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An Electronic Journey Across the Country
An Electronic Journey Across the Country
Boston-based musician and composer Mark Preston creates a landscape album of the mind Mark Preston
Nature & Design
A lot of artists get lost in the land of glitch, exulting in the sonic mutations and stuttering effects that create a kinetic groove, but tend to sound less musical with every new strategy. Mark Preston isn't one of them. From the opening keyboard chords of "Essex," he invites you into a world of prismatic colors, understated melodies and rhythms that never pummel but instead, like a fractal moiré pattern, they seduce as much as they dazzle.

Mark Preston went to music school in Boston to study drumming but along the way, he became entranced by electronic music and the idea of creating fully realized compositions in his computer. He traded drum sticks for mouse clicks and in 2007 released his debut album, "…and it will rise with the sun." That album was good, but his new CD, Nature & Design takes a quantum leap.

Much of the music is inspired by a cross-country trip he took, visiting National Parks across the U.S. from Maine to Arizona. But Preston avoids the gift-store syndrome of nature themed albums and instead, taps into deeper emotions that transcend his sources. "Casco," could be about a forest landscape in Maine where Sebago Lake resides, but it plays more like an inner landscape of peace and joy, churning along it's glitched, syncopated rhythm, skipping through it's light-flecked melody.

Since Preston is only in his mid-20s, his influences are still showing. So you could be forgiven a few times if you think you slipped an Album Leaf CD on by mistake. Songs like "Leaving the Tetons" with its mix of minimalist keyboards, glitching rhythms and Arvo Pärt-like strings, played by Dayla Stoerzbach, certainly owe a debt to that band.

Mark's a composer who lets the electronics be the electronics. When he needs an acoustic instrument, he brings it in, including Josh Sturgeon, who plays guitar on "Sage Creek SD," a jazz-funk track that betrays Preston's time spent at music school.

Preston hasn't given up the drums completely. Look at his studio photos on-line and you'll see he has an electronic trap set. And I suspect that's what he's playing on the shifting rhythms of "Light At Certain Angles." But even his electronic grooves have a bounce to them like the ping-ponging chatter of "Changing Colors,"

Nature & Design ends with a pensive composition called "The Great Sand Dunes: Alone at Night," It's a quiet piece of Harold Budd like piano over chirping crickets and shear, ambient curtains of sound. It's a calming ending to an album that spins through its landscapes with the shifting patterns of a car rising the open road of 90 West, which is also the name of a track on the album. Get lost in the patterns of Nature & Design, one of the most joyful albums of 2010.