In an age where we believe that all answers can be found by searching the web, Rusty Crutcher’s new release offers fascinating insights into ancient wisdom and the Athena temple, better known as the Oracle of Delphi. The album offers a rich and rewarding listening experience, filled with myths, mystique and Crutcher’s well-crafted arrangements. Oracle of Delphi is the latest addition to the Sacred Sites Series. The mix of traditional instruments, samples recorded on-site and Crutcher’s arrangements, is as good as ever. Indeed, in this age of stress and uncertainty, listening to an oracle’s advice sounds like a great idea indeed!
Rusty Crutcher is a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and inventor. While in the stillness of nature, or at a spiritual site, Crutcher sketches his musical ideas and records the environmental sounds, much like the Barbizon painters of the 19th century. There are so far six albums in the Sacred Sites Series, which includes recordings from Glastonbury, England; Machu Picchu, Peru at the time of the Harmonic Convergence, animal life from the Amazon Basin; solstice and equinox events at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico; ocean and animal sounds during a total solar eclipse at La Paz, Baja California; and sounds from the Great Serpent Mound, a Native American site in southern Ohio.
Oracle of Delphi is an exciting new topic for Crutcher. If you want to learn about it, see Wikipedia. The short story is that back in 1400 BC, this was the most important shrine in Greece. Here a high priestess named Pythia served the god Apollo, after he had slain Python, the dragon who protected the navel of the Earth. Pythia was the oracle that made prophecies about the future.
Track number one is called Miriam’s Wish. Notice how it seems to pull the listener in; You simply have to change focus and pay attention, or else you will not get it. Already at this stage, the music communicates what the oracle is all about. I love the slow and delicate melody and the many layers of textures. History seems to manifest itself before our inner eye. Miriam’s Wish is, in short, a brilliant start to the album!
Before we know it, we are Itea Bound. It is a fantastic representation of the Greek waterside location. The flute melody is gorgeous beyond words, gentle as a warm ocean breeze. It has a nice touch of classical music. I also enjoy the interesting melancholy here. That said, you don’t have to read a lot about the Oracle – or Greek history and myths – before you understand the duality between greatness and sorrow, between war and peace. I’m impressed by how Itea Bound seems to capture all that, and the picturesque tableau too! Bravo!
Next out is Aegean Reflections, which showcases the album’s meditative qualities. The first time I listened to the piece, I found myself putting it on replay – unwilling, perhaps even incapable, of moving on. The harp, heavenly voices and colorful ending, which brings in colors as vibrant as the cover artwork, is larger-than-life magnificent.
When the Song of the Muses comes on, inspiration seems to radiate. If we are to use what Homer’s Odyssey learns us about the muses, the artist can ask the muse (a sister goddess) for assistance with important creative work. The muses will then sing and help the artist along. The surprisingly slow build-up makes the listening experience even deeper, making the muses feel close. Apollo Awakens continues in the same atmosphere. The world of mighty gods and ancient mysteries comes to life, showing what a master storyteller Rusty Crutcher is. The textures are amazing! It is, without a doubt, world-class sound design.
Center of the World
At this point, it feels good to meditate and just be – and no place is better to do just that than at the Center of the World, the Oracle of Delphi! The ambient melody flows magnificently, helped by the fine selection of traditional instruments and orchestral arrangement. The meditative atmosphere continues as we are introduced to Pythia, the high priestess herself. Pythia’s Trance has a healthy dose of mystique. I very much like its seriousness, and how we can sense the powers that the high priestess has in her possession. To let anyone “hear their fate” is not an easy task. It also included inhaling fumes, hence Vapors of Apollo.
This is, as you have understood by now, an album of premium listening experiences – but wow, Castilian Breeze takes it to the next level! In less than 10 seconds, a “room of sound” manifests itself. There is a gorgeous flute-based melody center stage, but a lot of things are going on left and right too. Colorful textures, exotic percussion and sounds of nature all compete for the listener’s attention and inspire us to go back, again and again. Know Thyself makes sure that the album ends on a high note. Crutcher turns one of Apollo’s most famous maxims into music.
In conclusion: It is very hard to create listening experiences that connect the listener with the past – and to make it sound authentic too. There are a few artists that have done it with great success, such as Vangelis, Michael Cretu/Enigma, Grayhawk, CUSCO, Deep Forest and a handful more, but it demands a lot from the artist in terms of storytelling and overall design. Rusty Crutcher is on par with these artists, making the distant past come to life before our inner eye. Oracle of Delphi is from start to finish a magnificent listen, both for people interested in the Heritage Site and its myths and history – or if you “only” want a premium album for relaxation or creative work. It is, like Crutcher’s previous installments in the Sacred Sites Series, a genuine 2-in-1 release.
One of the things I like very much is the album’s unpretentious sound. Much “historical” music tends to be overly dramatic, focusing only on certain events and not capturing how the wheel of time moves, while Oracle of Delphi seems to incorporate the site’s long and rich history. This is perhaps why the album seems to have almost unlimited replay value.
Rusty Crutcher’s Oracle of Delphi is, in short, a brilliant addition to the series! Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to (re)listen to Crutcher’s releases from the 1980s and 90s too. I sure did, and they still sound amazing.
For more information and music samples, see rustycrutcher.com.