter likely triggered by an LFO or something; or I could just call it a suppression filter :P). These elements are all a part of the fade in (although much less gradual than MLPC) and hold constant until 0:12 when the main synth changes notes (other than this change, the atmosphere remains the same). At 0:24 there's another note change for the main synth (back to the original note) and some atmospheric effects. These effects are an introductory factor and are present in the form of "atmospheric wind", a "hollow swallow effect" (oh dear), and some less noticeable pulses from a high range synth in what I as a former high school percussionist like to call "horse rhythm" (don't ask). These introductory effects lead to a more prevalent atmospheric effect at 0:30-0:32 (and they also add a beautiful layering effect to the main synth). This effect is something of a wavy sine synth (wavy in notes, sine in nature) and comes in the form of a brief test (stab is too emphatic a word to use here). The main synth changes back to its second note at 0:36 with some light atmospheric wind to introduce it (so going by what's revealed so far: about 12 second cycles and a bass synth that alternates between two notes with lots of atmospheric effects all the while). At 0:42-0:44 there's another brief entrance from the wavy sine synth but this time it's up an octave (which adds a nice subtle building touch to the structure of the piece thus far). At 0:46 there's the same high range synth pulses before in the "horse rhythm" this time used to lead up to the change in notes of the main synth at 0:48-0:49. This change is once again introduced by some light wind effects just like before, but now featuring the "hollow swallow" from before (this effect has some nice delay that causes it to "bounce around" a bit, a recurring theme in this track). The biggest change with this cycle, however, is the emerging "mallet synth" (it has a lot cleaner sound than mallet percussion heard previously in Espers) that goes through a series of notes while being gradually faded in and out. The series fades out as the cycle nears its end, leading to the main synth note change this time at 1:01. The note change is hailed by light wind atmosphere as usual (it also seems to have some residual effects on the following atmosphere). The next cycle at 1:13-1:14 is led up to by the high range synth pulses in the "horse rhythm" and the note change itself brings in the "hollow swallow" and wind atmosphere (although as I keep listening, it seems the wind atmosphere is integrated into the track itself and just becomes more noticeable during note changes). 1:19-1:21 brings the sound of the first wavy sine synth first heard at 0:30-0:32. 1:26 is the next cycle and it's led up to by some prevailing wind effects as usual. 1:32-1:34 is the wavy sine synth pitched up an octave now just like 0:42-0:44. 1:38 is introduced by the "hollow swallow" but it seems the high pulse is absent this time. The major change here is that instead of going up a few steps for the next note, the main synth goes the few steps and an octave, coming in with the high range sounds more noticeable. The next cycle at 1:50 sees the main synth jump a few steps higher still, almost a full two octaves above the notes heard thus far. The cycle is introduced by light wind effects, but for the duration there's some soft high range "space effects" (think SciFi again) to add to the atmosphere (they destabilize near the end of the cycle, making for a nice phasing effect). 2:02-2:03 brings in some more "hollow swallow" and also a very high pitched sound that reminds me of turning an old TV on; I'm guessing its an emerging part of something already present as opposed to a new element. At 2:15 the bass synth goes back up, establishing that the octave changes are done for now. 2:18-2:20 has a weird subtle effect going on that adds to the swirling feeling already established (again, sounds very SciFi). 2:22-2:25 has some light brushing sounds for atmospheric effect, another nice touch. 2:27 gives us a "hollow swallow" entrance that drops us back down an octave with the high wavy sine synth heard at 2:33-2:35. There's also an additional atmospheric effect faded in during the wavy sine synth at 2:34 which sounds like another swirly synth and is more present than most of the atmospheric effects heard so far. At around 2:36 it sounds like some filter modulation works with the swirly synth, bringing it into more of the low range spectrum. At 2:40 the higher end of the atmosphere pulls downward, revealing what could be a synth choir with heavy effects surrounding it, there's also the higher octave of the wavy sine synth. 2:49 gives us some more synth pulses leading us into the 2:52 cycle. At 2:55 we hear our first bit of clearly defined piano notes that coincide with the atmosphere and wavy sine synth. The transition to the next cycle isn't as clearly defined, but I love the way the atmosphere gradually pans left at this point. At 3:07 is our next bit of piano, same rhythm, different notes (there's also a delay effect to mesh it better with the atmosphere). For 3:17 there's some more subtle "hollow swallow" that brings in another bout of atmosphere. 3:23 ushers in the wavy sine synth again (lower octave this time). 3:25 plays the same piano notes as 2:55 and brings us to 3:30 where there's a distinctive high range synth that rises up then gradually falls back down, breaking into elements of synth that seem to sputter (artistically I'm thinking fireworks here). The piano elements continue, but the firework synth at 3:38 (it's probably more a meshing of synths) quietly rises up and then spits recurrences of itself out that fall down, continuing the firework theme and again reminding me of the title of the track. 3:41 brings us our first more complex series of piano notes that are rapidly played, letting the effects take over until the next rapid piano series that comes at 3:44 amidst the atmosphere (the second series is higher pitched). The 3:47 piano series is the same as 3:41 as it seems Meteo Xavier is testing the waters with the piano and then brings in a completely new series (similar pitch, but this time different (still similar though) rhythm and notes) at 3:51. There's also the firework synth making occasional, but not dominant reappearances such as at 3:50. Now at 3:53 we get some extra notes that bounce around for a nice effect and are now layered on top of parts of the original series of piano notes that played. 3:56 bring us of what sounds like the beginning of a melody accompanied by a shot from the fireworks synth. The melody (if you can consider it played by the piano) is then a series of rapid piano notes followed by a pauses for effect. At 4:00 the wavy sine synth works with the piano, really adding a lot more flavor to the higher range sounds. At 4:02 we get a full blast of the wavy sine synth, and it seems we're getting all the stops pulled out here as we also get some firework synth action all meshed with the piano and atmosphere. The whole thing is still very subtle and atmospheric, it's really a beautiful thing to hear all the elements pulled in, yet not be overpowered by any of it. At 4:06 there's the pulses from the high range synth, signalling a coming change. The percussive synth now returns to the same series of notes heard at the beginning. At 4:10 there's more firework action (at this point I'm sort of neglecting to mention the constant wavy sine synth, piano, and firework action). At 4:18 is the most distinctive moment in the track. There's some great atmospheric expansion and instead of playing rapid series of notes, the piano seems to actually play a consistent melody as the bass atmosphere synth shifts. This whole section through to 4:30 does play a legit melody and it's really the culmination of some excellently pulled off building. The firework synth is throughout and at 4:31 is the wavy sine synth. At 4:35 an ethnic flute/synth emerges from the atmosphere and plays a bit of a melody that's accompanied by surrounding atmospheric effects (the piano has returned to its background role). At 4:54 the piano takes over with the flute/synth gone. At the five minute mark it seems like we've lost the firework synth and the wavy sine synth, again leaving us with the heavy doses of atmosphere and the piano playing rapid series of notes. At 5:13 the piano comes down with something a bit more melodic like before, the remnants of the culmination. The wavy sine is now back at 5:16 and at 5:13 we also heard the beginning of some part of the fireworks synth, so those elements are back, but not in full force meshing with each other like they were before. There's some piano repeat action throughout the 5:20s section that seems to emphasize that the piano series is being brought to a close. From 5:30 to 5:44 we're left to enjoy the amazing atmospheric elements that've pretty much always been present with some great effects. There's what sounds like subtle remnants of the firework synth and the synth pulse lead in, but played by a different synth than usual. 5:44 is the wavy sine synth that marks a change in the overall atmosphere as the track shifts away from low range sounds in the atmosphere. There are fireworks effects as the now high synth atmosphere bass goes through a more pronounced series. From 5:56 to 6:00 the wavy sine synth combines with the shooting effects of the firework synth to mark the atmospheric bass as it works back down to its usual location. More wavy synth action at 6:03 as the atmospheric bass repeats its work down action. At 6:10 it seems to settle a little more, still in the high range, but now effects are beginning to depart. At 6:15 the piano returns with some brief notes as the track winds down. There's another settle at 6:22 after the atmospheric bass repeat. At 6:30 we get a teaser for another repeat, but instead the atmospheric bass fades a little, but returns on the same note. At 6:33 the atmospheric bass transitions its sound, becoming more choir like. At 6:40 a fade out begins as the choir atmospheric bass now does another work down repeat. The fireworks effects finally begin to cease as the fade begins to convincingly take effect. The final fade out consists of the choir atmospheric bass and the always present fading in and out series of percussive synths. With that, my work doing write ups for Espers is done as the final piano solo track will be tackled by Marim.

Pros: For his last electronic track on the album, Meteo Xavier really throws down the atmosphere, bringing all the subtlety and beauty with it. The lack of percussion and the reliance on the fading in and out percussive synth is one of the highlights of this track is at tends to make things sound a lot more complicated then they probably actually are. The atmospheric bass choir synth thing is wonderfully designed and is probably my favorite synth or blending of synths I hear on the entire album. The smooth transitions and interesting recurrences are sheer brilliance.

Cons: Not much melody here, nor is there supposed to be. Navi Whisperwilde was designed as a background track and it shows, but it's really not a con. I guess I could say that a lot of the synths, styles, and notes are repetitive, but I could just as easily spin that as a pro. It's real hard for me to nitpick this one as it has some of the most beautifully designed and unique atmosphere I've ever heard.

Overall: Navi Whisperwilde gets me because as a background track, it's so easy to just write it off. However, if you closely examine this, it's some of the best constructed stuff around and probably the quiet winner of Espers when it comes to sheer brilliance of design. The abundance of atmospheric effects, synths, and effortless and beautiful transitions is amazing. This track is flat out amazing and it is the perfect lead in to the final track of Espers. It almost exudes a sense that we are almost to the destination, the final track. Again, a very aptly named track.

Overall: 9.8

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