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Ekca Liena & Spheruleus: Mapping The Boundary Layer (Home Normal)

The far-off bells and hazy breeze that resound on “Apparatus and Installation” start off this collaboration between Ekca Liena (aka Daniel W.J. Mackenzie of Plurals) and Spheruleus (Harry Towell) with grace. These tracks seem to be largely field recordings layered with some instrumental passages and textures, although they’re usually composited in such a way that it can be difficult to discern what’s what. Much like the cover art, they are murky and washed out, details blending with one another to create more of an overall impression than distinct shapes or sounds. Many of the tracks feature chimes and bells in varying amounts — think windchimes, not arrangements for performance — along with unidentifiable textures that often lend a warm crackle or other surface tension to the mix. So-called “real instruments” appear to be involved as well; “Advection” has a dreamy, blurred shoegaze sound about it with repetitive guitar glides in the distance, while “Fog Bound” certainly lives up to its name with dense gloomy chords glowing in the distance. Only on the lengthy “Summing Elements” does a human voice distinctly enter the picture, in the form of a male vocal that sounds not of this time. (The juxtaposition of elements reminds me of the enchanted trail in the film Yellowbrickroad, albeit without the migraine-inducing noise.) Given the vast array of ambient-drone albums that hit the shelves on a weekly basis, it’s refreshing how compelling this music is — it really seems to creep up on me each time, and I like it a little more with each listen.

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