Album Review: Gregory Tan – Sky Threader’s Journey

Gregory Tan Sky Threader's Journey cover

It’s quickly clear that Gregory Tan usually writes soundtrack music when listening to his latest album, The Sky Threader’s Journey. While 2016’s Far and Away was an ambient/post-rock styled release, The Sky Threader’s Journey sounds more like a video game.

As you could expect from the album title, Tan tries to take the listener on a journey with his music. We watch as soldiers prep for a grand battle; take in the grandeur of the bustling courtyard in King Arthur’s Camelot; feel the air rush past as we fly through the sky, riding on giant eagles. Or at least those are some wild interpretations… To quote Tan: “each piece takes the listener on a thematic adventure of sorts.”

“As a composer, it is just my desire and dream to capture emotions and transform them into music,” Tan writes, “but I would also want for this music to serve a purpose that goes way beyond the celebration of an individual’s creativity.”

Gregory Tan Sky Threader's Journey

Electronic tones on this album give it a dated feel, like a polyphonic ringtone, which probably explains why I imagine computer games when I listen to it. Plus the drums feel tight and rigid, making me guess that they are also programmed. This is offset by more traditional instruments. The blend of orchestral instruments like violins juxtapose against the inorganic computerised tones.

Tan is a prolific musician, a composer by profession. I find it intriguing when people who write soundtrack music decide to compile some of their works for release as an album [examples include Brad Couture, Rhian Sheehan, Christoffer Franzen]. Why choose these particular songs? What message are you sharing? Is there a cohesive theme that sets these tracks apart from the many others you’ve written?

Regardless of his reasonings, Tan is clearly proud of his work. It is tight, intricate and detailed – certainly more fleshed out than his last EP. Simultaneously going classical and modern, Tan has created an epic listen.

Gregory Tan links:







Joseph James

EP Review: Gregory Tan – Far And Away

Novacrow Far And Away

Gregory Tan is a Singaporean composer living in Melbourne, Australia. As well as working as an in-demand sessions player, he composes for a music licensing site that supplies music for many commercial ventures, from HBO television shows to fast food ads to Disney films. So I guess that it’s fair to say that Tan knows a fair bit about instrumental music.

And so he should. He’s completed the ABRSM Violin Syllabus, and recently obtained a certificate of Specialisation from Berklee College in Blues, Classic Rock and Jazz guitar.

Tan is no slob, having studied music at high levels, and writing music for his profession. His recent EP, Far And Away, features four beautifully crafted instrumental tracks.

Far and Away sounds more deliberate than many other post-rock releases, with every song capped around the four minute mark. Often post-rock suffers from being too drawn out, with long slow build ups being broken by clichéd crescendos. The four songs, each starting with “A”, are meant to evoke a sense of wandering and escapism without resorting to the same old stale trends we associated with post-rock.

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“Afterthought” commences with deliberate drumming that lay the path for some wondrously uplifting sleepmakeswaves-esque  guitar riffs. The layers build up joyous harmonies that add life to the rigid drums. The mood lifts and wanes dynamically, never quite staying still long enough to be predictable.

The reverberating chords in “Avalon” set a light ephemeral feel, with the percussive bright cymbals, snare rolls and tom toms providing the skeleton. The song races and explodes with energy at times.

“Atlas of Dreams” sounds somewhat unsettling, with frantic shrill strings chiming in, although lovely tone. Tan shared with me that “Far And Away was created with the intention of combining dissonant melodies with progressive arrangements to evoke a sort of atmospheric tension”, and you can hear that combination of beauty and danger evident here.

The most cinematic sounding track is “Autumn Crossing”, with swelling pads and a galloping tribal beat. As it picks up there is a definite Dorena feel, and I can picture sprites leaping about in the wilderness, although there is an underlying ominous presence as well, with dark simmering china cymbals and a forlorn violin being played in the background.

At first listen, Tan’s previous release, Ostinato, was about as literal as the term modern-classical could denote. The compositions were clearly written as a form of homage to the classical greats, but with in-your-face tones played on electric instruments. By comparison, Far and Away is more subtle, and less rooted in classical style, with more modern post-rock leanings.

By using his diverse compositional knowledge and combining old and new instrumental styles, Tan has created an EP that takes the listener on an exciting journey that seems familiar, but takes constant unexpected turns.

Far And Away can be found on here


 Joseph James