New Zealand, the country located at the bottom of the world has a reputation for punching well above its weight. The country with a population of just under 5,000 000 have had a profound effect on musical culture over the years. Their punk scene of the late 70’s was as good as anyone’s (see the “AK79” album for proof) and they had a subtle, but noted effect on the independent scene throughout the 1980’s and onward thanks to labels like Flying Nun, Xpressway, Ripper and Propeller as well as bands like The Gordons, The Clean, Bailter Space and The Chills influencing bands since. Even if you were a fan of mainstream pop their bands that crossed the ditch to make it big in Australia included the likes of Dragon, Split Enz, The Swingers, Mi-Sex and even Toy Love. So, it is no surprise that in the world of scoring, modern classical and electronic tinged music an artist like Rhian Sheehan fly’s the Kiwi flag and continues the history of New Zealand music in showing the world how it is done.
“In a time when ambient music is needed more than ever, Rhian Sheehan returns with Recollections, Vol. 1 , a collection of some of his finest work, alongside never-before released tracks. Across 28 tracks, the release shows the journey of NZ’s most acclaimed composer across a long & varied career. Featuring a number of new tracks, and a number of tracks performed as part of the 2018 A Quiet Divide Album Release Tour, Recollections, Vol. 1 shows the varied ambient, cinematic and electronic sounds that have gained Sheehan acclaim the world over and seen him amass over 35 millions streams.”
I am not sure if you could call this a greatest hits album as it covers a diverse group of material from previously released to live recording of material from his “A Quiet Divide” tour and new material. But it most certainly Is a great entry point for those new to Sheehan’s work from where you can work backwards and discover some of the fine music he has put out over the years. This Digital only release features twenty eight tracks and covers the breadth of his material. With a time span of just under two hours, the music contained covers such genres as electronica, post rock, neo classical and ambient with a fluid mix of these styles coming together through out pieces.
With a collection such as this you can find music that will suit that of any discerning listener. What the collection also does is collect all these pieces to show you what sort of composer you are dealing with. Sheehan (and his collaborators) make the kind of music that leaves you in awe. It is music that is rooted as much in the past with the symphonic nature of some of the pieces, as it is very much contemporary. What makes it interesting is due to the digital nature of the piece there is not much information as to the sources of the material. In a way it is good that it is like this as it makes you listen to the whole collection without a mindset of “this is from….” But after you have done that it is also nice to go and listen to the two last pieces of the album “My Absolution” and “Journey to Wakatahuri” which come from his first release, 2001’s “Paradigm Shift” which are more acoustic based. By the time he released “Tiny Blue Biosphere” in 2004 from which a 2020 remaster of “The Furthest Place” is included, it shows the progression of Sheehan as an artist and his sound evolving to one that we are most familiar with today.
Over a third of 2008’s “Standing In Silence” is included with Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 finding their way onto the compilation. These particular piece for me have a Japanese ambient/electronica influence. By this I mean throughout the pieces there is a mild glitchiness, swirling ambience, IDM flourishes, handheld instruments like possibly the kalimba and a whimsical sense of innocence. The tracks that come from his “Stories From Elsewhere” album of 2013 like “Imber”, “La Boîte À Musique” and “La Boîte À Musique” are like a pure distillation of the various styles he has explored in the previous ten plus years and where his music will move forward from. There are the hallmarks of soaring post rock, miniature melodies and orchestral brilliance which make the pieces and indeed the parent album that they came from, such a breathtaking piece of work.
It would appear that the years between “Stories From Elsewhere” and “A Quiet Divide” is when Sheehan’s career was focused on his score work for films and installations. Indeed his IMDB page lists some ten sores that existed during this period. The pieces that comprised his outstanding “A Quiet Divide” album which are included here are “Between Us And The Dying Starlight”, “Last Time We Spoke”, “The Absence Of You”, continue to show his evolution and an artist that is continuing to raise the bar. Add in the fact that there are a variety of live recordings that demonstrate that in the live setting Sheehan is as good as he is in a controlled studio set up. Plus add the fact that there is the Japanese only bonus track of “Borrowing The Past (Hammock Remix)” which originally came out on the “Standing In Silence / Seven Tales Of The North Wind” on Preco in 2012 and also as a single by itself. If ever there was a perfect pairing, then it is this one.
OK. Enough of me rambling, you just need to get this. It is the perfect entry point for the new comer and for the already confirmed fan, a great complete overview of the great music he has put out (and will continue to put out) over the years. “Recollections, Vol 1.” is available digitally now.