Ezekiel Honig and Morgan Packard: Early Morning Migration

An ongoing stream of ambient sounds gives Early Morning Migration, a collaborative venture from Morgan Packard and Microcosm label head Ezekiel Honig, a natural, outdoorsy dimension. Though the sounds are more allusive than literal, they still evoke convincingly the lake and forest; soft waves appear alongside hazy keyboard glimmerings in “Planting Broken Branches Pt. 2,” for example, while creaking and water noises in “Window Nature” suggest fishing boats leaving port at sunrise. Such environmental detail gives the work an expansive dimension that contrasts with the music's introspective and rather hermetic leanings.

Collaborative in this case doesn't mean the two worked side-by-side on a given piece; instead, their individually created songs often alternate in sequence. While that might be jarring in other contexts, it's not the case here. Despite different compositional styles, they share a kindred sonic sensibility that's evidenced in the opening songs. Swathed in ambient blur, “Tropical Ridges” gently rolls in with Honig's glowing Rhodes chords floating languidly over a shuffling pulse. The following piece “Balm” is Packard's and, while it's slightly more ambient than Honig's, there's hardly a radical shift in the overall sound. The major deviation from the album's sonic unanimity occurs when horn tones add contrast to the gossamer shimmer of Packard's “White on White.”

With their subtle hint of techno, Honig's minimal pieces tend to be slightly more song-like compared to Packard's classically-influenced ambient settings. Prodded by a whirring creak, a subtly swaying skip animates Honig's “A Lake of Suggestions Pt. 1” (and reappears in “Planting Broken Branches Pt. 1”) while Packard's “Hibernate,” by comparison, toes a still placid though more static line with its waves of hiss and intermingling of warm acoustic bass lines and minimal melodies. The final piece, Packard's eleven-minute soundscape “A Long Time Ago,” brings Early Morning Migration to a dreamy close. Names like Eno and Harold Budd may come to mind as one basks in the understated and carefully sculpted beauty of Honig and Packard's work.

July 2005