Bryter Layter: Two Lenses
Students of Decay / Experimedia

Quicksails: Silver Balloons In Clusters
Under The Spire

Two Lenses (300 vinyl copies) is the latest chapter in the ongoing story of Bryter Layter duo Mike Pollard, who issues music under the Pale Blue Sky moniker and runs the Arbor imprint, and Joseph Raglani, whose solo output includes Of Sirens Born (kranky, 2008) and Classically Sprained (a 2009 cassette release on Pollard's label). It's also the follow-up to the pair's earlier Bryter Layter outing, Imprinted Season, which appeared on Arbor on cassette in 2009. Laid down live and arranged by Raglani at his home studio, the new recording's seven settings firmly center upon analog synthesis and the luscious sound-worlds that can be generated therefrom, and though the pieces are generally concise, they're packed with detail and encompass a wide spectrum of moods.The album features dense clusters of synthesizer tones and washes and opaque masses of extraterrestrial transmissions in settings that are in some cases gentle and in others comparatively more aggressive. On the one hand, there's “Your Verdant Skin,” an opening statement that's as melancholy and wistful as it is grandiose, while on the other there's “Aspect,” a grittier excursion whose meandering melodies are subjected to repeated barrages of synthetic fire. A wedding of acoustic and synthetic sounds, “Understanding Interdependence” exudes an earthy, era-transcending character that invites comparison to Popol Vuh, and much the same could be said of the final piece, “Closing,” which likewise alchemizes the aforesaid elements into an alluring meditative dreamscape. Put simply, listeners with an insatiable appetite for modern-day synthesizer music would be well advised to investigate.

That the wonderfully titled Silver Balloons In Clusters was originally released on cassette in 2011 by Deception Island makes some perfect kind of sense, given that the label is run by Chris Madak, who's issued his own brand of trippy synthesizer music under the Bee Mask name. The recording, the creative spawn of Ben Billington aka Quicksails, now receives the vinyl treatment (200 copies) courtesy of Under The Spire. Billington is also the percussionist for the Tiger Hatchery outfit, and it's this detail that helps distinguish his Quicksails project from others currently elbowing their way into the synth music marketplace. Throughout the forty-minute collection, live percussion plays as prominent a role as do synthesizers and electronics, making for a combustible and heady result, and in a typical track, radiant synth tones and melodies resound precariously over fiery undercurrents of blustery percussive flourishes. The album begins provocatively with a minute of stuttering bell tones colliding with convulsions of synthetic noise before a more level-headed stream of synthesizer and tribal percussion patterns takes over. Side B's framing pieces, “Falling Dance” and “A Million Knots,” are near-ecstatic primitive-future settings that feel like the products of day-long chemical-based experiments conducted in the desert. Sprawling washes of cymbals and tympani-like rumble flood the shuddering plains of “Empty and Full,” while the album is at its most daunting during the incinerating meltdown “Could It Be a Silver Balloon?” where piercing frequencies verge on physically painful. Though not everything is as extreme, Silver Balloons In Clusters registers as a no-holds-barred foray that's clearly unafraid to explore the deepest corners of the psyche.

April 2012