Falling as briskly as the dried multicolored leaves, three ambient records for mid November have arrived, and they are each intricate and lofty in their own right. These each are solo works (US + UK) and appear on different imprints, with distinct atmospheres, shades and points of view.
Selvedge is a slowly modulating drone that gradually reveals itself (like dense fog dispersing on Thinking of the Key. These nine tracks are non linear, and rather than completely flowing into each other, act more like audio poems (sans any lyricism). Fear of Air, with its below-the-radar flutter gives off the impression of a reverberating propeller using fore/background to keep its secret code.
Elsewhere on the wryly titled Don’t Sweat Infinity are cavernous passages, like dark voids of cosmic space. Then there are other forms of quiet that are gently disrupted by undulating synths. Still there are times here when the record breaks into these brighter orchestral embellishments amid otherwise withdrawn lulls. It’s a bit like a dissertation on forms of relative broken silence. I wouldn’t consider the album definitively tranquil by any means – it’s more like launching a portal by varying (and seemingly precise) manipulations – maybe like some foreign/alien back channel communications that would otherwise have to be de-encrypted to fully understand.
Jack Hyde brings the beat into the ambient realm. The beat is slung low, and is more like a heartbeat than a dance rhythm, but this is still something you can move to, especially on opener – Cairn. Things meander from there, chill way down, with squiggly synths that droop and drift like sheets hung out to dry in the open air, every now and then with an uncoordinated breathy movement. There’s a lot of lush sewn into this near hour-long patchwork of fifteen tracks.
Hyde creates sounds that both sooth and mimic the throb of minor muscular movements – sometimes like a churning wheel, sometimes emulating a trickling countryside brook. In essence this is kaleidoscopic in its striking effort to make rather diluted fields of ambient rather colorful, above or below the thin surface layer often expected. On Loch Beanie he brings to it satisfying discourse of that which is fluid and that which is tactile, and the in-between – outside the tangible. In this light the record reminds me of the first time I heard, say, Portishead for the first time, it was this revelation that disparate worlds didn’t need to be separated. In fact there can be harmony if one so desires to be patient enough to understand the flow of less cerebral, and more sensory beat structures as emphasized so gracefully here.
Danny Scott Lane has ultimately disguised elongated R&B and assimilated other world music into his form of ambient. At first this will not at all be obvious, but this is one that takes its time to manifest. On the title track over a funky layered structure of synths and percussion are Japanese whispery spoken word. This can easily be read as a producer’s record from its crystal clean mix that moves without notice into new forms, track to track, without upsetting the tempo or mood. There are sweet bird tweets, with synths that mimic in structure and form as well as dips into Asian jazzed up new age. It keeps your ears pricked up for more.
My favorite aspect of the musical structure throughout is the restrained approach to how percussion is deployed, sometimes very sparse and a bit asymmetrical, and otherwise with an understanding of alternating traditional musics. Normally I would not be all too interested in woodwinds (with some very rare and notable exceptions) but when deployed in coordination with the tribal flow of Altered Tongue, I’m all in. The mesmerizing spirit nabs my nerve endings. The same cannot be said for the very next piece, Pepper, which adds some modulation and crickets and simply falls off my radar altogether. It’s too syrupy in the larger mix. All in all this record will appeal to those who enjoyed the longitude of aspects in works by artists like Dead Can Dance, Enya, and the ilk – though it’s a very certain cuppa that is best served when its a tad less sweetened.