Solemnland, the pseudonym of ambient artist Raymond Tani, released his album New Pangea in early February during the deepest throes of winter. The album itself is a unique and impressive journey into a strange world that is not unlike our own, at least before we humans came along. Tani himself describes it as a paen to geology, geography, ornithology… or a future remembrance of a post-post-apocalyptic landscape. Indeed, the works contained within can attest to this description.
The album is filled with strange and mysterious soundscapes that accurately tell the story Solemnland is trying to tell. The eighteen-and-a-half-minute epic that is the opening track, “New Pangea,” takes us into a mysterious world reminiscent of the formation of ours with long oscillating reverbs and the occasional piercing sound that becomes more and more present towards the end of the track. While this sets the tone for much of what is to come, there are also tracks such as “The Smell of Smoke from a Distance” is carried by a somber piano, and “Ungulate Migration” which features much more serene and celestial pads that bring an uplifting quality that matches and counters the darker elements of the album. The combination of textures and instrumentation create a flow to the album overall that advances the story being told in a dramatic and intimate way.
Listening from beginning to end, New Pangea feels like a soundtrack to a psychedelic natural history of the Earth. Evocative tones and slow-moving pads combine with odd and peculiar textures to create a foreign yet familiar world that ominously tells a history of things that are not remembered clearly. Nonetheless, the journey to discovery is amazing.