(ghost): The First Time You Opened Your Eyes
Panoptique Electrical: Disappearing Music For Face
Two electronic artists with fundamentally different recordings, one a long-form ambient soundscape, the other an eleven-song set of piano-centric ambient-electronic pieces, and both issued by Sound In Silence in limited, handmade, and hand-numbered editions of 200 copies.
The last time we heard from Brian Froh's (ghost) project was in early 2015 when n5MD issued A Vast and Decaying Appearance as a follow-up to his debut album Departure. The First Time You Opened Your Eyes is somewhat of a departure from those releases, given its single-track definition. A thirty-four-minute composition poses its own challenges, some of them having to do with pacing and arc, but the Denver-based Froh shows he's quite capable of meeting them. With beats eschewed, the piece assumes the character of an epic soundscape, generally plangent in tone and teeming with ambient textures and atmospheric treatments. Demonstrating expert control and circumspection, Froh patiently drapes cascading figures over the pulsating foundation as the shimmering mass advances and progressively swells in volume. While narrative development is a central concern for such an undertaking, dimensionality is equally important; with multiple layers of synthesizers, guitars, and Ashley Banks's heavily processed vocals laid over the reverberant base, a rather spellbinding effect is achieved, and the totality thunders so powerfully one can't help but be reminded at certain junctures of Eluvium. Relief sets in with about five minutes remaining when the ambient mass decompresses and the layers drop away, leaving only guitar and ambient swirl behind. Describing The First Time You Opened Your Eyes as engulfing and oceanic isn't off-base, though such terms only begin to convey the impact the piece has when played at high volume.
Whereas The First Time You Opened Your Eyes constitutes the first (ghost) appearance on Sound In Silence (an earlier remix aside), Disappearing Music For Face is Jason Sweeney's second outing on the label, though Panoptique Electrical is a solo venture unlike his collaboration project with Richard Adams, Great Panoptique Winter, which released its debut album on the label a year ago. Panoptique Electrical is described as both solo project and a collaboration with various electronic and classical musicians, but Disappearing Music For Face appears to be Sweeney alone, as he's credited with having written, performed, recorded, and produced the material. As an interesting side-note, many of the sounds and beats on the album were created for the 2015 State Theatre Company of South Australia production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal.
The presence of electronic beats and explicitly stated piano melodies lends the tracks a song-like form, while ambient treatments and textures qualify them as electronica. In a typical track, the piano is the central element around which the other parts revolve; as such, the songs would retain their individuating character if everything but the keyboard were stripped away and still function effectively as solo piano pieces. That being said, the supplemental detail Sweeney devises to complement the piano parts does prove significantly enhancing.While certain elements are common to most of the eleven songs, there are noticeable differences between them. Moods change from one song to the next, such that the foreboding air of the opener, “First Betrayal,” for instance, is alleviated slightly by the haunting waltz, “Gold Leaf,” that follows. Surprises surface, too: the repeating piano chords in the title track chime in a manner reminiscent of something Brian Wilson might have been working on in 1967, and when an uptempo beat pattern is added to the dusty piano part midway through “In a Forest Forlorn,” the track morphs into an electro-pop instrumental, even if one rather dark in hue. And whereas Brian Eno and Harold Budd might seem to loom like spectral presences behind “A Picture, A Landscape,” the synth-inflamed behemoth “A Minor Breakdown” sees Sweeney pushing into blustery territory we might more associate with someone like Tim Hecker.