erhaps it’s the wintertime. Certain musical elements lose their luster in the winter months and others take their place. It’s a sweeping change- classical music sounds better, hip-hop doesn’t seem to be as meaningful, and melancholy inevitably sets in as the search for something uplifting to listen to begins. Last year Henryk Gorecki’s Third Symphony filled the void and fed the depression. This year it seems as if the front runner is coming from an unlikely space- a label owned partly by Scott Herren- but one that has much in common with Gorecki’s Third Symphony. An album that does all of the same things- and allows, even, for a hopeful ending.
The album’s first two songs, “Ondoyant et Divers” and “Theme for Grace”, mine territory that has been explored by ambient composers throughout the years. Rolling waves of sound echo, creating an undulating loop of strings, punctuated by swirling violins and upright bass. The opener rolls along like this, creating a enveloping wall of sound that continually opens itself up to rupture from other instruments and yet casually maintains its primacy until the song’s completion. It’s an interesting sound, one that isn’t completely original in its ideal, but in its execution sounds like unlike anything that has been released in the past few years.
The references that are apparent are those of modern classical composers- Barber, Goreki, and Penderecki; as the artists website capably explains. In each of these songs, however, there is disruption- a Mille Plateaux-esqu cut that subverts the idea that this music could be executed exactly as is in real time.
The firs real change in mood is the third track, “Man, Myth, and Magic”. The song has an Eastern feel. Accompanied by a driving rhythmic undercurrent, the song’s melody repeats for what seems like an eternity before being overtaken by a huge bass swell- enveloping the entire track in its thickness and signaling the second part of the song. It soon treads back into ambience and what sounds like an almost triumphant chord progression of strings and French horn.
The next three songs occupy the same sort of foreboding atmosphere that accompanies the quivering and jittery string drones at the beginning of the album. Most notably, “The Sea and The Marsh are One” was inspired by the piece “The Marshes of Glenn”, composed by Charles DeLaney.
It is the second to last song, though, that inspires the hopeful feeling not exhibited in large part by the previous sons on the album. “Faraday (Goodnight)” starts out like most other songs on the record, but at the two minute mark is interrupted by a jazz bass guitar line that invokes a line full of promise and expectation. It is, perhaps, the light that shines unhindered from the rest of the album, a moment of realization within the blinding dark. But more importantly, it signals something else, the promise of another spring- another changing of the seasons, a hopeful ideal of greater things to come from this band and this life. And with a debut as good as this, one can only hope that the promise is fulfilled.