Neel: Phobos (CD, Spectrum Spools, November 2014)

I’ll be the first to admit that my tastes are inconstant and my feelings about music contingent on all sorts of other stuff other than what’s on the disc. There are plenty of records which I listen to and I kind of recognize that me-of-N-years-ago would have loved it, but now-me doesn’t quite have space for it. Most often, it’s simply that it sounds kinda like a bunch of records I already know and love. I think this is why I haven’t bought very many straight-up ambient records recently. But as soon as I heard this, I knew it was something special. For the bulk of this record, we’re immersed in what we kind of have to call a soundscape of distant and echoey humming, creaking, clanking, plinking, and chiming noises. It inevitably recalls the soundtrack of a sci-fi film from the 50s, the kind of scene which evokes the mystery of deep space with psychedelic visuals and eerie early electronic sounds — except that (unsurprisingly) the production is vastly more richly detailed and realized. It’s also weirdly compelling to me, for reasons I can’t explain. It’s only on the sixth of the seven tracks, Life On Laputa Regio, that the first actual musical notes appear, two alternating synth tones; and on the final track, The Secret Revealed, that we get something approaching a melody, a few notes played on chimes and strings. In this context, the effect is subtly dramatic and uplifting. This is a record pretty much guaranteed to transport me to my happy place. Which is exactly what I want this kind of ambient to do.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Ambient / Drone.

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