Geoff Hall is a contradiction. His debut album, Understanding the Signs, contains eight original instrumental tunes that are heavily orchestrated, primarily with string sections, apparently all created using synthesizers, but he also is a longtime guitarist although he only plays a tiny bit of guitar on one piece on this recording. Another contradiction is that several of the tunes are fairly ambient, especially “To Go Alone” and “Something More,” but these also feature lots of strings (who would have thought strings could be used in an ambient number?). But there are some catchy, upbeat, melodic compositions on the album as well (such as “Understanding the Signs,” “Gone But Not Forgotten” and “Perseverance”).

Despite the contradictions, the music works well. With strings appearing on every track, the music has the feel of a film soundtrack, perhaps one of those Hollywood love stories with the strings underscoring every nuance of emotion. The short title tune, which is all strings (no other apparent instruments), is probably the most classical-sounding of the bunch (sort of Bach on steroids). But seriously, it is interesting to hear a modern composer-musician create about 80 percent of his music using strings and then fill out the rest with some dabs of piano, percussion/drums/synth-beats, and a few tidbits of other instruments buried in the mix (a plucked guitar one place, some cymbals another).

This music will find favor with the broad, open-minded new age audience, especially those who like hearing modern classical explorations. This is something a bit different than usual, but definitely worth giving a listen to.