Michael Red “Gateways”

There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the quality and depth of Michael Red’s work. His discography runs all the way to the Earth’s core, but Gateways is a memorable new entry. Using a restricted palette of only field recordings, chimes, and synth tones, Red has created an opulent, living world of resonant beauty and liminal soundscapes. Aptly titled, Gateways offers passage to new dimensions, simultaneously alien and familiar.

Originally composed as accompaniment for a contemporary indigenous dance performance of the same name by Olivia C. Davies (and produced by O.Dela Arts), Gateways situates itself in a weightless space. Elegiac aural washes are surrounded by distant thunderstorms and layered hiss from the cool night air or crackle of a fire, imbuing Red’s explorations with a sacred balance. This organic undercurrent grounds Gateways so that Red can look skyward through the darkening veil. 

Beyond the tonal quality and inviting palette, Gateways is alive with subtle movements and shifting seas. Red finds interesting ways to push these self-imposed limitations further and further. Rain drops turn into hollow, expressive rhythms, and carve out a valley for a stream of synths to flow into. Birds holler in the distance, barely there at first, but Red, again, twists the familiar sounds into something new. Through an overcast sheen, Gateways is an expression of Red’s home in the Pacific Northwest. 

Even if it’s not immediately obvious, as Gateways stretches further, it becomes easier to imagine this music as a score for a dance performance. It’s a mesmerizing listening experience that spreads across distant lands and tiny, intimate places. Once the music starts, Red has us. I am immediately lost in a soft wall of elusive expanses and beautiful sound.

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