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Tomasz Grysztar

Joined: 16 Jun 2003
Posts: 8344
Location: Kraków, Poland
Tomasz Grysztar 17 Mar 2019, 15:29
Over two years ago Mike Oldfield had published "Return to Ommadawn", a quite late addition to his series of long multi-instrumental suites. As a loyal fan of his music I bought it immediately upon the release, so it may appear a little late for me to review it now. But, I would argue, for anyone as deeply rooted in Oldfield's music as me this should not be surprising at all.

It is quite ordinary that we may start liking a song after listening to it several times, even if the first impression was not that promising or just plain bland. Entire genres, like jazz, have this feature that we start to appreciate them more the more we get accustomed to them. Sometimes this might be a long, slow process and if we were to rate such music, our grades may notably change over time.

For me the music of Mike Oldfield has always been one of a more extreme examples of this phenomenon. The reevaluation after dozens of listenings was often so striking, that I learned to expect it and in a way became addicted. Purchasing another album turned into buying a promise. I knew I had to invest hours to listening to the same suite over and over, almost having to force myself to do it, but that it would be adequately rewarded when I finally learn the music up to the smallest detail.

What I consider his best works are, probably not by accident, the ones where the contrast between the initial impression and final opinion is the highest I have ever felt with any music. I mean going from "what is this noise and where has the music gone?" to "OMG, this is so amazing I need to rewind and turn volume up to 11 so I can fly through the roof on the sound waves". This is what my journey with part 2 of original "Ommadawn" had looked like.

Then years passed without any new suites arriving and I forgot what it was like to buy a new one and have the promise delivered. I knew it used to be like this, I just no longer believed it could happen again. I guess forgetting that the Narnia was real could feel a bit similar.

So when I bought "Return to Ommadawn", I was unsure if it could be a start of another journey, even thought I hoped it could be. The first impression was that it was very pleasant to the ear, and in my judgement that was a bad sign. After all, I expected that a piece that would truly grow on me would begin quite low. And this new album from the start felt nice - just nice, with no teeth. Perhaps even a bit sterile in the perfection of its execution.

Misguided by the initial impression, I needed two years to listen to it enough times to start seeing that it really has all the same qualities as its predecessors. I only had to give it a chance, like in the old days, and invest my time to finally get the promise delivered. Yes, it is able to invoke just as strong emotions as the original "Ommadawn" or "Amarok". I can now listen to all three interchangeably and each one is able to move me just as strongly.

There is a moment in the first part when the rhythm of the music suddenly changes without really changing at all, a subtle trick that is one of the familiar features of Oldfield's compositions. I think it can serve as a perfect metaphor of the journey through his music. The sounds do not change, but our perception of them does. By listening to the suite dozens of times I allowed it to become so ingrained in my mind that it became a part of me. And then listening to it started to be a spiritual experience, a suite of emotions... A return to a land that seemed lost long ago.
Post 17 Mar 2019, 15:29
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