It’s often difficult to write a review about an album created out of negative space. L’appel du Vide, Ashen Swan’s latest record, is a lesson in embracing oblivion. It’s a lesson in recognizing that there’s much more to music than packing it full of notes and flourishes to convey an idea when just playing the right note can accomplish the same. There is an old adage that exists that less is more. Ashen Swan takes this aphorism and runs with it. This album is meditative magic.
So how does one write a review on nothingness? I could give you my thoughts on instrumentation and composition. The way in which Ashen Swan’s music sounds like the throaty whisper of a new dawn. I could tell you that Ashen Swan evinces qualities employed by the likes of Hammock and Lowercase Noises. EBow heavy phrases of lush sound framed by billowy and Spartan piano.. I could do all those things, but the music inspired me on a more esoteric level. L’appel du Vide begs you to reflect inward. It asks you to dust the cobwebs from the lesser traveled inroads of your soul, to stop, to consider.
L’appel du Vide translates roughly to “void’s call” or “the call of the void”. Most humans, in all their daily struggles, will often wonder what it would be like swerve into oncoming traffic. Or perhaps your hiking here in Colorado at Royal Arch Trail. You’re near the top and standing at the edge of the trail and get the sudden urge to just jump. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suicidal. It’s simply a phenomenon of the human psyche. A phenomenon the French called “l’appel du vide”. It is nothing more than morbid curiosity. I found myself experiencing this urge years ago so I did a quick Google search. It was comforting to know I was not alone. There were others out there that have felt the pull. Ashen Swan’s new album explores this concept in a musical sense. And pulls it off.
L’appel du Vide is a barren landscape. The short, quiet piano utterances are the green lichen hugging the rocks as they wait for a summer thunderstorm. Soft reverb the slow rolling thunder of an alpine tundra. A dreamy susurration whispers throughout each track like a lulling breeze that dances lightly through the purple forget-me-nots.
Ashen Swan’s newest venture is a contemplative and horrifically beautiful ride of ambient bliss. You get the overwhelming feeling of just wanting to let go. The music plunges straight for your heart and urges you to answer the void’s call. To feel the rain in your face and the wind as it thrashes through your hair. L’appel du Vide wants you to be free and as the album goes on it becomes increasingly difficult not give answer.
L’appel du Vide comes to us by way of Nathan Kwon who also composes for Chicago post-metal project Crawl Across the Sky. Ashen Swan came to us in the year 2017 with the desire to cross section the more ambient elements of the aforementioned Crawl Across the Sky and turn it all up to 11. And thank the void he did.