Friday, 28 November 2014

#3: A Winged Victory for the Sullen - Atomos

'Ambient music,' according to Brian Eno, 'must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.' On Atomos, Adam Wiltzie and pianist Dustin O'Halloran have found that sweet spot, and in doing so, wrested a degree of import away from post-rock, formerly the thinking millennial's flavour of seven-minute meditations. While Wiltzie has been working on ambient music with Stars of the Lid since 1993, the musical landscape has remained flush with guitar bands attempting to recreate the epic feel of a classical performance; Sigur Ros, in particular, achieved the unlikely in taking hushed reverence into the rock arenas. Today, artists like Tim Hecker, Ludovico Einaudi and Grouper are (mostly) dropping the drums and guitars in favour of a purer spirit: what we have taken to calling modern classical. The spirit is abound here, and each track, marked by a roman numeral - interestingly, IV is missing - offers a gentle coda, before swelling into something grander, and then washing away again like the passing of the tides. And at those swells, at the moment of euphoria, you suddenly focus; not because the idler moments were dull, but because it was designed to be that way. Both spells are key, and produce an experience that manages to be simultaneously passive and captivating. The old man was right after all.

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