Post-classical composer Steve Gibbs's debut solo EP, Adrift, is an ethereal piece of work which gorgeously brings together piano and strings with ambient electronic textures. Released in 2014, this solemn five-track EP sounds positively cinematic. It is not difficult to understand why Gibbs' work has been used in movies and ad campaigns. The general lack of prominent melody throughout the album makes it perfect as soundtrack music as well as, of course, being ideal listening material when in a reflective and open mood. The opening track 'Adrift' begins with an ambient soundscape that is astral and recalls Brian Eno's Apollo in its expansiveness. The sounds of reversed guitars steadily filter into the mix. Soon there enters the muffled sound of piano chords which light up this tapestry of sound. We are certainly 'adrift' now: there is a sense of hanging in the ether to this track which sets the atmosphere for the rest of the EP. This sense of intedeterminacy is not a troubling one, but a feeling of liberation from constraints, a cool and calm lack of focus which is perfect for this sombre time of year. Softly dancing, arpeggio-like treble piano figurations come in out of this abstraction and are given warmth and depth by the prominent, swelling baseline.
Designer and musician Mike Lemmon gave birth to his brainchild Neue about three years in the past. Earlier this year, he released an album named ‘Structure’ under the banner of this project. The 33 minute album features ambient soundscapes, drones, haunting beats and warm melodies in layers placed upon layers.
Structure commences with ‘Dawn’, which sets the mood for the album starting with the benign sounds of flowing water and chirping of birds. The track introduces a warm piano melody which prepares the listener for what is coming next in this introspective musical journey. As the intro track fades out, electronic percussion beats are introduced with ‘Into the Distance’. In a funky atmosphere set by this track, the listener knows that they’ve taken off on a soul-stirring journey and as the groovy bass discharges, it serves as fuel for imagination and visualization. With the second track ending into a distance, the journey suddenly takes a haunted route with high tempo beats, a cutthroat bass and high pitched notes with expansive reverberation.
‘Underground’ leaves the listener floating into free space where ‘Illusion’ sets in to subtly calm the listener with futuristic yet traditional sound textures that also bring the musical journey to a diminutive hiatus.
The album continues with modulated sounds, soft synth and a beat that reminds the listener of Nine Inch Nails but the integration of a melancholic piano melody pushes the album towards a sad yet optimistic course while a white-noise throughout ‘Vital’ exterminates negativity. A rhythm of flange and phaser dominates ‘Runaway’ with layers of warm sound textures, a dirty greasy bass and war drums to electrify the listener’s experience. ‘Emerge’ is a synchronization of drones, robotic sounds, noise clipping and comforting textures that uses reversed notes and echoes through the Amazon. ‘Eternal Machine’ uses enthralling low frequencies that vibrate the atmosphere and pulsate the listener in a continuum of timeless and perpetually textured sounds to conclude the journey with a climax.
The ambient sound textures throughout Structure remind one of Bass Communion, SigurRos and Helios and the album is meant to be listened in the predefined order to comprehend its original context. It significantly differs from the debut album ‘The Planets’ and Neue has definitely hit new heights of experimentation.
Written by Ali H