|photo by Dylan Reminder|
If you've been following their Line(s) to date, though, it might not feel like too stark of a change, since their voices, however powerful and precious when fused in harmony, were often employed as extra layers, instruments adding extra (reverb-splashed) tones more so than purposefully highlighted lyrical statements that floated at the top of the mix, insisting upon full attention. SSM may make "ambient" music, but I feel like they effectively exemplify my own regard for the Eno-esque tradition, in that it is an arrangement of fleeting melodies, rhythmic patterns, and a trickily-discerned lattice of woven synthesizers, guitars, bass, live drums and sequenced beats, to where it is, by comparison to other forms, essentially unobtrusive--there are no catchy choruses to recapture your attention if it drifts, and there are several subtle motifs that trigger and coil and glide, but you might not hear them until you put headphones on. It's music that doesn't demand your focus, but rewards you for even a slightly deeper burrow into its 3-minute structures.
Like a proverbial 'rabbit hole' to go down, it shows you more, or allows you to feel more, the more you immerse yourself.
I found 'Ain't Lines' to be a perfect title for a South South Million ambient opera because, and I know I often talk about music as though I'm having altered experiences on controlled subjects BUT...it is the kind of "dreamy" music that lets illusions or lucid dreams materialize into your waking gaze--blurring the tangible world around you... These vaporous synthesizers, these atmospheric guitars, these brief harps and strange flutes, all these misty blankets of reverb, invites healthy daydreaming. These are soundtracks to the movies in your head, and they can change every time; each instrument is a character, each whole note draws a new landscape, each rest is a scene change.
And in that sense of allowing this music to take me somewhere, I have found, nevertheless, a recurring image, or at least a recurring sense. I have the sense, in each song, as though I'm nearing a precipice. I can see light over the next ledge; I'm climbing, and the surrounding natural world is starting to clear back, because trees can't take root at this incline. There is a dramatic energy, electricity-in-the-air as they might say, that we can all sense when we intuitively sense a shift, a change, a redefinition, a profundity, a reckoning, about to hit us... It's spider-sense, call it what you will..., or maybe any hiker can relate to the deep breath we would all take before turning one certain corner and discovering something--even if it's just taking in something of quiet majesty with our eyes--discovering...
And as I wind down, I'll say that there are "vocals" in the final track, "Ad Parnassum," but they are beyond coherency. You'll lean closer, you'll listen harder, but you won't be able to discern them...and you'll want to find a place where you can, not maybe hear them, but at least FEEL what they're saying. When the album returns to track 1, after a full spin-through, you come back to it's opener "Almost To The Well..." And that's how this album feels...Every song feels like the second-to-last music cue before the closing credits of your movie...the final five or so minutes before a single tear forms or a forgiving reconciliation is made with a hug between your main characters, or a car drives off into the sunset, or the lights are dimmed in a room beloved by your protagonist as she locks up one fleeting dream and walks off into the unknown to find another...
It's me, getting to the precipice and finding a well, a source, something I can draw from...nourishment! There won't be answers in that well, there are never strictly defined answers in ambient music, there ain't lines delineating any shape or charting any course. But you gotta give it one thing...it pulls you (or pushes you) somewhere. It gets you dreaming.
You can find more sounds made by Clark and Naud via the band Zoos of Berlin.
~~time no place records~~