There’s a hypnotically meditative quality to the epic title track of Joanna Brouk’s The Space Between. Its sparse arrangement builds around a repetitive series of bass notes on piano, augmented by spritely upper-register flourishes that help prevent the track from becoming completely lost within its own monotony. This compositional approach, however, allows for the listener to lose themselves, the mind wandering as the music ebbs and flows from one series of phrases to the next, dwelling on each just long enough for their basic form and structure to sink in and become firmly established.

Employing a style similar to that of her former teacher and minimalist icon Terry Riley, Brouk here relies on that training to gradually build her composition around fragmentary ideas that play in a circular fashion. By the time the track’s 20-plus minutes have elapsed, you’ll find yourself in a mental space far removed from where you started. “The Space Between” refers as much to the space between notes as the space between the ears of the listener.

The remainder of the album, as is often the case with larger works like The Space Between, is made up of shorter pieces that come off as ideas that helped birth the main focal point rather than as standalone compositions of any note. “Chimes and Bells” is just that, the latter intertwining with the former to create a series of contemplative musical phrases that play like a more spirited version of the title work. It’s by far the most animated piece here and, while enjoyable, one of the more difficult pieces in which to lose one’s self, this being the operative goal of the album as a whole.

Other tracks seek to replicate the immersive listening experience of the title track, to varying degrees of success. “Winter Chimes” is a much more ruminative work, the title imagery emerging from an ethereal fog of sustained tones and manipulated sound to create a disorienting feel that never fully resolves itself thanks to Brouk’s use of a-harmonic tones at random before settling into a fluttering major key melody almost baroque in its relative complexity of harmony and melody.

“Golden Cloud Layers” sticks with the basic formula of “The Space Between,” albeit in miniature and somewhat filtered through “Winter Chimes” use of sustained, almost droning notes. It’s gently swirling quality makes for a gorgeously hypnotic listening experience that relies more on how the listener’s sensory perceptions are engaged – hence the album’s renown for its musical healing qualities – than any sort of classical or academic approach to composition. This is a fine example of why Brouk was so beloved by the so-called New Age music scene of the ‘80s.

As a whole, The Space Between is ideally suited for a meditative listening experience in which the listener has nothing but time to devote to themselves and the inner reflection. One needn’t necessarily be fully engaged in the music, but in order to fully appreciate what Brouk is seeking to achieve with the album, it helps to be fully in the moment. Think of it as non-background background music.

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