Where as music with up-front lyrics, where there is communication using the usual conventions of recognisable words and familiar language taking place, is a format in which it is relatively ease to make yourself understood, instrumental music has be much cleverer in how it interacts with the listener. In the case of Martin Ptak’s gorgeous River Tales, it can only be though a set of emotive responses to the music itself. With no lyrics to hide behind the music obviously has to take on many roles; voice, mood, musical engine room, sonic painter and more, and do so within the logical confines of the subject at hand, in this case to capture musically the flow from source to sea of the River Danube that Ptak grew up alongside.
It’s a brave task to undertake, but a rewarding one and it is easy to meditate on the drifting orchestral sounds, the understated trombone, the sometimes sparing, sometimes hypnotic piano and picture the flow of water from gentle stream to effervescent river to broad majestic waterway. Written partially as a response to Smetana’s The Moldau and referencing such luminaries as Miles Davis and Ennio Morricone, River Tales is also a personal reflection of his own youth, his childhood and the water he describes here being intrinsically linked.
It is a gorgeous suit of ambient music, painting musical emotions as it captures the essence, the power, the delicacy, the vibrancy, the changing and evolving nature of such a river. Although it often uses delicate and nuanced overlapping textures to create its sounds, the result is suitably widescreen and cinematic as you would expect when dealing with such a massive and mercurial subject matter. And even if you are not particularly a fan of modern classical, jazz or orchestral music, River Tales is a wonderful and worthy experience for any discerning music fan.