24 Songs, 1 Hour 16 Minutes


Ratings and Reviews

4.5 out of 5
2 Ratings

2 Ratings

CandiceMichelle1 ,

Varied, colorful, and often experimental

Although Seattle-based pianist and composer Richard Dillon has released several solo piano albums, he broadens his musical horizons substantially on his latest release entitled, Terra Incognito: The Space Between. Comprised of 24 compositions spanning a lengthy 75 minutes, Dillon explores new age, neoclassical, ambient, techno, folk and pop styles of music throughout. Varied, colorful, and often experimental, Terra Incognito effectively aims to highlight Dillon’s versatility as a composer – and as a result, most listeners are likely to appreciate some parts of the album substantially more than others.

“Whalesong Redux” introduces the album with an understated orchestral arrangement featuring the distinct sounds of whale song – immediately bringing-to-mind an old documentary film about the ocean, to which this piece would be well-suited. Slipping into a more tranquil mode, “Green Flash Redux” infuses relaxing ocean waves with drifty piano and electric guitar. One of my favorites on the album, the fluid and dreamy quality of this piece can be likened to sailing down a lazy river. Two outstanding interlude-type ambient compositions follow next – “The Space Between” and “Dust Devil”, which pair together nicely. Conveying a haunting minimalism via suspended strings and sparse piano notes, “The Space Between” possesses an intriguing suspense that pleasantly brings-to-mind some of David Arkenstone’s more minimal-ambient work. Equally compelling, “Dust Devil” incorporates subtle tribal-ambient elements with its fusion of echoing percussion amid a shapeshifting soundscape.

The rest of the album unfolds with oft-unexpected and widely-varying stylistic twists and turns throughout that can result in some of the pieces seeming wildly out-of-place. For example, “Ice Dancer Redux” is an overly cheery and bubbly instrumental piece set to a noticeable drum machine – while “Color Me” is a lyrical vocal piece accompanied by a whistling chorus reminiscent of a radio jingle or children’s show. These along with a couple of other similarly quirky, pop-oriented compositions felt like unnecessary inclusions on this already lengthy album.

Nevertheless, other truly remarkable gems are certain to be found on here, such as the whimsical “Leonardo’s Flying Machine”, with its celestial voices that hover among echoing piano chords, as it seemingly conveys a magical winter fantasy. Likewise, “Lead Kindly Night” is another mesmerizing piece that features a lovely Celtic bent. Here, ethereal female vocals are delicately brushed by subtle strings amid a backdrop of glistening bells. Another notable standout is the cinematically spacey “Voyager” with its minimal ambient-piano arrangement that simultaneously conveys both an awe-inspiring and pensive mood.

After hearing what Richard Dillon is capable of as a musician, I must confess, I’d especially love to hear an album comprised entirely of the more ambient and soundtrack-style pieces that frequent this release, as these moments are certainly among the most compositionally innovative and sonically mesmerizing herein. This is a strong suggestion on my part, as I feel this unquestionably talented artist has tapped into a reservoir of potential brilliance that’s worth further exploring. Yet, the full experience of these stellar compositions is somewhat hindered by the inclusion of rather peculiar and odd-fitting compositions alongside them. On the plus side, Terra Incognito has given me an opportunity to discover a musical side of this composer that I was previously unfamiliar with – and as a result, I look forward to hearing much more of it!

KathyPiano7 ,

From MainlyPiano

And now for something a little different. “From what?” you might ask. Well, probably just about anything else you’ve ever heard. The title of Richard Dillon’s "Terra Incognito" translates as “a place, subject, or situation that you are not familiar with” (Cambridge English Dictionary) and explores two of Dillon’s life journeys into unfamiliar territory - orchestration and licensing. These two paths emerged in 1984 and continue to the present. Known primarily as a pianist, Dillon has also been been composing music for placement in movies and television commercials. The twenty-four tracks on "Terra Incognito" are an amazing compilation of work from the past 34 years, and what a wildly divergent collection it is! Most are instrumental pieces, but there are a few vocals as well. Some are beautifully melodic, some are whimsical, some are dramatic, some are poignant, and others are just about everything in between. What is consistent from one piece to the next is the exceptional quality of both the music and the recording. More than anything, this album allows us to experience the incredible range of music Richard Dillon is capable of creating. I’ve reviewed several of his earlier albums, but I was not at all prepared for the diversity of this one - what a thrilling discovery!

I don’t have room to tell you about all twenty-four tracks, but I can give you an idea of the musical variety on this album. "Terra Incognito" begins with “Whalesong Redux,” a lovely orchestrated piece that includes the “songs” of at least two whales. That grabbed my attention very quickly! “Green Flash Redux” is an almost eight-minute piece for electric guitar, ocean sounds and keyboard. Slow, hypnotic and very relaxing, I could listen to this one all day. “The Space Between” is dark, edgy space music that is almost magical. “Dust Devil” is Dillon’s most recent orchestration and has a mysterious, otherworldly quality that creates a powerful sense of atmosphere. “Ice Dancer” was Dillon’s first orchestration and sounds very 1980’s - a fun trip back in time. “Color Me” is a playful vocal that could be a children’s song with its catchy rhythm, spirited whistling and sense of lighthearted fun - “be a rainbow!” I love the title “In Search of Chocolate”! The piece itself is much more serious than the title implies, with a poignance that expresses great loss and sadness, perhaps during wartime. “Leonardo’s Flying Machine” is a haunting little piece with a magical quality. “Papillon Redux” must have been inspired by Erik Satie - simple and very sweet. “It’s All Right Redux” is a heartbreaking country song with vocals. “Cars” is a short electronica piece with a driving bass that will have you dancing in your seat. “Into the Mines” was on Dillon’s 2017 release, "Irish Mist" and includes the sounds of antiquated mining equipment dating back to the days when mining was done by hand. “Goodbye For Now” begins as a tender, heartfelt piano solo with occasional string washes. The album ends with an ironic little song called “I Could Care Less,” which features vocals with ukulele.

Okay, that should give you a pretty good idea of what "Terra Incognito" is like, but don’t just take my word for it. It is very likely to be a Favorite for 2018 and I highly recommend it!

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