Bristol-based Ryan Teague is a multi-instrumentalist who composes and produces works that combine classical and minimalist techniques with modern-day production values. In his music you are just as likely to hear live orchestral instruments as you are a synth. Following on from his 2011 release Causeway, his latest offering Field Drawings is a collection of colourful vignettes – 12 short pieces that flow seamlessly from one to the next.
Whereas his former works were put out by Sonic Pieces and Type Records, this latest release has come from Village Green, who also represent Finnish-French indie-pop duo The Dø. On Field Drawings Ryan Teague makes use of a distinct sound palette with tuned percussion playing a central role. As well as twinkly glockenspiels and woody xylophones, the album strongly features synth sounds, piano, viola, and other orchestral samples. This combination of acoustic and synthesised instruments, under Teague’s skilful mixing, blend effortlessly.
Shadow Play, the opening track, demonstrates Ryan’s talents in the electroacoustic realm; on the surface the piece sounds characteristically minimalist but a closer listen reveals that the different instruments are constantly weaving in and out of focus. This is a composition that can also be enjoyed as a soundscape. At the end of the piece a wonderful moment occurs when the rhythmic handclapping rises from nowhere to the centre of the mix – like with all of the other interlocking layers that come and go, we wonder if perhaps the part was always present in the background.
On the following track, the driving strings of Cadastral Survey have a cinematic quality – indeed the whole album could be a film soundtrack. At times Teague’s music can be whimsical, bringing French composer Yann Tiersen to mind. And there are certainly hints of electronically enhanced minimalism, building upon the foundations of Steve Reich, John Adams et al. Of course, many others are doing very similar things, and in consequence Field Drawings doesn’t sound particularly original. This release joins an already crowded marketplace alongside artists such as Ólafur Arnalds, Sylvain Chauveau and Peter Broderick.
It’s hard to fault this album from a technical perspective – as a whole it’s certainly well crafted, though it can in places feel too programmatic. On the plus side, especially for a composer with a sync track record that already includes ads for car companies and soft drinks brands alongside incidental music for BBC4 documentaries, the tracks are highly syncable. Whilst the album won’t be selling in its millions, the tracks from Field Drawings will in all likelihood find their way onto your TV or cinema screen.