Is it possible to be surrounded by a mass of humanity, a bustling sea of lives, agendas and expectations, and still stand in silence? It is a question that seems entirely relevant in what they tell us is an age of communication; an age of ceaseless noise and demands.
It is a question evoked in the third studio album from Rhian Sheehan, Standing in Silence - a 14-part voyage through provocative soundscapes that is equally a sophisticated vision of futuristic musical textures and a vista of the simplicity of children at play.
The album represents a new musical bearing for Rhian Sheehan. His previous original albums, 2001's Paradigm Shift and 2004's Tiny Blue Biosphere, were acclaimed for their visionary blend of cerebral beats with sci-fi storylines. Yet these albums were conventional in comparison to Standing in Silence, which saw Sheehan push into a new direction of organic, ambient and abstract sound. The sounds of cascading bells, wine glasses, playgrounds and airports are the substance of Standing in Silence, whereas the electronica was the core of the previous albums.
An important element in the evolution of Sheehan's sound is the involvement of Jeff Boyle from sonic noise merchants Jakob, who helped develop a more organic sound and provided guitars on most of the album's 14 tracks. Sheehan has brought together some of New Zealand's finest practitioners of electronica and modern classical including long-time collaborator Jeremiah Ross aka Module, Raashi Mailk and Thomas Voyce from Rhombus, Andy Hummel, the ethereal vocalist Jess Chambers, members of the NZSO and percussionist Tom Pierard (Strike).
The result is fourteen parts of an exquisite expedition into the sounds and scapes of silence, solitude, reflection and inspiration.