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Ground Swell
By David Mauk
Label: Thera Records
Released 6/27/2010
Ground Swell tracks
1. Dawn in Pennsylvania
2. Summertime
3. Ground Swell
4. Chop Suey
5. Second Story Sunlight
6. Western Motel
7. Chair Car
8. Queensburo Bridge
9. Seawatchers
10. Cape Cod Evening
11. New York Movie
12. Railroad Sunset
13. Gas
14. Drugstore
Ground Swell
It’s getting to the point that I no longer believe in the concept of a sophomore slump for musicians. Too many artists, such as David Mauk, are releasing fantastic second efforts that, in many cases, are leaps forward from their critically acclaimed debuts. So, I hereby from this point forward will do my level best to refrain from using the sophomore cliche any longer. Wish me luck!

Ground Swell is Mauk’s follow-up to his debut 12 Months. Now, technically, Mauk has been composing and performing music before that particular album. However, those compositions, granted which have been heard by many people, were not released on recordings. They were for museum exhibits on King Tut and Cleopatra. So, while he is not strictly a "newbie" to making music, Ground Swell is still only his second "released" album and the amazing level of musicianship and technical expertise it contains certainly bodes well for a long and successful career in the chill-out/electronic/new age instrumental genre.

Of course, when one considers that the inspiration for these fourteen instrumentals is the artwork of esteemed painter Edward Hopper, perhaps the sheer beauty of the music shouldn't come as a surprise. If you don't recognize Hopper's name, just do a Google image search. You'll catch yourself thinking "Oh, yeah, that guy!" Each track on the CD is titled for one of Hopper's paintings, no doubt influenced by the image of each as well. As a bonus to the CD, by the way, the album also includes a DVD containing five music videos (each video featuring public domain video, from Hopper's time period no less, which is then set to the accompanying music track). However, the music alone on Ground Swell is well worth the price of admission. As good as 12 Months was, Ground Swell is even better.

The music varies quite a bit from track to track (Mauk is like Michael Stribling in that he can seemingly compose/perform across a wide array of electronic keyboard musical styles). Dawn in Pennsylvania is ushered in with hushed chorals before heading straight for uptempo chill-out territory, anchored by piano and trap kit beats, with an undercurrent of subtle beauty. Summertime is, simply put, one of those killer songs that surfaces every year—cheery, bubbly, upbeat, and featuring a refrain that will have you remembering it long after the song is over. The title track slows things down with ebbing/flowing synth washes and reverberating bell tones, while Chop Suey bristles with a more contemporary sound, a blending of assorted rhythms and short, clipped keyboard notes. The remaining ten selections run the gamut from the mellow chill-out beats and plaintive echoed piano on Western Motel, to the midtempo effervescence of Queensborough Bridge (sounding a bit like vintage Ray Lynch) to the evocative floating ambient-ish pads and washes of Cape Cod Evening, to the cinematic strings-meets-percolating beats of New York Movie and the gorgeous peaceful twinkling bells and choral sighs of Railroad Sunset. The closing track, Drugstore, puts me in mind of a great song from the Kevin Braheny/Tim Clark album, Rain ("Green Umbrella") due to the same giddy playful rhythm and flowing melody played by only a few different keyboard sounds.

Ground Swell is a great CD from an artist who, if he continues on his current path, is going to become very well known and highly acclaimed in the chill-out/lite electronic genres, as well as among fans of electronic keyboard-based new age music. Who knows? Maybe one day some painter will end up painting pictures inspired by David Mauk's music. Hell, it sure wouldn't surprise me. The music on this CD will surely inspire the more imaginative listeners out there to paint their own mental images to accompany all these great melodies and infectious rhythms or maybe simply gaze spellbound at Hopper’s masterpieces and wonder at how well they fuse with Mauk's magical music.
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 9/5/2010
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