Adam Pacione: From Stills To Motion

Northern: Drawn

High-quality ambient alchemy from Infraction courtesy of Texas-based Adam Pacione and Edmonton, Alberta siblings Kevin and Davin Chong (aka Northern). There are differences—Pacione's is a darker and slightly more industrial-flavoured exercise in cinematic dreamscaping while Northern's tends to the tranquil and lulling—but they're both accomplished collections of textural soundscaping; the releases also similarly present themselves as 70-minute travelogues where one component flows seamlessly into the next.

The luscious electronically-generated fields of sound comprising From Stills to Motion are beautiful indeed (Pacione favours the term “grexed” to describe the material's “compressed, granularized, weathered, distressed” character). Pieces like “Pinhole Sunrise” and “A Soft Place to Fall” are dramatic, almost symphonic in character (each achieves a remarkably majestic effect in less than four minutes) while “The Channel Swimmer” impresses as ravishing flow of incandescent shimmer and stirring tones. Pacione's slow-moving material is immersive and generally abstract, though a referential dimension surfaces on occasion: certainly the hypnotic movement of waves is convincingly captured in “Washed Ashore” and the distant chirp of cicadas helps ground “Sodium Lit.” Despite the steely ambiance, “Good Morning Mockingbird” suggests a dew-covered, early summer morning summer by the factory. “Zenith” is aptly-titled in that its thirteen minutes encapsulate all of Pacione's strengths in a single epic flourish. With the disc housed in a mini-gatefold sleeve that includes a sixteen-page insert of colour photos, From Stills to Motion is enhanced by its presentation too.

To note that Northern's debut release Drawn is largely free of tension shouldn't be interpreted as veiled criticism. The collection's eleven tapestries unspool unhurriedly, with a graceful, organic meander that makes its restrained meditations all the more transporting. There's a warm, pastoral character to Northern's sound; though the Chong brothers no doubt execute their material using digital means, they de-emphasize abrasive noisemaking in favour of soothing tonal drift assembled from layers of processed guitars and synths. The penultimate setting, “Hiroshima,” doesn't re-create the horrific moment of devastation that was visited upon the city in 1945 but instead presents it as placid paradise of shimmering haze where flute tones and glistening slivers resound. In some pieces, a palpable outdoors dimension emerges: the crackle of a campfire or babbling stream is heard in “Manage” and natural sounds—or at least a convincing evocation of same—rise to the surface of the willowy mass in “Migrate.” The collection isn't entirely without beats either. A soft shuffle and beating kick drum provide understated rhythmic heft to “Seams,” a ticking pulse gently prods “Lesser,” and a gamelan bell and rapidly-clicking patterns propel “Pacific” forward. Though it hardly needs stating, both From Stills To Motion and Drawn should strongly appeal to devotees of Eluvium and Stars of the Lid.

January 2008