Published Apr 09, 2018This is an especially determined effort for composer Keith Kenniff. While most of the albums under his Goldmund moniker have consisted of delicate, fly-on-the-wall recordings of his personal piano sessions, he has more recently been enveloping those in serene swells of reverb-y synthesizers (namely on 2015's improvisational Sometimes), and with Occasus, his at-home aesthetic has fully transcended into the otherworldly.
The cover itself is a fitting image to represent the music — a steely, stern, imposing mountain blotted out, or swallowed up, by a massive black hole. Stare at this image while listening to "Terrarium" and imagine yourself at the foot of that scene, and you may come to grasp your smallness in the universe. That's what Occasus looks to elicit, as Kenniff captures his characteristically intimate, solitary piano playing and adds worlds all around it using long waves of icy, reverberating synthesizer pads and warbly analogue sounds.
Some of these tracks are uplifting by design. "Before" and "Migration" are full of heart and a feeling of inspiration, while "Circle" and "Above" are simply idyllic. Yet others are menacing, even unsettling. "Thread" is ominous, while "No Story" sounds downright murderous. This is largely uncharted territory for Kenniff, and it's meant to create contrast — after time spent in the dark shadows, the bright spots seem that much brighter. It does, but a bit too much.
Furthermore, in all its large-mindedness, Occasus seems to be missing a dimension. In a wordless album meant to stimulate the imagination and lift you away from the real world and into an unknown place, it's lacking a cohesive story to tell once you get there. (That can happen with 49 minutes of same-y instrumental music.) While there is a strong sense of emotion and purpose in this record, it's hard not to feel that it would be even better as part of a larger art piece that gives it that extra bit of context and character. (Western Vinyl)