Sometimes the subtitle says it all: An ethereal collaboration. When Mickey Houlihan, the longtime producer of David Darling (1941-2021), offered Hans Christian to work on some of David’s unfinished pieces, he said yes immediately. They had never met in person, but as master cellists and composers, they have a lot in common. The result is a collaboration that transcends time, space, and even lifetimes. Ocean Dreaming Ocean is an album for deep reflection. It is a tranquil and blue soundscape that absorbs the listener. Each piece has a natural flow, going from perfectly still to wavy and turbulent. Hans Christian has done a terrific job in combining and extending the unfinished pieces into one deeply meaningful and ethereal release that pulls the listener in from the very first listen.
The album is out TODAY on Curveblue.com.
David Darling was a Grammy award–winning cellist, composer, teacher, and collaborator. Darling’s recordings and achievements are many from his time with the Paul Winter Consort in 1970’s and to his later recordings for the ECM, Hearts of Space, Wind Over The Earth and Curve Blue labels. Darling’s Prayer for Compassion, was the winner of the 2010 Grammy for Best New Age Album. His most recent releases are Reverence (2022) and Homage to Kindness (2019).
Hans Christian is a German-born musician and producer now based in the U.S. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. In 1982 he moved to Hollywood, USA to study at Musicians Institute and pursue a career as a musician in the Los Angeles music scene, eventually performing and recording with a variety of top-level artists. As a co-founder of the Indian-inspired duo RASA, he released six CDs on the Hearts Of Space and New Earth Records labels and continues to share new compositions through his label, Allemande Music. His most recent albums are After the Fall (2020) and Be Love (2017) – plus the three 2023-released singles As Things Unfold, Fantaisie Berceuse, and Deep Dive 2.
The album opener is called Epitaph. It is a slow-developing, timeless and monumental piece. Suddenly we hear fingers working the strings of the cello. It is very close and creates a sense of intimacy and drama that lasts throughout the album. I don’t know if it is Darling or Hans Christian, it doesn’t matter; they are both capable of such incredible technique. The powerful melody instantly strikes a chord with the listener. Darling’s vocalization near the end is fantastic! It is a human touch to the otherwise deep and dark sound. Epitaph is a brilliant album opener in the way that it pulls the listener in. One word: Bravo!
After this dramatic, tour de force opening, the reflective and breathtakingly beautiful Minor Blue Chorale takes over and makes sure that we don’t go too deep too fast. The intertwining, multi-level melody instantly makes the listener pay attention; it is for active listening only. The synth backing is terrific too. The deep blue sea suddenly seems less hostile thanks to the track’s playful nature.
The two-part Miracle is one of the finest pieces on Ocean Dreaming Ocean. Darling’s gentle piano opening leads us into a world of mysteries and wonder. A light melancholy intensifies the atmosphere, making the listener hang on to each note and willingly accept the fact that miracles do happen. Every day is filled with miracles – and, as Darling would have said: “Music is a miracle!” – especially in the way that it binds us together and transcends every language barrier. Around 3 minutes and 29 seconds part two starts. A few piano notes are backed wonderfully by the cellos, taking the melody to new and undiscovered territory.
The following three tracks, the two Unforeseen Rain with Seven Vails in the middle, plays almost as one. First, there is a quiet and somber build-up before Seven Vails takes over the stage. It is obvious that we are deep, extremely deep, and the pressure down here is almost impossible to imagine. The cellos create a maelstrom, pulling the listener even further down. It is a meditative and inspiring soundscape; perfect for thinking or creative work. Then we suddenly we find ourselves closer to the surface. Ron Miles trumpet sounds divine on Unforeseen Rain.
Arriving at this stage on the album, we have experienced so much that the quiet and ambient Below the Horizon feels heaven-sent. It is a dark piece, but not without hope. It has a powerful undercurrent that drives the melody forward. It is that kind of track that these masters do so well.
In conclusion: “The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul,” Robert Wylan said. David Darling and Hans Christian’s new album captures the essence of why we humans are drawn to the ocean. The listener can sense its might and mysteries, beauty and fragility. It is the closest we come to an alien world here on earth – and Ocean Dreaming Ocean takes the listener there and back again.
As a David Darling fan, I feel a lot of gratitude towards Mickey Houlihan and Hans Christian who took the unfinished pieces and made Ocean Dreaming Ocean into a reality. We immediately recognize David’s signature sound, and get one last album by him to cherish. Often such albums have a somewhat limited sound and expression, but this is a full and complete album in every sense of the word.
Ocean Dreaming Ocean is not a sad album. It is filled with life and respect for the mighty ocean and everything in it. The hint of improvisation, which was so important in David’s music, gives the album almost limitless replay value.
Ocean Dreaming Ocean is, in short, a dream come true.
For more information and music samples, visit Curveblue.com.