Michael William Gilbert: Radio Ominbus Review

by Bea Willis

Michael William Gilbert grew up in Connecticut and Brussels, Belgium. While living in Europe he first encountered the music of Varese, Stockhausen, and Pierre Henry, as well as music of India, Africa, and Japan. After studying electrical engineering at MIT, he continued studies in music at the Boston School of Electronic Music, later as a teacher and designer of synthesis systems. He graduated with a degree in music from Hampshire College, and shortly thereafter became the technical director of electronic music studios at Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has since taught electronic music at Hampshire College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Holyoke Community College.

Gilbert’s discography journey began in the early seventies and he has robustly been releasing since that time. His latest endeavor Radio Ominbus is well appointed with pragmatic electronic music tracks, two acoustic chamber pieces, and featured collaborations with Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson) and Mark Walker (Oregon, Lyle Mays). The album was (except for two tracks) mastered at Abbey Road Studios.  Gilbert is not only an electronic programming genius, many of the electronic sounds actuated on this album were made using the µBraids, a Eurorack voltage-controlled digital oscillator/sound source developed and marketed by MW Gilbert & Daniel Gilbert as Tall Dog Electronic, and available at modular synthesizer gear dealers.

The album opens with “Onomatopia” a shifting composition that offers touches of modernization in both acoustic and electronic sounds, while remaining steadfast in honoring core values of cohesive groove and catchy melodies. Gilbert creates a world where sonic and electric sound resonant and rest on an even plane. Even in its most densely orchestrated state, there’s a pronounced sense of purpose lighting the way. There’s clearly no chasm too wide for Gilbert’s sounds to cross. Holzman’s keyboard solo is exciting and fits in splendidly with Gilbert’s creative sounds. Gilbert has a flair for layering in a way that allows each voice to sit in the perfect sonic layer to resonate clearly and also contribute to the overall compositional intention.

“Night Walk (For Flute, Bassoon, Vibraphone, & Strings)” is packed with layered counterpoint and dense sonic textures of harmonies. It’s full of shifting rhythms, frequently within the same phrase, but there is always logic and interconnection of motifs. The electronic generated and acoustic melodic lines overlap, intermingle and they sometimes clash for dramatic effect, but their sonorities blend perfectly and sound completely natural. In all, the composition ranges from meditative to riotous and deftly balances the tightly scripted lines of acoustic and electronic sounds with mastery of intricacy. It takes a top-fight group of players to execute such an ambitious endeavor and Gilbert’s sounds have a richness in tone and sonic heft that matches the ensembles thickness.  His compositions not only stand tall in skill of compositional structure and colors, but in Gilbert’s instrumental qualities with electronically conceived soundscapes. Filled with contrast, the ensemble and Gilbert navigate the labyrinthine of colorful lines with drive and finesse.

Tracks to sample first: “Onomatopia,” “Night Walk,” and “TimeSpace.” The song to take a chance on is “Rainbow 13.”






Radio Omnibus

  • Release Date: February 4, 2018
  • Label: Gibex
  • Total Length: 1:09:10

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