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Ear to Ear ~ AI-36: Live Recordings

Написано на 24.01.2024

From the obsessively textured and richly hued artwork gracing the album covers (courtesy of visual artist and graphic novelist Theo Ellsworth), to the deeply enveloping and endlessly evolving psychedelic soundscapes within, London’s Astral Industries label consistently conjures up explorations that guide you deep into and/or well outside of your listening, dreaming self. They’re 36 releases strong so far, and their latest release, Live Recordings, by Ear to Ear, continues that tradition.

Sprawling across four album sides, each one clocking in around 16 to 17 minutes, LR begins humbly, with a crackling fire and the sleepy call-and-response of distant insects. Yet in the background, one can hear what sounds like the evening sky itself being blown open in cavernous echoes and rumbling throbs. The sense of scale begins to shift as the insect chitter is gradually amplified and pushed to the fore. The fire sounds fade, replaced by ascending and descending tones, percussive taps that shatter into dubbed-out echoes. A slow-pulsing siren becomes a countdown. And off we go.

The distinction between drifting and momentum disappears. All becomes pure sound.  

Out here, there are no handles to hang onto, no beats to count, no melodies to flow along with. The atmosphere worked up feels ringingly capacious, continually expanding in a simultaneous push toward every point along the horizon, a motion that pulls one’s mind along in its exploratory reach. But while our minds and senses are encouraged to drift, Ear to Ear’s Samuel van Dijk (aka Multicast Dynamics) and Yevgen Chebotarenko are wide awake at the control panels – this is a live recording, after all – keeping things anchored, however tenuously, by making sure that no passage goes too long without an ear-tugging texture or a subtle reminder of what passes for the familiar. A bicycle speeds by. A muffled voice is felt more than heard. Hints of shortwave static rise and fall while the echoing emptiness ripples with swirls of grit and ice crystal. We are still on earth, still in our homes and bodies, yet as the track continues and changes, we are gradually changed, nowhere to be found, nameless, faceless. Other.

All that and we’re still adrift in the first track.

The rest of the album proceeds in a similar fashion, yet every section is imbued with its own indelible presence. Track B throbs and slithers and sidewinds with a foreboding, sinister aspect, offset by crystalline chirps, and the late if brief arrival of a child’s voice. The overall mood is interior and mysterious, with passing hints of the otherworldly, yet nothing ever feels threatening or veers toward malevolence. Track C opens on a windswept, bucolic vista shot through with birdcall, before it transforms into a throbbing forcefield punctuated by gasps for air, mysterious scrapes, and suspended scraps of melodic ideas, all of it buttressed by heaving, funereal pads. Gentle granulated gusts gradually sweep through, bringing sighing diaphanous chords in their wake to lighten the mood, if only a little. And fittingly, the final track limns a fantastical, deeply interstellar zone, transporting the listener on swelling waves of energy, whitecapped with rhythmic cymbal hits that summon up the regal grandeur of the heaviest dub soundwaves. The tracks flows and glows darkly with resolute serenity before bringing the listener back home, or at least to planet Earth.

One of the wonderful things about good ambient music is the inevitable psychic drift and temporal disengagement one experiences while listening to it. Where does the mind go, exactly? Memories? Fantasies? Some other liminal plane? Perhaps it’s busy creating another sort of music, something wholly unique, composed of both the music offered and what one makes of it moment by moment. A music not heard consciously, and one that’s forgotten the second one is called back to reality. And in that regard, Live Recordings will provide you with enough unheard music for a lifetime or two. (Damian Van Denburgh)

About Damian Van Denburgh

In no particular order: Manhattanite. Writer. Unapologetic buyer of CDs. Someone who misses the late, great Other Music, and still experiences a severed limb response every time I walk past the old storefront. In fact, there are so many music shops and bookstores I miss around this city I should just move on and not collapse into a soggy pile … so, let’s see. Happily married to the love of my life. Reader. Scared but not giving up. Hopeful, even. Pleased to meet you.

London’s Astral Industries label with 36 releases, including “Live Recordings” by Ear to Ear, feature deep, evolving soundscapes. (20 words)

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