This massively anticipated repress of the classic album from 1994 reminds us how electronic music evolved. Distinguishing itself as ambient, separate from the jingle jangle of new age music, the sonic peacetime sounds radiate like sunshine and moonlight. Technical ability frames this release as Jonah Sharp aka Spacetime Continuum merges with his technology to produce sounds as if extensions of his own biology. Transferring from the legendary Fax 49-69/450464 label onto Psychonavigation has given this monumental artwork a second wind and a fancy new CD, extending the life of this worthy and highly sought after production.
First track, Pressure, opens the album with a drone which builds into a multi-tonal imagination. Rhythm enters after a select few bars of sensory beginnings, while speckled sounds dance around on top. Layers break over one another, shifting focus from one end of a sonic spectrum to another and illuminating various corners of experience as they go. Drawing on unique and fresh injections at practical moments, the exploration evolves into experience as new sounds are continually invited in. Evolution into dance and slow moving yet upbeat compositions break the mould of contemporary ambient music, soothing beats and delicate flow swoosh across the mix.
As the progression swells down into abstraction, allowing space to absorb the fantastic journey that has already been undertaken, a seemingly borderless transition into the next track takes place. With an elemental feel to a percussion headed intro, bass adds a new flavour that has perhaps been saved for this later time. Bubbling pace gradually climbs to a plateaux and a subtle energy of vast space glistens from behind the minimal layerings of sound. Echoes of a distant voice call out over the distances crafted by repetitious yet sonically nutritious electronic drums. Subway has an eerie sensation, yes it's fluffy enough to not be dark. Melody in the drumming and happy cymbals balance the breathy effects and swooping low drones.
A revolving beat made up of piping digital tones sets off a motion of bells and whistles which culminate in the entrance of the next track. Chimes begin a wistful embrace of the gently frothing drumbeat, odd notes spilling over like bubbles from a boiling pan. Delicate additions of synth craft the adjacent angles in perspectives that glide across the scenery in fresh and interesting ways. For Voice of the Earth, we're drawn down into a lush environment, with mild tropical air and wildlife chirruping in the background. Tones from string synths draw lines in the sky that sing with shimmering silver notes. Slowed down beats jostle for slouching room in an amply spacious area of relaxation and intrigue.
Melting bass notes droop over stocky drum loops while swirling and singing pitches stick out from the top in splendid directions. Thoughtful phrases of music sit within expanses of sonic space, where the music depicts the fabric and not the objects within it. The album takes a turn into something slightly more magical with the next chapter. Fantastical sounds and the sensation of mysticism greet the airwaves as a prelude to a throbbing bass tone which snakes its way through a broken down arpeggio. Floatilla takes a cosy edge and sits contently as it drifts the room into a soft and rich atmosphere. Pitch bending synthesis into new areas give the track a surreal and experimental feel which rides well with the general scope of the whole record.
A selection of answerphone messages play out over an emotive melody, knowing this was made two decades ago gives the voices an extra layer of spectral inner focus. Ghostly voices banter alongside building rhythms and blippy tones which eventually grow to phase out the playback. A heartbeat sonar pings in the distance while tapping notes score lightly on the upper surface. The familiar synth from the first section returns, and with the new layering, the culmination of energy peaks as new slices of rhythm are intersected and included.
A truly interesting album, full of fascinating twists and turns, Sea Biscuit takes us further than the ocean, and further than the cosmos. It takes us somewhere inside ourselves that rarely gets visited. Some dreamy place where nothing is light or dark and nothing is meant to last for longer than a minute or two. As an artwork, it demonstrates that music need not be chorus and verse based, it shows that electronic music doesn't have to be made to dance to, and it shows us that digital sound can tell a story much like the composers of old would do.
You can get the limited CD and the download from Bandcamp.
Rowan Blair Colver for the Homunculus Media Group
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