Peter Ulrich (3 STARS)
Pathways and Dawns
Shades of Dead Can Dance, the Beatles and Brian Eno follow this veteran artist onto his first solo release.
Peter Ulrich established his adventurous musical predilections as a percussionist for Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil and Wolfgang Press. On this, his first solo album, he stands true to those leanings. DCD's Brendan Perry produced and arranged six of Pathways and Dawns eight tracks (with 4AD's John Rivers co-producing the other two), but it's Ulrich's gifts as a composer, percussionist and vocalist that win over the listener.
The opener, "Taqaharu's Leaving," and the artfully medieval third track, "Life Amongst the Black Sheep," are closest in influence to DCD, mixing that trademark tinge of the Dark Ages with Ulrich's Perry-like vocals. "Always Dancing" functions as a pleasantly sweet folk song, while the gamelan overture of one of the album's best tracks, "Journey Of Discovery," galvanizes a clapping, chanting ritual. The equally excellent "Nocturne" is Beatlesque, with Spanish guitar and rich orchestral bridges, and "The Springs of Hope" sounds swiped from the same album to Fab Four might have made had they signed with 4AD instead of capital. The closing track, "Time and a Word," recalls late-70's Eno, nicely rounding out a release that leaves one wanting more. Mark Burbey
Former drummer/percussionist for the Dead Can Dance, Peter Ulrich is able to create a holistic sound with shortcomings that can be overlooked if one is willing. Eight songs have been produced by Ulrich’s friend Brendan Perry, founder of Dead Can Dance. Unfortunately, this combination has ensured that Ulrich’s debut will ultimately be compared to the best goth/ethereal world music band (Dead Can Dance). This is obviously where the album will come up short as the still gorgeous sounds are not equal to Toward the Within or Spiritchaser. Ulrich was a member of Dead Can Dance when the latter was recorded and some of these sounds are also here. He does have some unique and refreshing sounds on “pathways and dawns,” they just aren’t as pronounced or developed as one would hope. “Journy of Discovery” is just that with its mystical beauty provided by 12-string guitar and breathtaking vocals. The swirling pipes on his debut create some very haunting sounds. As can be expected, the multiple drums and percussion instruments do a fine job of making the album uplifting and ethereal at the same time but draws the biggest comparisons to Ulrich’s former band. He might cause a stir among 4AD enthusiasts and ethereal goths as to whether this is a blatant rip-off or something to embrace. -Matt Mernagh
Following the moves of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, former Dead Can Dance percussionist Peter Ulrich creates a place for himself in Goth/ethereal with the long-awaited release of his solo debut Pathways and Dawns.
Perry produced and arranged six of the CD's eight tracks, and provided additional instrumental support on hurdy gurdy, tin whistle, and programming. Combined with Ulrich's full reliance upon a vast array of percussion instruments, programming included, the Dead Can Dance influence here is quite heavy.
A man of many drums, Ulrich is the percussionist's percussionist, and many drummers out there, especially in the world beat genre, will rush out and buy this disc.
Ulrich may disappoint, though, as a vocalist. His lyrics make for great songs and a great album, but his vocal style at times takes on an "English rock" flair a la early Pink Floyd. When one gives a listen to the ringing, infectious "Always Dancing," or the earthy ballad "Nocturne" it is hard not to wonder if a seventies-era David Gilmour is lurking in the studio somewhere.
But it's all good - Ulrich's voice is his own, and he makes a fair effort to temper his vocal deliver throughout the recording process. He takes a break from vocal duties on "Journey of Discovery," which features a perky chiming melody and some wild female vocal chants. Female vocals also chant their way through "Evocation," a ceremonial voice and percussion exercise, accented with a couple of pitch-bending avant garde cries of trombone. Further flavored with rainsticks and flutes from Ulrich, this is the most organic song on the disc.
In sharp contrast is "Time and a Word," with a pulsing bass synth, keyboard and use of string sampling to make for a very "plugged in" sounding tune.
Pathways and Dawns is a great debut, if not a masterpiece, from Ulrich, and yet another sophisticated example of Goth music with merit. Bravo. Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5.