The Witch's Garden

Abandoned Toys

Mythical, 2007

REVIEW BY: Elizabeth Crowder


Instrumental music that has the ability to create a dreamlike, elusive mood without being shifted into the category of elevator music (which I feel is worthy only for sleepless nights and nurseries) is hard to come by. Abandoned Toys' The Witch's Garden is by no means elevator music, as it adds something beyond your typical background piano and strings. There is a off-putting whimsy to the notes, creating an atmosphere perfect for storytelling and writing.

The man behind the noise is Brett Branning, who composed, performed and produced all tracks. The only addition is in the guest violinist, Justin Jones, on "Flickering Embrace." On his website,, Branning says "Abandoned toys is the work of a modern classical music composer who works within the realms of new age music, dark ambient music, film music, and experimental classical music." Like many of his contemporaries, he has also done work with independent films and video games, though this disc stands on its own. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Flickering Embrace" is honestly haunting.  The violin cries, the piano sympathizes, and listening to this track breaks my heart a little. I am always amazed at how something so simple can say so much, how a song of just notes on a page can resonate inside of you. "Flowering Ashes" has a mellow feel without losing any emotion. The title track also presents a certain hesitation, making me want to scream at the hero "Don't go in that door!" until I remember that this music is without a companion movie or game.

This dark classical sound is intriguing to me while slightly unnerving at times. I love how Branning, especially in "The Witch's Garden (Prelude)" and "Where The Red Shadows Slumber" gives you almost the feeling of being watched while walking in a foggy forest. Such emotion is difficult to bring out with straight instrumental music, so the effects Branning includes give depth and warmth (or a chill) to each track.

With a background in composing music for independent films and video games I can see how Branning is able to think outside the typical Beethoven-Brahms-Brickman box which so many classical artists fall into. The Witch's Garden is by no means normal or typical; this is music to think to, not music to clean to. Branning has created a disc that tells stories without ever starting a plot line.

Beyond the effort it takes to compose, perform and produce oneself, he should be applauded for the beauty of this album.

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Elizabeth Crowder and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mythical, and is used for informational purposes only.