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136 posts tagged ambient

Otto A. Totland: Pinô (Sonic Pieces)
Otto Totland is perhaps best known as one half of experimental outfit Deaf Center, having released two well-received albums on Type Records over the last several years. Pinô is quite different from those dark excursions. Without the menacing cello drones of his partner Erik Skovdin, Totland is free to focus on the piano as his primary instrument. Recorded at Nils Frahm’s studio, it has the same fragile quality of Frahm’s own Felt, where the guts and mechanics of the piano often come through via Totland’s extremely light touch and some amplification. Fans of Deaf Center might recall the delicate piano interlude of “Time Spent” on their last full-length album, and it’s a pretty good insight into what Totland is up to on his own here. It can be difficult to tell which pieces are improvisations versus compositions, but that is the strength of most of Pinô.

Many of these pieces feel effortless, like a dream that rolls in like fog and then just as swiftly fades. Fans of Nils Frahm’s solo music will no doubt find much to love. As a solo piano album, it contains few surprises, but occasionally something breaks the sound, like a random bird call during “Julie” (and is that Frahm rummaging around in the background? most likely an improvisation). I don’t think it’s particularly worthwhile to dive into specific pieces on Pinô as the album works best as a continuous suite of stark sketches, ideas, and polished compositions. That he shifts between more fully formed pieces and ones that are just barely there is a strength in its arc, covering a substantial amount of ground in just over 40 minutes with his axe of choice. Well worth a listen for fans of solo piano music or ambient crossover performers like Harold Budd or Dustin O’Halloran. Tragically beautiful. 
Buy it: Sonic Pieces | iTunes | Boomkat | Amazon

Otto A. Totland: Pinô (Sonic Pieces)

Otto Totland is perhaps best known as one half of experimental outfit Deaf Center, having released two well-received albums on Type Records over the last several years. Pinô is quite different from those dark excursions. Without the menacing cello drones of his partner Erik Skovdin, Totland is free to focus on the piano as his primary instrument. Recorded at Nils Frahm’s studio, it has the same fragile quality of Frahm’s own Felt, where the guts and mechanics of the piano often come through via Totland’s extremely light touch and some amplification. Fans of Deaf Center might recall the delicate piano interlude of “Time Spent” on their last full-length album, and it’s a pretty good insight into what Totland is up to on his own here. It can be difficult to tell which pieces are improvisations versus compositions, but that is the strength of most of Pinô.

Many of these pieces feel effortless, like a dream that rolls in like fog and then just as swiftly fades. Fans of Nils Frahm’s solo music will no doubt find much to love. As a solo piano album, it contains few surprises, but occasionally something breaks the sound, like a random bird call during “Julie” (and is that Frahm rummaging around in the background? most likely an improvisation). I don’t think it’s particularly worthwhile to dive into specific pieces on Pinô as the album works best as a continuous suite of stark sketches, ideas, and polished compositions. That he shifts between more fully formed pieces and ones that are just barely there is a strength in its arc, covering a substantial amount of ground in just over 40 minutes with his axe of choice. Well worth a listen for fans of solo piano music or ambient crossover performers like Harold Budd or Dustin O’Halloran. Tragically beautiful. 

Buy it: Sonic Pieces | iTunes | Boomkat | Amazon

Black Swan: Tone Poetry (Bandcamp)
Black Swan was new to me when I first played Tone Poetry. And what a fantastic first impression the album made! I’ve played the album dozens of times, and yet I’ve found myself struggling with words to adequately describe it, despite how much I like it. “Ritual” rolls in like a thick fog, dense and shapeless and all-surrounding, and it sets the tone for the proceedings nicely. “Eden” is the longest track and a clear standout with its string harmonics and atmospheric reverb, all gliding by with glacial patience into the more harrowing sounds of “Prophecy.” It is that continuity from track to track that makes Tone Poetry go down so smoothly, all sounding like one amorphous whole rather than discrete pieces or parts.
<a href=”http://blackswan.bandcamp.com/album/tone-poetry-2014” data-mce-href=”http://blackswan.bandcamp.com/album/tone-poetry-2014”>Tone Poetry (2014) by Black Swan</a>
The often disembodied, oblique chamber arrangements (often sounding like strings or organ or other traditional instruments, buried in effects) remind me of some of the weirder more recent material from Tim Hecker, though the heavy fog of Tone Poetry might ultimately place it closer to David Lynch’s Eraserhead on the sound spectrum, or perhaps the haunted sounds of The Caretaker. But Tone Poetry moves me more than any of those sounds, with a linear progression to it that is as patient as it is lush. For all of its darker moments, the final stretch of the album is, for lack of more eloquent words, fucking gorgeous. “Departed” and “Elegy” both unfold with a tragic beauty, elegant and patient. It’s an album that rises above comparisons by virtue of just how exquisite it is. Highly recommended for fans of ambient drone music, easily one of my favorites of the year so far.
Buy it: Bandcamp

Black Swan: Tone Poetry (Bandcamp)

Black Swan was new to me when I first played Tone Poetry. And what a fantastic first impression the album made! I’ve played the album dozens of times, and yet I’ve found myself struggling with words to adequately describe it, despite how much I like it. “Ritual” rolls in like a thick fog, dense and shapeless and all-surrounding, and it sets the tone for the proceedings nicely. “Eden” is the longest track and a clear standout with its string harmonics and atmospheric reverb, all gliding by with glacial patience into the more harrowing sounds of “Prophecy.” It is that continuity from track to track that makes Tone Poetry go down so smoothly, all sounding like one amorphous whole rather than discrete pieces or parts.

The often disembodied, oblique chamber arrangements (often sounding like strings or organ or other traditional instruments, buried in effects) remind me of some of the weirder more recent material from Tim Hecker, though the heavy fog of Tone Poetry might ultimately place it closer to David Lynch’s Eraserhead on the sound spectrum, or perhaps the haunted sounds of The Caretaker. But Tone Poetry moves me more than any of those sounds, with a linear progression to it that is as patient as it is lush. For all of its darker moments, the final stretch of the album is, for lack of more eloquent words, fucking gorgeous. “Departed” and “Elegy” both unfold with a tragic beauty, elegant and patient. It’s an album that rises above comparisons by virtue of just how exquisite it is. Highly recommended for fans of ambient drone music, easily one of my favorites of the year so far.

Buy it: Bandcamp

Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement: Black Magic Cannot Cross Water (Hospital Productions/Blackest Ever Black)
This 2012 work by Hospital honcho Dominick Furnow might be my favorite of his that I’ve heard. It’s a stark, ambient album split into 2 concise halves (under 30 minutes total running time), and based on how it sounds I’d refer to the first half as the “dry side” and the other as the “wet side.” The dry side begins with a faint descent into the void, minimal electronics immersed in deep reverb; its 15 minutes are divvied up into thirds, with the first being the most minimal, before some synths a tinge darker than John Carpenter enter the mix. There’s an ebb and flow to the ambience of this music that makes it feel like a dark, buoyant sea, appropriate for a track called “Homes Built Over the Sea.” So there is a dryness implied by its title as well as its sound, eventually shifting focus toward punctuated synth tones and oscillating drones.

The “wet side,” “Refuges From Black Magic,” begins where the first left off only to introduce a steady stream of rainfall which never relents. It shares a similar arc with the other half, shifting between murky, almost opaque atmosphere and touches of sub-bass rumble. It’s a far cry from Furnow’s more confrontational sounds as Prurient or Exploring Jezebel, but extremely effective. It’s both pitch black and somehow non-threatening, the peaceful center of a brutal storm.

Blackest Ever Black reissued the album on vinyl in 2013, but you’ll have a much easier time finding the digital version at the links below.
Buy it: Boomkat | iTunes | Amazon

Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement: Black Magic Cannot Cross Water (Hospital Productions/Blackest Ever Black)

This 2012 work by Hospital honcho Dominick Furnow might be my favorite of his that I’ve heard. It’s a stark, ambient album split into 2 concise halves (under 30 minutes total running time), and based on how it sounds I’d refer to the first half as the “dry side” and the other as the “wet side.” The dry side begins with a faint descent into the void, minimal electronics immersed in deep reverb; its 15 minutes are divvied up into thirds, with the first being the most minimal, before some synths a tinge darker than John Carpenter enter the mix. There’s an ebb and flow to the ambience of this music that makes it feel like a dark, buoyant sea, appropriate for a track called “Homes Built Over the Sea.” So there is a dryness implied by its title as well as its sound, eventually shifting focus toward punctuated synth tones and oscillating drones.

The “wet side,” “Refuges From Black Magic,” begins where the first left off only to introduce a steady stream of rainfall which never relents. It shares a similar arc with the other half, shifting between murky, almost opaque atmosphere and touches of sub-bass rumble. It’s a far cry from Furnow’s more confrontational sounds as Prurient or Exploring Jezebel, but extremely effective. It’s both pitch black and somehow non-threatening, the peaceful center of a brutal storm.

Blackest Ever Black reissued the album on vinyl in 2013, but you’ll have a much easier time finding the digital version at the links below.

Buy it: Boomkat | iTunes | Amazon

Matthew Barlow: Sun Showers (Preservation)
The Australian Preservation label, “dedicated to unearthing and uniting underground artists,” has expanded on Matthew Barlow’s self-released Sun Showers cassette as a full album. Its four tracks have a focus on subtle, reflective beauty, with contrasting light and dark elements scattered across and within its foggy drones and delicate touches. The title track is the obvious highlight, with a real narrative arc about it. It flows like the patient rising and falling of the sun, casting different shadows as it slowly shifts.

"Halflight" is a gorgeous, delicate piano piece that recalls the soft touch of classic Harold Budd, conjuring up images of hazy light cutting through a forest. "Warm Air" and "Breathing Space" both rely heavily on Barlow’s delicate guitar picking, while a quiet chorus of birds chirps thinly overhead. It’s a real work of pastoral beauty, drawing inspiration from what might be considered cliches in lesser hands. Its signature sounds of nature, juxtaposed with Barlow’s sleight of hand and knack for atmosphere, are what make Sun Showers a surprisingly lush and rich experience greater than the sum of its parts.
Buy it: Preservation

Matthew Barlow: Sun Showers (Preservation)

The Australian Preservation label, “dedicated to unearthing and uniting underground artists,” has expanded on Matthew Barlow’s self-released Sun Showers cassette as a full album. Its four tracks have a focus on subtle, reflective beauty, with contrasting light and dark elements scattered across and within its foggy drones and delicate touches. The title track is the obvious highlight, with a real narrative arc about it. It flows like the patient rising and falling of the sun, casting different shadows as it slowly shifts.

"Halflight" is a gorgeous, delicate piano piece that recalls the soft touch of classic Harold Budd, conjuring up images of hazy light cutting through a forest. "Warm Air" and "Breathing Space" both rely heavily on Barlow’s delicate guitar picking, while a quiet chorus of birds chirps thinly overhead. It’s a real work of pastoral beauty, drawing inspiration from what might be considered cliches in lesser hands. Its signature sounds of nature, juxtaposed with Barlow’s sleight of hand and knack for atmosphere, are what make Sun Showers a surprisingly lush and rich experience greater than the sum of its parts.

Buy it: Preservation

K’an: Anima (Onyudo)
This is an absolutely stunning collection of tracks from artist Paolo Bellipanni. Don’t let the harrowing choral loops of the opener mislead you too much… while it begins with an unsettling tone, much of Anima is quite gorgeous. With a little patience, those introductory loops begin to shudder and shake as “The Tree in the Garden of Limbs” reveals just one facet of Anima's beguiling beauty.

This beauty isn’t always so pretty, either, but just as striking when it feels tragic as it does when it’s fragile and warm. “Arsons Beneath Eclipsed Waters” reflects this oscillation from light to dark and everything in between with its patient but intense crescendo of tremolo guitar, drones, and feedback. At the core of Anima is Bellipanni’s use of guitar, electronics, voice, and effects in ways where it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the next begins. I suppose what’s also refreshing about K’an is that while there are so many touchpoints that feel familiar (Fennesz, Tim Hecker, Grouper, SunnO)))), The Haxan Cloak), it still sounds unique and unto itself. “In a River of Light You Carve Intersections of Darkness” brings a techno pulse into the mix, sounding not unlike the gloomy, hazy throb of Fennesz’s Hotel Paral.lel, but otherwise Anima is mostly a textural, visceral, languid affair. “Altars” is a slithering beast that clocks in at nearly 15 minutes, shifting shape several times before it breaks through with a cathartic power drone of voices, guitar, and electronics. It’s a moving precursor to the tightly wound title track that closes the album with a sublime swoon (plus an epilogue that surprises me every time). Though I’ve done my best, describing K’an’s music here doesn’t do justice to its power.

It’s tragic that I nearly overlooked this altogether — cheers to Onyudo for promoting this gorgeous gem. Highly, highly recommended!
Get it free: Onyudo | K’an Bandcamp

K’an: Anima (Onyudo)

This is an absolutely stunning collection of tracks from artist Paolo Bellipanni. Don’t let the harrowing choral loops of the opener mislead you too much… while it begins with an unsettling tone, much of Anima is quite gorgeous. With a little patience, those introductory loops begin to shudder and shake as “The Tree in the Garden of Limbs” reveals just one facet of Anima's beguiling beauty.

This beauty isn’t always so pretty, either, but just as striking when it feels tragic as it does when it’s fragile and warm. “Arsons Beneath Eclipsed Waters” reflects this oscillation from light to dark and everything in between with its patient but intense crescendo of tremolo guitar, drones, and feedback. At the core of Anima is Bellipanni’s use of guitar, electronics, voice, and effects in ways where it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the next begins. I suppose what’s also refreshing about K’an is that while there are so many touchpoints that feel familiar (Fennesz, Tim Hecker, Grouper, SunnO)))), The Haxan Cloak), it still sounds unique and unto itself. “In a River of Light You Carve Intersections of Darkness” brings a techno pulse into the mix, sounding not unlike the gloomy, hazy throb of Fennesz’s Hotel Paral.lel, but otherwise Anima is mostly a textural, visceral, languid affair. “Altars” is a slithering beast that clocks in at nearly 15 minutes, shifting shape several times before it breaks through with a cathartic power drone of voices, guitar, and electronics. It’s a moving precursor to the tightly wound title track that closes the album with a sublime swoon (plus an epilogue that surprises me every time). Though I’ve done my best, describing K’an’s music here doesn’t do justice to its power.

It’s tragic that I nearly overlooked this altogether — cheers to Onyudo for promoting this gorgeous gem. Highly, highly recommended!

Get it free: Onyudo | K’an Bandcamp

BJ Nilsen: Eye of the Microphone (Touch)
I first heard BJ Nilsen’s music as Morthound, a deadly serious ambient project that was an early highlight of Sweden’s death-ambient Cold Meat Industry label in the early 90s. Nilsen was only a teenager when he worked on those albums, followed by a more sublime, less horror-tinged minimal drone project, Hazard. Since working under his own name, I haven’t kept up with Nilsen’s output, but the Eye of the Microphone seems as good a place as any to start. There is still an emphasis on environment, but rather than the desolate dronescapes of Hazard, Eye of the Microphone falls closer in line with Chris Watson’s hyperrealism field recordings, letting his microphone document his travels through England. “A city without sound does not exist,” writes Nilsen in the press release for the album. His goal was to tirelessly document its streets, sights, and sounds using his reliable microphone, with no real emphasis on route or destination. Rather, Nilsen aims to simply log the aural experience of his surroundings, wherever they may take him. As a result, the three pieces on Eye of the Microphone vary, though they have that unifying tactical thread. My favorite track might be the first one. “Londonium” consists largely of ambient street sounds, the mundane drone of everyday urban life. That I first really listened to this album while out and about walking on the street greatly enhanced the experience. What an odd pairing of the sounds of daytime urban Portland paired with the sounds Nilsen’s captured abroad. Nilsen juxtaposes the drones of modern living — river boats, a far-off chainsaw — with natural sounds of the Thames and Canary Wharf. It ends with a disorienting blitz of manipulated sound before proceeding into the other tracks.

On second track “Coins and Bones,” Nilsen blends field recordings with more manipulated, tense drones, evolving the music into something much greater a role than composite observer.

The third and final piece, “Twenty Four Seven,” where the amplified sounds of natural wildlife are key elements. “A microphone is both a lark and a night owl,” writes Nilsen. In this final piece, urban life resounds faintly in the distance, and his high-pitched drones add an otherworldliness to the otherwise quite earthly sounds of his recordings. Like his labelmate Watson, Nilsen’s interest in the tiny sounds of natural and urban life shines through these startlingly clear recordings and assemblages. It’s an engaging document of particular places at particular times in which found and created sounds intertwine in ways that complement and enhance one another.
Buy it: Touch Shop | Boomkat | iTunes | Amazon

BJ Nilsen: Eye of the Microphone (Touch)

I first heard BJ Nilsen’s music as Morthound, a deadly serious ambient project that was an early highlight of Sweden’s death-ambient Cold Meat Industry label in the early 90s. Nilsen was only a teenager when he worked on those albums, followed by a more sublime, less horror-tinged minimal drone project, Hazard. Since working under his own name, I haven’t kept up with Nilsen’s output, but the Eye of the Microphone seems as good a place as any to start. There is still an emphasis on environment, but rather than the desolate dronescapes of Hazard, Eye of the Microphone falls closer in line with Chris Watson’s hyperrealism field recordings, letting his microphone document his travels through England. “A city without sound does not exist,” writes Nilsen in the press release for the album. His goal was to tirelessly document its streets, sights, and sounds using his reliable microphone, with no real emphasis on route or destination. Rather, Nilsen aims to simply log the aural experience of his surroundings, wherever they may take him. As a result, the three pieces on Eye of the Microphone vary, though they have that unifying tactical thread. My favorite track might be the first one. “Londonium” consists largely of ambient street sounds, the mundane drone of everyday urban life. That I first really listened to this album while out and about walking on the street greatly enhanced the experience. What an odd pairing of the sounds of daytime urban Portland paired with the sounds Nilsen’s captured abroad. Nilsen juxtaposes the drones of modern living — river boats, a far-off chainsaw — with natural sounds of the Thames and Canary Wharf. It ends with a disorienting blitz of manipulated sound before proceeding into the other tracks.

On second track “Coins and Bones,” Nilsen blends field recordings with more manipulated, tense drones, evolving the music into something much greater a role than composite observer.

The third and final piece, “Twenty Four Seven,” where the amplified sounds of natural wildlife are key elements. “A microphone is both a lark and a night owl,” writes Nilsen. In this final piece, urban life resounds faintly in the distance, and his high-pitched drones add an otherworldliness to the otherwise quite earthly sounds of his recordings. Like his labelmate Watson, Nilsen’s interest in the tiny sounds of natural and urban life shines through these startlingly clear recordings and assemblages. It’s an engaging document of particular places at particular times in which found and created sounds intertwine in ways that complement and enhance one another.

Buy it: Touch Shop | Boomkat | iTunes | Amazon

FIS: Preparations (Tri Angle)
I recently reviewed FIS’s Humologous EP, and this newer one on Tri Angle had already come out. These tracks push further into the fringes of downtempo and dance music, with “Magister Nunns” eschewing convention altogether and instead twitching and shuddering for four minutes while a whistle wails overhead. “DMT Usher” is a repress of one of his older tracks, shivering similarly but is anchored by a jerky downtempo groove. Its quivering leads build in strength until it finally all stops while the groove does its thing with some well-deserved clarity. It’s the most conservative of the bunch and not surprisingly the oldest of the set. “Mildew Swoosh” has an FM synthy lurch about it that is as close to a hook as you might get here; meanwhile phased pads swirl overhead like storm clouds. I like that it has all the makings of a more conventional bass music track but with all of the punch desaturated, coming off more like it’s slightly out of focus. “CE Visions” finishes the EP off with an almost maddening stop/start stumble that is relentless. Saturated, fuzzy bass and skittering sounds percolate in the periphery while a looming fog of reverb obscures the view.

I like that FIS defies expectations by not being afraid to deviate in tempo, manipulate and abstract sounds, or throw the beat out altogether. Recommended listening for leftfield electronic fans.
Buy it: Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon

FIS: Preparations (Tri Angle)

I recently reviewed FIS’s Humologous EP, and this newer one on Tri Angle had already come out. These tracks push further into the fringes of downtempo and dance music, with “Magister Nunns” eschewing convention altogether and instead twitching and shuddering for four minutes while a whistle wails overhead. “DMT Usher” is a repress of one of his older tracks, shivering similarly but is anchored by a jerky downtempo groove. Its quivering leads build in strength until it finally all stops while the groove does its thing with some well-deserved clarity. It’s the most conservative of the bunch and not surprisingly the oldest of the set. “Mildew Swoosh” has an FM synthy lurch about it that is as close to a hook as you might get here; meanwhile phased pads swirl overhead like storm clouds. I like that it has all the makings of a more conventional bass music track but with all of the punch desaturated, coming off more like it’s slightly out of focus. “CE Visions” finishes the EP off with an almost maddening stop/start stumble that is relentless. Saturated, fuzzy bass and skittering sounds percolate in the periphery while a looming fog of reverb obscures the view.

I like that FIS defies expectations by not being afraid to deviate in tempo, manipulate and abstract sounds, or throw the beat out altogether. Recommended listening for leftfield electronic fans.

Buy it: Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon

Hammock: Oblivion Hymns (Hammock/Bandcamp)
First, I can’t believe that Hammock isn’t on a label and is just releasing this gorgeous music on their own via Bandcamp. This was my first exposure to them, despite that they’ve been recording and releasing music for nearly ten years already. Anyone who is a fan of gorgeous instrumental music should immediately order this from the band directly. It really is phenomenal. I feel inarticulate merely gushing and not describing, but it is that good. For some context, when I first fired up this album, admittedly it was on a day that I received some especially tragic personal news — the loss of someone in my life. I certainly don’t want to exploit that turn of events on here, but it did lend an extra heavy gravitas to Oblivion Hymns, which swells with the big catharsis I really needed at that very moment. I wondered if it was merely a case of timing, that this album resonated for me so, but repeated listens have wowed and moved me equally. Each piece on Oblivion Hymns feels like its own catharsis, including opener “My Mind Was a Fog… My Heart Became a Bomb.” Surely there’s some drama in these track titles alone, and they’re reflected in the big, swooning arrangements of the music itself. It would run the risk of all feeling too sentimental or cloying if it weren’t so damn perfect. They really get it right here, nary a note out of place.

"Then the Quiet Explosion" uses a children’s choir to great effect, sounding chilling and touching on something so vulnerable all at once.

There’s something so familiar about the strident refrain of “Turning Into Tiny Particles… Floating Through Empty Space” that feels comforting even while its title denotes such a vulnerability and smallness, contrasting its big, soaring arrangement of guitar and strings. A similar dreamy arrangement works to great effect on “Holding Your Absence,” another sentiment that resonates for me personally, the notion of holding space and longing for someone.

The choir returns on “I Could Hear the Water at the Edge of All Things,” giving it a ghostly innocence that is as sweet as it is haunting. Only on closing track “Tres Dominé” does an adult voice lead the way, and it’s so clear and in the foreground as to be startling. I originally didn’t care much for this epilogue of sorts, but came around to deciding that it’s somehow totally appropriate after 9 tracks of weeping strings and reverb. Tim Showalter’s guest vocal is strong and clear, a reminder that for all of the forlorn melancholy of the album (art imitating life?) that all is not lost. It’s a resonating, final human touch on an album that practically aches with beauty. Surely one of the strongest albums of the year.
Buy it: Hammock Music

Hammock: Oblivion Hymns (Hammock/Bandcamp)

First, I can’t believe that Hammock isn’t on a label and is just releasing this gorgeous music on their own via Bandcamp. This was my first exposure to them, despite that they’ve been recording and releasing music for nearly ten years already. Anyone who is a fan of gorgeous instrumental music should immediately order this from the band directly. It really is phenomenal. I feel inarticulate merely gushing and not describing, but it is that good. For some context, when I first fired up this album, admittedly it was on a day that I received some especially tragic personal news — the loss of someone in my life. I certainly don’t want to exploit that turn of events on here, but it did lend an extra heavy gravitas to Oblivion Hymns, which swells with the big catharsis I really needed at that very moment. I wondered if it was merely a case of timing, that this album resonated for me so, but repeated listens have wowed and moved me equally. Each piece on Oblivion Hymns feels like its own catharsis, including opener “My Mind Was a Fog… My Heart Became a Bomb.” Surely there’s some drama in these track titles alone, and they’re reflected in the big, swooning arrangements of the music itself. It would run the risk of all feeling too sentimental or cloying if it weren’t so damn perfect. They really get it right here, nary a note out of place.

"Then the Quiet Explosion" uses a children’s choir to great effect, sounding chilling and touching on something so vulnerable all at once.

There’s something so familiar about the strident refrain of “Turning Into Tiny Particles… Floating Through Empty Space” that feels comforting even while its title denotes such a vulnerability and smallness, contrasting its big, soaring arrangement of guitar and strings. A similar dreamy arrangement works to great effect on “Holding Your Absence,” another sentiment that resonates for me personally, the notion of holding space and longing for someone.

The choir returns on “I Could Hear the Water at the Edge of All Things,” giving it a ghostly innocence that is as sweet as it is haunting. Only on closing track “Tres Dominé” does an adult voice lead the way, and it’s so clear and in the foreground as to be startling. I originally didn’t care much for this epilogue of sorts, but came around to deciding that it’s somehow totally appropriate after 9 tracks of weeping strings and reverb. Tim Showalter’s guest vocal is strong and clear, a reminder that for all of the forlorn melancholy of the album (art imitating life?) that all is not lost. It’s a resonating, final human touch on an album that practically aches with beauty. Surely one of the strongest albums of the year.

Buy it: Hammock Music