EUS: Luminar

In keeping with the ambient-drone concept, most recordings associated with the genre could be described as restrained, peaceful, subliminal, and becalmed; rare indeed is the recording that eschews all such gentility for something verging on noise, and when one such as Luminar surfaces that does so it's hard not to sit up and take notice. Issued on the France-based ambient label SOFT, Luminar is the brainchild of Costa Rican producer Jose Acuna operating under the EUS alias. Cellist Oliver Barrett, violinist Nik Koniwzski, and vocalist Ana Mariela also take part, though you might have to strain to hear their contributions within the all-consuming maelstrom unleashed by Acuna.

Twelve indexed and titled tracks compose Luminar, but it unfolds as an uninterrupted long-form work of scene-changing character, and the epic character of the musical material is complemented by a cover illustration that's similarly primeval. Epic organ, strings, and synthesizer flourishes lends the overture “Abrir, Soltar” a grandiose, even bombastic character that will remain in place for much of the recording. That opener segues without pause into “Lidea,” a spectacularly loud dronescape within whose vortex muffled wails and string tones are faintly glimpsed. Acuna's material churns thereafter at an ear-splitting pitch, so much so that one imagines one's speaker system would beg for mercy could it do so. Still, the melancholy “Velo” shows that Luminar isn't without an occasional restrained moment, but it's definitely the exception to the rule.

Field recordings of planes and other noise appear to have been woven into the sound design, though it's difficult to be sure when the elements are stirred together to form a singular, energy-charged behemoth. Elements do occasionally separate themselves from the mass—the repeated bass drops in “Aleth,” thudding bass accents in “Ficciones,” acoustic piano in “Velo,” and arcing strings in “Luminar II,” to name a small number of examples—but generally one experiences the album's sound design as a roaring whole more than constituent parts. Had Acuna's fifty-minute recording been available to Kubrick when he was creating 2001: A Space Odyssey, one imagines he might well have used parts of Luminar as the soundtrack to the mind-melting sequence late in the film where astronaut Dave Bowman hurtles across vast stretches of space in his EVA pod.

March 2016