Rudy Adrian: Coastlines
Spotted Peccary Music

Some ambient artists craft their material in such a way that any connections to the physical world are downplayed, the idea being that by severing the tie the music has a greater chance of achieving an abstract, timeless universality. Other ambient producers do the complete opposite in attempting to create as strong a relationship between their music and the physical realm as possible. As Coastlines, his fifteenth album and fifth for Spotted Peccary, shows, New Zealand native Rudy Adrian inarguably falls into the latter category. It's not the first time he's done so either, as revealed by the titles of earlier releases such as MoonWater and Desert Realms.

The natural world has figured into his electronic music production activities since the days when he studied Forestry Science and Botany at the universities of Canterbury and Otago. Coastlines is, by the composer's own admission, a deliberate attempt to translate the beauty and stillness of the coastal areas of New Zealand into musical form; look no further than titles such as “Pebbled Beaches” and “Evenings on Pohara Beach” for direct references to the natural world. There's a nostalgic dimension in play, too, given that the album's main theme has to do with recollections of the geographic locales that he explored with his father when he was young. Certainly the generally serene tone of the material, “Theme From Subantarctica” a representative example, intimates that Adrian is remembering the past with affection rather than as a time of tumult.

Field recording details of water gently crashing ashore and birds faintly calling intermingle with synthetic washes and atmospheres during the dreamlike title track, a strongly evocative scene-setter for the hour-long set. Much of the album roots itself squarely within the ambient genre by prioritizing texture over melody and rhythm, and moods of varying kinds are explored: shaker percussion and moaning vocalizations imbue “Tussen de Monsters” with a powerful sense of dark mystery, whereas bright tinkles, meandering keyboard patterns, and Nick Prosser's baroque flute lend “Message of Dolphins” a mystical quality that bolsters its enchanting effect.

The closing pieces hint at the possible influence of Brian Eno and Harold Budd on Adrian: a rising, three-note bass figure surfaces in “Thursday's Legacy” that sounds like it could have migrated directly from 1978's Music for Films onto Adrian's release; and when delicate piano emerges draped in synthesizer washes during the soothing “Evenings on Pohara Beach,” it's hard not to think of something like 1980's Ambient 2 (The Plateaux of Mirror). But though such moves might or might not be subtle homages, they're of incidental importance when Coastlines registers as a highly personalized portrait of Adrian above all else.

November 2016