Apotheosis sounds dense. Thick and heavy, saturated in sound. Think about the intense textures of Rosetta and The Ever Living and you may imagine something that sounds like New Mexico act Coma Recovery’s latest offering.
There’s another music blog I follow called Drowned In Sound, and I feel that term fits when describing this music. It’s full-bodied and consuming, swallowing you whole.
On first track “Nox Medicus” relentless bass and sloshy drums create a groove. Although there is a crushing density to the music, it feels uplifting due to soaring synths and vocals.
The next two tracks follow suite: epic songs full of feeling and grittiness.
I’ve read through the lyrics for all three songs, and to be honest this leaves me no more enlightened than before when it comes to interpreting content matter. Some mystic stuff, creation, spirits… Who knows? I’ve never been one to pay much attention to lyrics anyway. The singing is good though.
There’s not much more for me to say. Just listen to it. It’s worth a listen.
Apotheosis is huge and vital. Put on your headphones and prepare to get engulfed.
Floating In Space sets sail upon the solar winds with the new release Dreamland.
Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot is a significant picture. Taken by the Voyager 1 from a record distance of 3.7 billion miles, it shows Earth as nothing more than a tiny speck in an endless blanket of space. It puts things into perspective. Earth is such a microscopic part of the greater expanse. I understand man’s obsession with discovering what’s out there, but sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. There’s plenty of wonder and beauty right here on Earth. Perhaps we should cast our eyes more inward?
I often ponder the beauty that is the impossibility of me. Around 14 billion years ago there was nothing. Imagine that. Nothing. How do you even wrap your head around nothingness? We’re virtually incapable of truly understanding such a terrifying thought. Then, inexplicably, there was something. Depending upon your belief structure an event occurred and the Universe was birthed. At least in reductive terms. What exactly triggered this “big bang” has been the question hounding our existence since time memorial. In all honesty, I don’t even think this question is relevant. What’s relevant is that after the first second of this “bang” the size of the universe was expanding at such a rate that even the math can’t fully do it justice.
Fast forward 14 billion years and you have us. From all the chaos and violence this planet has seen from its planetesimal stage up until now you get, impossibly, you and I. This almost feels laughable. After the first second of creation had things been off or different by even the most minuscule amount, none of this would be. You’re a blessing…an absurd, inconceivable blessing.
Credit: Yera Espinosa
The earth heaved and groaned for millennia. At some point in time during all the anarchy of creation events began transpiring that would eventually lead to the birth of a single thread. This thread would whirl, loop and flutter through the winds of time and stop somewhere in Spain. The story of the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind Floating In Space, Ruben Caballero, began 14 billion years ago. He’s another infeasible creation of an event too far back for any of us to really, fully discern. The odds that you even share a space in time with him are astronomically beyond your scope of understanding. But space and time have a different story to tell. Here you are. And here is Floating In Space. You both share the same blink of an eye in time. Let us rejoice at the absurdity that bites at the edges of possibility.
On the 2016 debut “The Edge of the Light”, we were introduced to just a small portion of what Floating In Space was capable of. It was a superbly tranquil journey through Caballero’s experiences and feelings as he viewed his life as if they were but mere sequences in a larger movie. “The Edge of the Light” was to showcase the potential of the band. The sophomore effort, “Dreamland”, is the realization of that potential.
“Dreamland” is a 12 song effort released by proverbial indie powerhouse Deep Elm and co-produced by its owner/founder John Szuch. Floating In Space’s new release expands upon the piano driven cinematic motif. Every song is brilliantly structured and realized. There isn’t a track on the record you won’t find yourself humming along with after just a few listens. “Dreamland” is a purpose driven record. Every note has a purpose. Every angelically choir-like vocal cadence is well measured. I can’t help but feel that Floating In Space set out to create an album that deigns to set fire to every butterfly in our stomach.
What is it that you think we’re all searching for? Even when it appears we have everything in life we could ever possibly dream of having, still we search. We search to fill the voids. Voids as far reaching and depth-less as space. “Dreamland” is about letting go. Stop searching. You have everything you could ever hope to have in a million lifetimes right here in front of you. This is an album about recognizing the beauty you see before you instead of tearing at the remaining threads of your soul to find what it is you think you’re looking for.
Floating In Space is a gifted artist. A band not afraid of baring its soul. You can hear love and inspiration come through in every flourish of the guitar and syncopated beat of the drum. But the real beauty of “Dreamland” is that the band isn’t afraid of letting you in. Of sharing that grey area between dreaming and fearing. Between utter solitude and warm fellowship. We tend to drive distance between ourselves and our fellow man. Distances measured in time. “Dreamland” closes that gap and makes us believe that we’re going to be OK. Floating In Space dares you to dream again, but asks that you appreciate what it is that you already have.
Fans of labelmates Lights&Motion , U137 and Inward Oceans will feel right at home with “Dreamland”. It’s truly uplifting and enlightened songwriting. Floating In Space fits in so beautifully with the Deep Elm musical aesthetic. This is a relationship forged in the fires of the big bang. “Dreamland” is, from the opening notes to the last, filled with so many astoundingly gorgeous frames of optimistic grace that your heart is fit to burst.
If you find yourself adrift searching aimlessly for that next fix to fill whatever void it is in your life that haunts you, an album like “Dreamland” could aid in reminding you what it is that makes all of this so damn worth it. Mathematically speaking you shouldn’t even exist.
Lights & Motion began in the dark recesses and buried corners of insomnia. Without much sun to speak of in the Scandinavian winters of Sweden, Christoffer Franzen took to sequestering himself in a studio to help battle his condition. I’ve suffered from small bouts of insomnolence as well in my life. It is difficult to find a more lonely and helpless feeling. Thankfully, Christoffer was in great company. Through his project, which began in 2012, Lights & Motion has at once been an escape and a release not only for him but for those lucky enough to listen to his music. Franzen has an incredible capacity to write truly inspiriting and somber music. The most incredible part is that it seems to come so easily for him. It may sound like I’m gushing here but with this latest five song EP, entitled Bloom, Lights & Motion is marking its second release and Franzen’s third in just a little over a year. In January of this year Lights & Motion released the spiritual Dear Avalanche while in October he wrote the score for an imaginary movie called Phenomenon under his own name.
I’ve written in length on the influence one’s surroundings have on creativity. Being able to stand at the edges of town with your arms spread out wide and your head tilted back as you gaze at a million points of burning light twinkling in an endless expanse has to play some role in your creative process. The mind behind Lights & Motion admits that the surrounding panorama and dark winters have had a strong influence on everything he’s done…even if he didn’t know it at the time. The seemingly eternal winter brings with it an urge to create. Through this creation it’s as if Lights & Motion set out to will the changing of seasons.
With Bloom, Lights & Motion comes out of hibernation with hopeful eyes ever set on the promise of Spring’s clement touch. It’s about rejuvenation and being born again. It’s about bursting from the sodden, stark loam of winter to blossom anew. I can’t help but think the song Lion wasn’t so named because of the old adage that ‘spring comes in like a lion’. You can hear a sort of revival present in each of the album’s five songs. Light, airy strings swirl around like a soft, vernal breeze accompanied always by glimmering piano or guitar that tiptoe through the songs as if through a puddle after a spring rain. With each lullaby on Bloom you can almost hear the sleepy staccato of rain dreamily pitter-pattering the tin roof of the shed in your backyard. Franzen states that Bloom, like a lot of his music, was written during the darkest months when he’s longing for the changing of seasons. This longing is the catalyst that enables him to write music with a lighter feel, even while the sky outside is a never-ending blanket of grey. Bloom encapsulate perfectly that longing. Or as Franzen puts it ‘a hopeful melancholy’.
My only gripe with this album is that I want more. From the opening piano chord of the first track ‘Overture’ to the final chord of the last track ‘Lion’, Lights & Motion has created something here that truly transcends sensibility. Many of the tracks are full of lilting phrases that get your heart pumping new, enlivened blood, but there are moments when the weather changes. Lights & Motion won’t flip the script on you with the kind of abrupt crescendo we all know and love/hate with instrumental music. Instead, the tonal aura changes. Franzen relates that the piano and string textures ‘sound very blue-ish in color and tone’ on his newest mini album. This blue-ish tone portrays the quiet battle between a ceaseless winter and the ushering in of the new blessedness of promise.
Lights & Motion is nothing if not consistent. Every release is consistently beautiful. Consistently gut-wrenching. Consistently full of melancholic hopefulness. Franzen just gets it. On the micro-level he’s growing as an artist by experimenting with sounds and textures. You have to admire how unfailing his creativity is with release after release. The guy is pumping out music at an alarming pace and there are no signs of any kind of artistic lull. It’s difficult enough to try and be consistently creative with short gaps between albums, but Lights & Motion finds a way to do it with a faithfulness to his artistic conviction that I adore. At this point, my only advice to Lights & Motion is that if the landscapes of Sweden have as much influence over your writing as you claim – never move.”
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a romantic. Especially when it comes to this particular genre of music. I can’t help but envision all these majestic landscapes as they pass through my mind’s eye like one of those Classic ViewMaster toys you had as a kid. I can listen to a song and instantly be overcome with a slide reel show of the Moors in England or the mountains of Montana, all in their sepia tone glory. This is only brought up because I’ve always wondered how much a band’s surroundings come into play when writing music. Surely, if you’re surrounded on all sides by a sprawling nothingness and a grey sky that seems to go on in perpetuity, that would have to have some bearing in an artistic sense.
I AM SONIC RAIN hails from Treviso, Italy which sits about 40 minutes directly north of Venice. I understand you didn’t come here for a geography lesson, but Treviso’s proximity to Venice is important. If a mountain, a forest or a moor compels one’s artistic creativity then surely being within a stones throw from one of the birthplaces of the Renaissance would. But it’s not all gambesons and surcoats. Treviso (and Italy in general) has had a tumultuous history. The rise and fall of Rome. The Machiavellian era where assassins plied their trade. The evils of a devastating World War. Italy’s history reads much like any other country’s history. The major difference here is that no matter how dark the days got Italy is the birthplace of some of the most inspired and beautiful paintings, sculptures, philosophy and literature the world has ever known. It may sound hyperbolic, but I AM SONIC RAIN’S Hidden continues this trend with confident, laconic and inspired songwriting.
According to the band Hidden began production not soon after their last release “Between Whales & Feverish Lights”. This is album that has been 7 years in the making. There is a meticulousness and precision that immediately becomes evident upon starting the first track. This is a well produced album where every note and musical phrase has it’s place in the world. I tend to worry about albums that feel as if they’ve been produced into the ground, but I AM SONIC RAIN is still able to make everything sound raw and intimate. The track Bastille really stands out for me on Hidden. This is a stellar track and the only one that features lyrics. Bastille is almost Jenniferever-like in style. It’s melodic, dark and almost has an uneasy air about it.
Hidden is all about control. I AM SONIC RAIN has an almost surgical precision approach to every bar on the page. They are a highly disciplined band in regards to musicianship. The more I listened to this new album the more I fell in love with it. There are layers on layers on layers here and it will most likely take multiple listens for I AM SONIC RAIN’s genius to shine through. Hidden absolutely rewards patience and attention to detail. As a listener you almost feel as if you’re part of the process as there are several “Oh I get it” moments on the album.
I Am Sonic Rain. Image: Alessandro Carlozzo
Treviso’s own isn’t a band that throws some cords in a few amps and just starts writing. They’re mad scientists in a lab creating order out of chaos with volatile ingredients that could start a dangerous chemical reaction at any moment. There’s so much on this album to listen to and enjoy if you just take the time to really delve into their sound. On the track “Bengala” alone you’ll hear beautifully layered guitars, an almost 70’s detective show horn section and pirouetting xylophones. I AM SONIC RAIN even showcases a Suzuki Omnichord. An instrument, I must admit, I had to look up but am now fully convinced is the raddest instrument to ever grace an album (seriously, Google this thing).
I AM SONIC RAIN isn’t formulaic by any means. They are a band that employs perfectly a “controlled chaos” modus operandi. Even in sections where they put the drop on a song and let it unfold (as on the track “Loulan”) you never quite feel like you’re out of your element. This is both boon and bane. There will be some who think the album feels sterile (like any good surgical instrument), but Hidden is deeply rewarding. It is one of those albums you’re going to come back to and think “Hm, I don’t remember hearing a glockenspiel before”.
Hidden is aptly named. The listener acts as an archaeologist on the hunt for an ancient civilization. At first glance all you see are the hot, golden sands of an endless desert. Lifeless trees the only landmark to break the horizon. Once you are able to set up camp and begin to dig, you start to reveal the foundations of an ancient temple buried for millennia. A temple hidden from the eyes of man for eons. This new album is that temple and the deeper you dig the more that is revealed to you.
Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, gaiety and life to everything; It is the essence of order and lends to all that is good, just, and beautiful. – Aristotle
There are as many ways to deal with pain or loss as there are stars in the sky. Music was handed down to us through the impossibility of timeless epochs by our ancestors. The importance of music throughout our history on this planet cannot be denied. Pre-history man used it as a means to tell stories, mourn the fallen or in ritualistic rites. Paleolithic humans would blow through bone flutes, clap their hands, bang rocks together, hum, whistle or roar. Music and rhythm is an indelible part of human evolution. We take it, as we take life, for granted. It is almost unfeasible to imagine our short time on Earth without it.
The post-rock and cinematic instrumental genres are difficult to explain. I’m often asked what it is and usually I’m bereft of any explanation. I can never quite define it. “Why do you insist on listening to music that seems to be so damn sad all the time?” is one question I’m often faced with. The answer is easy: catharsis. There was a study published in Frontiers in Psychology that posits that we tend to listen to sad music because it elicits positive emotions. Aristotle suggests that when we overwhelm ourselves with undesirable emotions the music acts as a tool of purgation. There is a gap between what we perceive as emotive in the song and what is actually felt. That gap is what is so difficult to explain.
Oftentimes, as listeners we rely on the musicians to provide us with ablution through their music. Sometimes we forget that the musicians themselves may be writing to deal with their own pain.
In 2013 Swedish post-rock duo U137 released their debut album Dreamer On The Run. According to record label Deep Elm the album has over 40+ million plays on Spotify alone. Dreamer On The Run was a gem of an album. Fronted by Oscar Gulbrandsen and Adam Tornblad of Moonlit Sailor fame, U137 writes texturally deep and spiritually honest songs that dive right into the heart. It’s the kind of music that plays at the edges of that emotive gap highlighted in the study above. On November 17th U137 will be releasing a two song “single” Adam Forever / The Great Leap. Sadly, the release will be bitter-sweet. U137 and Moonlit Sailor lost drummer Adam Tornblad in May of this year after a long struggle with substance abuse and depression. This is Oscar Gulbrandsen’s catharsis:
“Writing Adam Forever was very difficult but also provided me with some much needed therapy. The feeling and sound in this song is my love for Adam.”
Adam Forever is Oscar’s farewell tune to a man he’s known for over two decades. This is Oscar’s goodbye song and a way to show his appreciation for a man he obviously dearly loved.
Adam and Oscar began writing music together in their teens and would eventually start ethereal post-rock group Moonlit Sailor in Borås, Sweden. Borås is known to go weeks without sunlight. An important fact to note as you can hear the peaceful tranquility of night dot the landscape of their musical library. In Adam Forever you can hear the hope of a new day in its opening notes. It’s almost a lullaby in reverse. It’s a song that reminds you that no matter how bad things get you have to shake off the dark, greet the morning with a smile and know that you’re 13 billion years in the making. But it is also a song that reminds you that the impossibility of you, you’re entire existence, is short and fleeting. It’s a song that reminds you that you’re loved and have the capacity to love. It’s a song of reclamation and reverie. It’s a song that begs you to celebrate what time you have with the ones you cherish because it all has to eventually stop. It stops but it does not end. Much like U137, Adam’s unfortunate passing isn’t the end, it’s a new beginning.
Adam Forever is the kind of track that’s difficult to un-hear. The synth-like strings swell and crash coupled with a tenebrous piano part that manifests the emotive gap. The guitars create a stable foundation and echo for eternity. Just as things begin to look too bleak the drums pound a crescendo and the song takes on an air of penance. You can’t help but feel completely and utterly redeemed.
You can hear Oscar all over the second track The Great Leap. It opens with a frenetic neo-romantic string section that would make Wagner roll in his grave. Beneath all of this are lush and verdant whole notes that surge listlessly in contrast to the dynamic strings. The song finally drops about halfway through with a guitar part that could make your heart melt. It’s exactly the kind of track you’ve come to love from U137. But there’s something more here. As good as Dreamer On The Run is, you can’t help but feel like U137 is beginning to truly ascend. Another full length will be on its way and The Great Leap, though written two years ago for U137’s second album, gives listeners a lot to get excited about.
I don’t know what happens to us after we die. There are countless pages written on this subject that I better leave to minds greater than mine. I know that we aren’t the tenacious, unbroken and resolute beings we pretend to be. Everything comes to an end, but there are those of us out there that leave an enduring and unforgettable footprint behind before we go. I can’t help but feel that Adam Tornblad is one of those people. Through his life we’re left with music that will ride on waves to the farthest reaches of far space and beyond. Would that we could all profess as much. Adam is gone, but his gift remains. Dammit, Adam, thank you.