AquaDorsa: Cloudlands
Glacial Movements

The sixty-seven minute Cloudlands documents the first collaboration between AquaDorsa partners Enrico Coniglio and Oophoi (Gianluigi Gasparetti), the former known for the Psychonavigation releases AREAVIRUS - topofonie vol.1 and dyanMU, and the latter admired for analog-based ambient work issued on Hypnos and Glacial Movements, among others. In keeping with the experimental spirit of those Coniglio releases, Cloudlands opts for atmospheres that are not only tranquil but turbulent. To create the seven orchestral-ambient soundscapes, the two draw upon a broad palette of sounds with guitars, synthesizers, piano, percussion, waterphone, chimes, singing bowls, Theremin, and samples the source materials used.

Some of the material adheres pretty closely to the ambient-electronic template. In “Daylight Fading into Evening Silence,” for example, lush synth pads and micro-percussive accents combine to create pretty much what one expects from the ambient-electronic genre: sonic atmosphere so tranquil it verges on somnolent. The turbulent and unsettling set-piece “Alone in the Rising Fog” serves up eighteen minutes of creeping noises and ghostly whooshes that evoke the anxious experience of someone lost in the fog and desperately struggling to catch his/her bearings. In other settings, though, the duo offset the genre's customary tranquility by scattering percussive pebbles across the tracks' smooth surfaces: static pops and piano plinks pepper the synthetic tones that stretch out languorously across “The Pond Reflected Her Smile,” and rhythm textures of vinyl static and subtle sounds of singing bowls counter the tinkling chimes and ethereal tones that dominate “Zero Gravity.” In “A Pillow of Clouds,” the lonely call of an oboe-like instrument is heard amidst swathes of vaporous synthesis, and an insistent beat pattern surfaces near track's end, lending the material a heft not typically heard in an ambient project. In the album's boldest departure, “Syhan” distances itself from the strict ambient template by adding a skeletal, slow-motion beat pattern and garbled voice sample to its pretty piano theme (the part sampled from Penguin Café Orchestra's “Red Shorts”) and crystalline atmospheres. A discernible escalation in intensity and episodic shift transpires too during the piece's twelve-minute running time, a narrative move that further separates it from the even-tempered stasis of the prototypical ambient setting. Cloudlands ultimately registers as a varied collection that in subtle and satisfying ways shakes up the ambient soundscaping template without betraying its fundamental character.

August 2009