Wonderful Beasts – The Art Of Whisper

Front cover

More than ever before, ambient music feels somehow necessary right now. It represents a vehicle through which to still one’s restless mind amid a tickertape feed of dystopian signals, harrowing statistics and only the briefest flourishes of hope. Whether as a tool for absorption or distraction, ambient music can centre you elsewhere, allowing you to regain focus and perspective.

Unfortunately, a lot of ambient music is also terminally boring, the equivalent of sonic wallpaper or a naff pastiche of inconsequential New Age reference points. That accusation thankfully cannot be levied at Wonderful Beasts, a pairing of electronic artists boycalledcrow and Xqui, whose first collaboration together is anything but music to drift off to sleep to.

For the most part, The Art Of Whisper is built from blocks of gauzy texture, etiolated clouds of sound that float past you and hover, mirage-like and just out to reach, before vanishing into nothingness. Sprinkles of delicate synth melodies are cast over pieces like ‘I Fell Into A Dream’, a languid pace and frosty atmosphere evoking crystalline structures and ghostly shimmer. ‘Love Her’ and ‘Quiet’ include what could be the heavily-processed sound of pealing church bells submerged under layers and layers of dense reverb so as to leave the merest trace outline of joyfulness.

Elsewhere, there are pieces that break free of these beatific soundworlds. ‘My Old Guitar’ has a firmness and drama, its delicate melodic gestures nudged forward with a murky bass undertow and a distant beat. The track opens with a distorted, over-amped synth passage, creating the sense of memory and nostalgia enshrined in the title. A similar effect can be found on ‘She Is The Melody Man’, wherein a pounded, tribal rhythm supports a framework of high-velocity sequences and plucked guitar-like sounds, simultaneously carrying a sense of threat but also a youthful vigour, like looking back on the adventure games you played as a child. ‘Into The Emerald Eye’ is perhaps the noisiest piece here, with squalling layers of angry noise that finally ebb away into the same stylistic terrain as the likes of ‘Love Her’.

What boycalledcrow and Xqui offer is a sense of narrative without once revealing the story, offering little more than glimpses of moments freighted with emotional, yet ephemeral significance. To do that within the context of ambient music is nothing short of remarkable.

The Art Of Whisper by Wonderful Beasts was released March 20 2020 by Wormhole World.

(c) 2020 Further.

VEiiLA – The Nation Of One

the-nation-of-one- FRONT.jpg

The thing that instantly grabs you about The Nation Of One, the debut album from Saint Petersburg duo VEiiLA, is the smoke-shrouded vocal of Vif Nüte. Possessing a voice capable of delicate musing to anguished frustration, hers is a vocal infused with equal doses of rich jazz phrasing and raw bluster, often within the same track. That vocal is best showcased on the pairing of ‘Dust’ and ‘Trust’ that open The Nation Of One, or the languid Balearic shimmer of ‘ReDive’. On these pieces, her voice is matched to delicate, if restless, electronics, a natural sparseness in these accompanying structures allowing the voice to powerfully occupy the foreground with a beautifully devastating depth.

These tracks are perhaps atypical for VEiiLA, however. Their principle focus is on tracks conforming to clubbier expectations, Nüte’s voice becoming a texture within a grid of beats, pulses and the obligatory rises and falls of any descendant of house music. Here you find a a compelling tension between Nüte’s innately soulful leaning and the clinical precision of her and Bes Eiredt‘s music, with tracks like the restrained and bitter ‘Exorcism’ carrying a stridency and emotional power as the song slowly rises to a necessary release.

Elsewhere, the evolving, transcendent ‘Farewell’ might be the duo’s most complete statement, with a crisp, crunchy beat, Rhodes-esque keys and jazz piano knitting seamlessly together with a mournful and tenderly enveloping vocal. Its concluding moments unexpectedly coalesce into a clamorous, edgy stew of melodic spirals, angular bass shapes and ghostly, evocative howling.

The Nation Of One by VEiiLA is released on January 15 2020 by Womhole World.

(c) 2020 Further.