Ezra Feinberg - Soft Power

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Invites you to a world so vivid and intricately textured that you might feel like you are part of itPitchfork

Gently propulsive gems that evoke the kosmische sounds of Michael Rother, Brian Eno at his most sublimeAquarium Drunkard

Ezra Feinberg’s third album Soft Power sees the composer-guitarist enlist an impressive array of fellow musicians including Mary Lattimore, David Moore (Bing & Ruth), Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Robbie Lee and share the life affirming lead single ‘Future Sand’.

Defined by its abundance of melodies, repeating figures and ecstatic improvisations, Soft Power exudes an enlightened and transformative spirit to empower the listener. Feinberg, a practising psychoanalyst and former founding member of the San Francisco psychedelic collective Citay (Dead Oceans / Important Records) resides in the artistic enclave of upstate New York's Hudson River valley. Initial recordings emerged in the late summer of 2020, before added synthesis with collaborator John Thayer (Arp, Sunwatchers) during early 2021. Soft Power follows previous albums ‘Recumbent Speech’ (2020) and ‘Pentimento and Others’ (2018)

The compassionate, tender-hearted opener ‘Future Sand’ deftly interweaves flutes and steady arpeggios. The Reichian pulse beneath the soaring melody is played not on the customary analogue sequencer, but on finger-picked acoustic guitar, one of the lodestars of Feinberg’s compositional approach. ‘Soft Power’, the buoyant and mesmeric title track that follows builds over a rich bed of guitars and a reverb-y Rhodes melody reminiscent of a Strata East LP, its narrative arc bountiful in energy, optimism and future dreaming, a perfect accompaniment to long days of summertide. “The most unexpected, unpredictable, and spontaneous moments in life live in the realm of softness”, quotes Feinberg. ‘Pose Beams’ blends the chamber-jazz approach of Penguin Café Orchestra with a balletic kosmische, climaxing with a galvanising crescendo and “free improv” section performed by fellow New Yorkers - Robbie Lee (piano) and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, whose granular and modular synths sprinkle particle dust over the expressive drumming of John Thayer. ‘Flutter Intensity’ evokes in part the music of Cluster as played on acoustic guitars, which ping-pong across the stereo field, providing the canvas for a plaintive vibraphone line reminiscent of TNT-era Tortoise. Instruments move in tandem, but also drift and glide allowing them the space to hang in the air, the variegated rhythms, textures, and tones all laced into the fabric of the album.

At the centrefold of the albums 7-tracks is ‘The Big Clock’, a tryptic piece that evolves from pairs of stretched varying tones, creating fields of technicolour over an unabashed motorik beat, serving to offset the pastoral and ambient registers heard elsewhere. It features the first of two appearances from David Moore (Bing & Ruth) who plays lilting piano lines on the come-down. ‘There Was Somebody There’ returns to the album’s earlier wistfulness, a hard stereo-panned soundworld with lightly strummed, interlocking acoustic guitars combining to pigment a washy, painterly scene. David Moore and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma provide reviving synths, the underlying pulse that seems to simulate a life cycle; another day on Earth. The album closes with the reflective ‘Get Some Rest’ featuring Mary Lattimore, whose harp pluckings set a dreamlike tone against bare organic acoustics and flourishing flutes to create a sense of realignment and restoration.

Feinberg artfully transcends the listener to an enriched place, his compositions distinguished by the deep humanity that lies at their core, plugging the listener into a state of wide eyed being, open and alive. Soft Power then is Ezra’s own mantra but also one of power giving - a colourful catharsis translated into music.

Feinberg’s music always speaks to the listener, but Soft Power, in whispering, speaks loudest.

On limited transparent vinyl