Rounding the Fringes - March 20

The Center for Understanding New Trigonometries - Shapes, for Experts

Released: March 18

Entry number six in the Learning by Listening collection published by Strategic Tape Reserve takes to the exciting world of... math? Well, sort of. Is this real math? I don't think so, but I'm also no mathematician or "shape expert" as this album refers to them as.

The Center for Understanding New Trigonometries is two (or possibly more) speakers telling us all about these advanced shapes and all the odd places we can find them, such as the outer shell of a lobster or the place where resin drips from trees. All of this information is presented with the backdrop of odd arpeggiated synths that will suddenly drop from the soundscape without warning only to reappear randomly. It's a rather disorienting experience at times, but also strangely informative. Though much like the maths I learned in much of high school, I'm not sure exactly how much I will use it. Still, it makes for some intellectually stimulating conversation.


Giants of Discovery- The Language of Vibration

Released: March 11

Though this album has no explicitly stated theme, there is quite a cohesiveness to it that is both soothing and mesmerizing. In between the lush ambient pads and deep droning basses, there are these little sparkles that come through repeatedly in the form of field recordings on the opening track "Mirrors and Tides" and little guitar flourishes on "Time is a Blind Guide." With these little sparkles though, great care is taken not to overuse any of these techniques and each is carefully juxtaposed against the deep and drone-like ambient nature of the album as a whole.

Some tracks lean much more heavily into the drone aspects of the album such as the title track "The Language of Vibration." This track presents us with a deep but not quite ominous atmosphere that is all too easy to get lost in as it slowly reaches its zenith and then slowly recedes away. While I would firmly consider this to be a light drone album of sorts, so much strange and odd bits of variation and flourish are thrown in that it refuses to be relegated to the background.


Heavy Cloud - Season Shift

Released: March 16

On his newest release, Ryan (a.k.a. Heavy Cloud) puts away the glitches and odd rhythms and instead brings us a soft and introspective world of gentle synths with the occasional oddity thrown in for good measure. From the very beginning with "A New Low at High Tide," we are greeted with long and lush pads playing out chords with a slightly uncomfortable composition as a gentle piano plays out indelibly splintered melodies. As the album progresses, we are also treated to more minimal compositions such as the meandering "An Empty Beach in Spring" which gives us a sense of awkward loneliness that lingers in the air.

Even with this shift (pun intended) toward a more atmospheric sound, many of Ryan's signature marks are here. Most notably on "Rainy Landscape" where these gentle atmospheres mingle with the manipulated field recordings of rain and unplaceable sounds in a way that retains all the hallmarks of this album without breaking from the theme. As the album ends with "Our Cold Winter Hearts" we are sent back to the opening with long pads and slightly uncomfortable chord compositions that give the album a firm circular nature representing the seasonal cycle, although now these chords feel much icier and distant. It makes for a poignant end that can also serve as a beginning if you simply hit repeat.


Sunplus - Soft Printing Machines

Released: March 18

Soft Printing Machines is an odd album. It's not quite ambient but it's also not exceptionally noisy, but it does have this certain quality to it that I can only describe as watery. Not like your put underwater for the listening experience. Rather, I imagine it as being in the water, hearing the splashes and the soft dripping of water falling. Each free-flowing composition within has this quality, which is especially surprising considering that no field recordings were used for this effect. This is all clever synthesis creating this effect.

Each composition ranges in intensity with some being glitchier and busier like "Self-Assembling Nanostructures" with its clicks and snaps panning wildly around as happy little bouncy synths pop in and out above bright drone that keeps a little bit of constancy in an otherwise chaotic track. Conversely, "Nekoren Filtration System" and "Plasma Gel Patterns" tone down the chaos and gives us a more minimalistic approach with the former giving us soft watery textures with sparse synth pads and blips and the latter giving us an even softer version of this dynamic.


Impulse Array - Suspension of Unbelief

Released: March 18

Marking the third release for the newly founded Noci Miste label, this new album from Impulse Array spans a wide variety of textures and rhythms. Much of the album remains firmly in the realm of ambient, most especially with tracks such as "Raindrops of the Real" which sees only the slightest hints of rhythmic content while giving us a flowing atmosphere of long pads and droplet synths that paints a vivid and serene picture. In contrast, we are given "The Frame of the Night" immediately afterward which suddenly breaks this peace with tense and darkly tinted rhythms that are surprisingly heavy on the bass, giving an almost dub-like feel reminiscent of early Burial.

This theme of oscillating between ambient textures and dark rhythms seems a defining feature of the album. Despite the difference between these tracks, they are given a sense of cohesion by virtue of the incredible amount of ear candy stuffed into each track. Pick just about any track, listen closely, and you'll hear just so much packed in. I personally did not notice this until my second listen-through with headphones. However, I quickly found myself getting lost in the textural goodness that practically fills the stereo field throughout. It made for quite the encompassing experience.

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