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[2011 in Review: Bob Ohrum, ‘All Around Me’]

Bob Ohrum, 'All Around Me' (Relaxed Machinery)

Combining dronescapes reminiscent of Windy & Carl with simple but impressionistic field recordings, Buffalo-based ambient artist Bob Ohrum continued to refine his sound in 2011 with All Around Me, his third release for the Relaxed Machinery netlabel.

Ohrum’s pieces are sparsely colored with delicate, far away sounding guitar work that rides along serene, but somehow tense soundscapes. His heavy hanging guitar strings resonate with muted emotion, while various supporting instruments like chimes or bells twinkle softly in the background.

There is an immersive feel to Ohrum’s compositions in that–like most quality ambient music–they are not trying to take you anywhere, but rather they are trying to draw you in. The focus of your attention is not directed toward an endpoint, but rather toward a center that may not be visible at first, but comes into view after careful listening. Attaining a glimpse of Ohrum’s ‘centers’ can be profound; something akin to sensing the divine fingerprints in natural phenomenon like a fleeting rainbow or the sounds of the deep woods on a dark night.

Because of the non-linearity of Ohrum’s work, tracks like the above “Beauty in the Aftermath” could easily work as a film score for a melancholic mood piece, like Gus Van Sant’s Gerry or Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff. And like the beautiful, but hauntingly vacant desert settings depicted in both Gerry and Meek’s Cutoff, Ohrum’s worlds are filled with many paths that are mentally difficult to avoid going down and getting lost in.

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Review by Taylor Waite