Google terms artist Ezra Feinberg’s genre “New Age”. What “New Age” means in regard to musical style is up for interpretation. But, if we are to take Feinberg’s latest release, Recumbent Speech, to be a fair indicator of “New Age”, it is a fusion of seemingly disparate elements, combined to make a sound that is at once meditative and engaging, ambient and grounding. As compositions, these tracks echo one another in their dramatic arc: the intros are all quiet and brooding, the climaxes are bright and dense, and they all conclude with short outros where layers of interwoven parts quickly peel away. In some ways, then, these songs are repetitive, but the patchwork of melodies Feinberg carefully sews together are enveloping despite. It’s hard to tell if you should be relaxing or dancing.
Not only are the dramatic arcs difficult to differentiate, each song follows almost exactly the same structure. They begin with a simple, drone-like arpeggio on guitar or synths that cradles the listener, preparing them for the journey that is to come. The nine-minute long “Ovation” kicks off even slower, with a calming synth pad reminiscent of an interlude from Boards of Canada. From there Feinberg lays down interlocking melodies that repeat, building until they reach a core of energy before dissipating. Listening to these climactic moments is like peering through a thick, impenetrable jungle: there’s so little open space that it would be a challenge to imagine Feinberg cramming anything more into them. The contrast of these minimal beginnings with busily wandering midpoints emphasize the relationship between the part and the whole. Feinberg introduces parts so subtly that they seem to be one sound. At the same time, the parts differ enough that each can be picked out and followed individually. The effect implies this relationship between singularity and wholeness, a spiritual aspect that rings true alongside the album’s “New Age” classification.
A clear stand out on Recumbent Speech is the joyful “Palms Up”. The third-song of six, its faster tempo and vibrance is a welcome change from the album’s openers. Halfway through “Palms Up” you wake up from that nap thinking you’ve been dropped into the middle of a particularly Latin Snarky Puppy jam sesh. The drum kit is substituted with hand percussion and shakers that suggest the downbeat by leaving it unplayed, prompting a breadth of motion that doesn’t appear anywhere else on the release.
These tunes are dramatic to say the least, and there’s evidence that Feinberg takes himself a little too seriously. The opening track, “Acquainted with the Night”, draws its title from the popular Robert Frost poem about, wait for it, the night, and a lonely figure observing quiet city and nature scenes. Once you start listening, however, this is an easy pretension to get over. Feinberg crafts songs in which to lose yourself, much like walking through a quiet forest at night.