Equal parts atmospheric/ambient visionary Explosions in the Sky guitarist Mark Smith and post-classical/ethereal craftsmanship of Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper is what comprises Inventions and their new self-titled debut. But despite the pedigree the sum is something entirely unexpected and completely alien. A cross between electronic and pre-programmed boards, subtle vocals, and sublime textures, Inventions’ self-titled release steers toward a new brand of ambient creative direction. There are shades of Explosions in the Sky’s “witness and awe” tones and hints of Eluvium’s calming pastures, but the resulting mixture of Smith and Cooper’s concoctions are more unworldly and seething with discovery.
There are combinations that may not seem to fit on paper and even upon first listen come off as forced improvisations (such as the more whispy, rewinding twangs over the echoing, delayed guitar tones on the track “Sun Locations / Sun Coda”) but warranted subsequent listens make the experimentations feel more natural with good cohesion. As much of an open-minded record that Inventions is, an equally open-minded ear is just as steadily required to grasp the subtle details that fill much of the record.
Inventions starts off familiar to those with more ambient tastes, especially on the sunsetting opener “Echo Tropism,” perusing along a more laid-back path that harkens a bit of Mark Smith’s EITS’ lineage and Cooper’s more tranquil movements. Pacing subsequently picks up immediately and charters more unfamiliar territory on the following “Flood Poems.” While still relatively subdued, “Flood Poems” radiates from beginning to end with a subtle but consistent guitar tone that is parlayed with peaceful, placid hums.
“Entity,” the stirring first single off Inventions is everything you could possibly envision from such a dream ambient matchup. Distorted vocals merged with emanating signals and computerized harmonies coalesce with Smith’s relaxing guitar in a very spiritual manner. The matrix-feel of “Entity” is beyond the more “nature-ized” appeal of both EITS and Eluvium, alluding to the more transcendent theme discussed earlier.
“Luminous Insects,” another prime example of mixtures that don’t seem to fit on paper but work magically together in synergy. The piece blends an oddly roaming chant hidden behind a lush layer of synths to create a nirvana-like escape. “Peaceable Child” brings a bit more uptempo to the album but with so many different elements beating all at once, the details can get lost in the euphoric atmosphere. Much of the record goes along this structured path – steady but never rising engagements of constructed rhythms to create a buzzing but calmly elated effect.
The album’s closing sets “Recipient” and “Psychic Automation” will most likely stand out for their drastic vibe apart from the rest of the album – opting for more psychedelic tones across toyish instrumental. Of note, “Psychic Automation,” uses a very stylish phonogram effect for its discreet vocals, blending a very haunting (and vintage) capture over a very industrialized tune.
Inventions is a unique merger that paints a more vivid picture than most ambient albums could even dream of. The self-titled debut relies less on droney, held notes and in their place pushes out an abundance of ecstatic harmonies. Inventions is more energetic than most ambient/post-classical listeners will be used to and clearly more varied in instrumental composition. 2+2 = 10 in this case but never is there the sense that Smith and Cooper overcompensate for any lack of sonic explosions. Inventions is softly calm without getting monotonous or tiresome with its generally hesitant speed. When we first heard about Inventions and its first single “Entity” we claimed this was the first must-listen ambient track of the year. After hearing the complete project, we’re left yearning for more than the record’s 45 minutes can provide, as generally is the case with most ambient records. But there’s a difference here on Inventions: you feel somewhat of a closure; you feel satisfied if “this” is it. There’s a blessing just to know you’ve experienced a record so elatedly blissful that you can’t possibly feel any more deserving than for the moment that is now.
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