Mark Banning: Journey to the Light
Time has certainly been kind to Mark Banning's Journey to the Light, which he recorded in northern California in 1984 and which first saw the light of day when Creative Sound released it in a micro edition in January 1985. Reissued on Students of Decay in an edition of 500 copies, the forty-seven-minute release sounds wonderful, and no doubt part of the reason for that can be attributed to the fact that it's been newly remastered by James Plotkin. Long out of print, Banning's album obviously makes for a splendid complement to Light in the Attic's concurrent release I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990, which incidentally includes a track by Banning.
Journey to the Light presents two long-form pieces Banning created using processed electric guitar, zither, voice, and field recordings. After a shimmering intro establishes the piece's celestial ambiance, “Everlasting Moments” perpetuates its air of becalmed serenity with a series of electric guitar musings and twinkling, zither-generated atmospherics. Banning arranges the elements into an entrancing lattice-work where conventional clock time quickly falls away and the listener willingly surrenders to the music's placid drift. One comes away from the piece impressed by the sensitivity and control he demonstrates in his layering of the elements and the harmonious effect he achieves through the way they're bundled together.
Field recordings of waves crashing ashore introduce “A Sea of Glass” as if to suggest that the second piece will be the more turbulent one of the two, but, in fact, the setting gradually reveals itself to be even more placid in nature. In fact, if time slows in “Everlasting Moments,” it seems almost suspended altogether in the second. The field recordings intro aside, the enveloping sound-world Banning conjures in “A Sea of Glass” isn't dramatically different than the one presented in the opening piece, with electric guitar textures and zither strums once again the dominant sound elements, but there's no denying the music's potency.
Eschewing the buildups and climaxes of conventional narrative form, Banning focuses on creating meditations that are stimulating and engaging enough to hold the listener's attention for twenty-three minutes at a time. And don't be scared off by the New Age association of the album title either; Journey to the Light is a remarkable collection easily capable of appealing to listeners of Laraaji's music as well as that associated with the Cold Blue label.