Two facts worth knowing about Maxwell August Croy and James Devane's En project: their 2010 En debut album, The Absent Coast, drew comparisons to Stars of the Lid; and a recent tour found them in Japan with Grouper. So even before dropping the needle on the West Coast outfit's sophomore album, Already Gone, we've got some vague sense of the kind of supple ambient-drone-based dreamscaping we'll find on the thirty-nine-minute vinyl release (500 copies, with 100 clear and the rest standard black). The material is tailor-made for the vinyl format, too, with the four shorter pieces on side one backed by a side-long epic on the flip.
The album gets underway with “Lodi,” an overture of fluttering, guitar-generated sparkle that's nicely augmented with Trevor Montgomery's minimal bass playing, and then “The Sea Saw Swell,” a submersive dreamscape built from acoustic koto strums and hazy guitar swells. “Marble Steppe” and “Already Gone” are very much in the tradition of celestial ambient-drone soundscaping, though in these instances too acoustic instrumentation emerges from the haze.
Side B's nineteen-minute “Elysia” gets underway with sounds of the natural outdoors mingling with a descending keyboard motif whose soothing glimmer paves the way for a series of entrancing, slow-motion episodes. As the piece grows ever more immersive, Croy and Devane effect well-calibrated transitions as they gradually leave behind terra firma and set their sights on the empyrean, until an eventual surge of volcanic immolation finds them plummeting back to earth.One of the things that distinguishes En's approach on the new album is that acoustic instrument sounds are often left untreated, or at least treated in such a way that their identifying character remains audible. Consequently, bass pulses, percussive accents, and organ, guitar, and strings shadings sit comfortably alongside the customary ambient-drone washes in such a way that suggests the aforementioned comparison to Stars of the Lid isn't misplaced—which isn't to suggest that En is a carbon copy of the revered kranky outfit, either, but rather that En is working within the same general territory as its better-known brethren.