timwarrenmusic: under_score
Square Root Records

The dozen ambient settings constituting under_score, Tim Warren's follow-up “full-length” to 2008's Sitzmaschine, total less than twenty-eight minutes of material, yet the release nevertheless impresses despite its brevity. Warren has a way of infusing his becalmed, percussion-free pieces with a warmth and humanity that enables them to transcend their wholly synthetic character and register as emotive vignettes that just happen to have been digitally produced. That Warren opts for an organ-like synthesizer tone in the pieces rather than something severe and abrasive goes a long way to explaining why the material engenders the soothing effect that it does. While there is a uniformity of sound, there is also contrast: “Arch” softly glimmers like light fading during late afternoon, unlike the radiant “Purple Surplus,” which suggests the promise of a new day. Similarly, “Brass” exudes a sense of mystery, in contrast to “45,” which resembles a sombre and stately dirge. “Life Cycle of a Sea Horse” feels like some beautiful, mournful symphony distilled into miniature form, while time slows delectably during the three minutes of sparse keyboard ruminations that make up the melancholy “Toronto Houndstooth.” Originally recorded by Warren's band Tokyo Morose, “One Wheel Appeal” shimmers like time-lapsed footage of a wheat field on a windy day.

Though there is a sense of completeness about the release, it bears mentioning that under_score could be longer, and not just because of its short running time. Many pieces—“They Are Awake” and “The Grave of Sadie Delay” two cases of many—establish their presence with commendable efficiency but end so quickly one wishes they would have stuck around longer. One presumes that, had the release submitted for review included the accompanying disc of seven remixes by Wes Slover aka the Strait of Anain (who re-worked the under_score material into a single, twenty-minute piece) and the “Life Cycle of a Sea Horse” remix by Conifer Rock, it would have registered as an even more complete collection.

October 2009