Neve: Centigrade
[ parvoart ] recordings

M. Ostermeier: Percolate
[ parvoart ] recordings

By Marc Ostermeier's own description, Percolate features “experimental and ambient compositions often built from skeletal piano melodies and augmented with electronics and acoustic recordings,” as on-point a description of the mini-album as any I might venture. The Maryland-based university professor gravitates towards music's melancholy side in his pieces, and does so by embedding acoustic and rhodes piano melodies in fields of electronic elements—downtempo beats, atmospheric textures, percussive accents, and the like. The brooding “Clockwork” pairs electric piano and electric guitar twang in a way that suggests a lost track from an early Labradford session, while “Scratchy” adds a restrained post-rock urgency to the mix. A 4/4 rhythm and snare-kick drum pattern undergirds the twilight calm of “Continuity” with a techno pulse, whereas “September Again” is autumnal, but lovely and pensive too. “Persuasion,” Percolate's prettiest track, uses electric piano, guitar, and electronics to create a mood of wistful reverie that also carries with it more than a little uplift. In the final analysis, Ostermeier covers multiple stylistic bases during the release's twenty-six minutes without betraying the piano-based ambient style that is his music's essence.

Neve likewise provides a helpful characterization of the material on his own mini-album by calling Centigrade's tracks “micro sound sculptures.” Melody is therefore downplayed in favour of atmosphere and texture, as sine tones and electronic noises combine to form ambient sound paintings of brief duration. Settings range from severe (“Marvel”) to enigmatic (“Plexflux”) and windswept (“Surface Plane”) in micro-drone settings filled with hazy sine tones, willowy electronics, speckles of static, and low-end ambient rumble. Neve's description turns out to be a tad misleading, however, as it suggests stasis and stillness, and the release's nine tracks (ten if you include 2°C, a gallery of photographic images) are anything but still. Rather, they register more as mini-soundtracks for hikes undertaken through snow-covered forests or along the frozen river's edge.

February 2010