Viriditas is a word meaning vitality, fecundity, lushness, verdure, or growth. It is particularly associated with abbess Hildegard von Bingen, who used it to refer to or symbolize spiritual and physical health, often as a reflection of the divine word or as an aspect of the divine nature.
After a decade of albums on his very own Unseen label, which Keith Kenniff applied to release his very own works under the Goldmund and Helios monikers, as well as collaborative works with his wife, Hollie, as Mint Julep, this Boston-based modern classical and film composer gets a backing from a well-respected Ghostly International imprint, which has been steadily growing into an all-out music and art platform. This is not exactly a surprise since we’ve seen Kenniff already appear alongside many our favourite composers, such as Jacaszek, Manual, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Christina Vantzou and Aidan Baker on a 2011 Ghostly compilation, titled SMM: Context. This way Ghostly can focus on all the label assigned tasks and Kenniff on all the music.
On Viriditas we find Kenniff in a contemplative mood, more ambient then ever, painting warm soundscapes across vast open valleys and uplifting soaring skies. The atmosphere is positive and empathetic, sharing the texture and tonality with many favourites from the likes of Boards of Canada (just listen to the detuned and warbled sounds of “Latest Lost”) and upbeat storylines of Tycho (check out the melodies on “Towards You”) — another reason why this record is a perfect addition to my Ghostly shelf. Some pieces, like the “North Wind”, could go on forever, cradling my slow and certain drift towards the rising sun, rather than the plunge into the abyss. Elements of glowing kindness emanate from the distant shores of the land of Helios, radiating into your heart through the force of music.
Aligned with Hildegard von Bingen’s philosophy, Kenniff looks towards sound, like many do to nature, for momentary vigor, for elemental and nourishing prolificacy. Here, in pursuit of viriditas, with precise textures and harmonies, he humbly extends that verdant expression outward, wide and pliable.
The album marks a certain level of fruition in Kenniff’s long and celebrated career. A lot less structured and beatless in nature, the vignettes are like short-lived whiffs of the essence of the candlelight at night. I even recommend that you consume this album in the twilight, as it was composed in the dark, during nocturnal hours of the sleeping world, when all anxiety and worries of the day unwind from their another cycle. When life is closer with the divine. “While I’m not a very spiritual person as it relates to a religious belief,” says Kenniff, “I do feel an overwhelming connection between the aesthetics I find pleasing in my experience of nature and my experience of writing music.” Highly recommended for all of the above-named artists, as well as fans of Hammock, Chihei Hatakeyama, Eluvium, Manual and Stars of the Lid.