Gerald Krampl – Timediver

I’ve always admired composers who record instrumental music by themselves (actually, I am one of them). The fact that it was written and performed entirely by one person gives it a very personal and intimate quality. It’s directly from their mind to your ears with no medium to alter or ruin it. Timediver, the new disc by renowned keyboardist Gerald Krampl, is a nine song cycle in the tradition of Mike Oldfield. It is beautiful, absorbing and very eclectic…but there is also a major flaw that holds it back.

Krampl achieved fame during the 70s and 80s when he formed the prog rock bands Kyrie Eleison and Indigo. In 1999 he started Agnus Dei with his wife, Hilde, and in 2006 he scored the documentary 31Projects (which sought to educate about the Holocaust). This new LP (his first official solo work) has been described as a “…soundtrack for imaginary films in mind,” and it is similar to the work of Italian composer Federico Fasce. It’s a relatively short experience, which is both good and bad.

Timediver’s opener, “Steamborn,” begins with percussion, a simple piano melody and synthesizers. It could easily fit as one of the slower, more subtle futuristic parts of an Ayreon album. It’s very inspirational and prophetic, as if it’s a soundtrack to a monumental journey to decide the fate of mankind. At the half way point is a brief interlude of striking flutes and what sounds like a telephone ringing. The second half matches the first. “East-West” has an African drum pattern and a more industrial timbre, as if to represent the mundane routine of a factory job. There is clearly an influence of Brian Eno as well, and some of the noises could have fit in Genesis’ masterpiece The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. “Samarcand” is flute based with a looping harpsichord pattern behind it. It changes key as the flute continues its solo. Eventually some other synthesized riffs expand things a bit, but it never strays from where it began. Again, Ayreon is immediately thought of.

“Dark Veil” commences with a similar mood to “Steamborn,” with a sad piano melody and operatic synths and electronics. Near the end, Krampl brings in jarring, sudden dissonance by breaking up the flow and striking notes suddenly. Eventually it leads back into where it began. “Lakeview” is a lot more up tempo with its 80s pop drumbeat and happy chord progression. It would fit as the closing credits of a Final Fantasy game or an Anime show. In other words, there is something intangibly Japanese about it. “Spirit Dancer,” on the other hand, is intangibly Chinese with its rhythm and plucked strings. In these cases, it’s almost impossible to explain how they fit the Asian classification, but if you hear it, you’ll understand.

“Timediver” has very nice counter playing between the piano and various synthesized instrumentals. The percussion provides just enough drama and doesn’t syncopate too much or too little. The bridge in the middle is very poignant and stunning. It’s a very optimistic track, and surely one of the best on the disc. “Quiet Days” contrasts with a mysterious piano melody and electronic accompaniment while maracas dance. It reminds one of a film noir or spy video game. The closer, “Reflections,” features arpeggiated acoustic guitar, swirling flutes and very active percussion. It’s a pleasant ending.

As for the problem with Timediver, it is extremely repetitious. The first thirty seconds of each track is essentially the entire track. Krampl adds a new instrument and a few notes every so often, but 99% of the tracks stay the same throughout. This is very disappointing because what’s there is very nice and affective, but it should only stay for a little while before changing into something else. For example, most people recognize the opening of Oldfield’s debut Tubular Bells as the theme to the film The Exorcist, but that portion doesn’t last long, and the fifty minute piece continuously evolves and changes drastically. By contrast, the tracks here never change except for the middle sections I’ve noted. It makes it too much of an endurance test.

This album is a mixed bag. It suffers from its own ideas in that they are great for a bit but swiftly become tiresome. Krampl has crafted a very inspirational record full of short but sweet melodies, but they happen to last far too long with barely any variation. If all nine tracks were condensed into one, it would be a very diverse and impressive song. As it is, listening to the first thirty seconds of each piece is essentially hearing the whole album a lot quicker.