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May312010

The Sight Below - It All Falls Apart

THE SIGHT BELOW - IT ALL FALLS APART

Ghostly

Dark, glacial music suffused with atmospheric washes. Yes, it’s that old bugbear of mine, contemporary ambient music. Rafael Anton Isarri returns for Ghostly with his second album under his “The Sight Below” alias and this time has enlisted the services, albeit from across the ocean, of ex-Slowdive drummer Simon Scott.

He’s part of that generation that themselves grew up influenced by the granddaddies of glacial ambient, The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. It was in a formative period then, but it is a shame that 20 years down the line, we’re really yet to hear anyone grasp the torch and move onto new pastures. They’re happy instead just to occupy that space on the map that plays happily with musical ambiguity but fails to bring anything exciting to the table.

“It All Falls Apart” is more considered than the freeform approach of Isarri’s first album “Glider”, with some rich melodic landscapes decorating proceedings. There are some genuine moments of musical beauty, not least with the hazy, embryonic rustling of  “Through the Gaps in the Land” and the Wolfgang Voigt-influenced “Burn me out from the inside”. Like him, Isarri is content to let formative musical elements grow and gently unfurl like budding ferns without too much in the way of progression. Scott’s contribution and content here however is almost too subtle and it’s hard to hear much in the way of him adding anything. “Stagger” is different though, with ghostly strings stalking a scratchy, desolate surface. Like most of the compositions, there’s not a great deal of action, but you can hear the combination of both of them adding something unique to the proceedings.

It’s a shame though that the rest of the album fails to produce much more than the poignant dot-to dot mournful ambient that seems to be all too popular right now. “Shimmer” and “Fervent” lack that all-important individuality and the cover of Joy Divisions “New Dawn Fades” isn’t very good. Ambient drone material is ten-a-penny nowadays and it requires something special to really stand out from the crowd. Isarri shows glimpses of it with this album but apart from his ability to reproduce the more telling aspects of Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas sound, there is little here that is new or memorable.

Toby Frith

Reader Comments (2)

Hey Toby. It is time you come out with your prejudice towards ambient music of any kind. Every review you make (and I don't know why you keep doing it) you say the same things, and how ambient music is "ten a penny", and how drone music is boring, and how it's depressing, etc etc.

Both Loscil, Oenohtrix Point Never, and the Sight Below make different kinds of ambient music, but have gotten the same approach in their reviews here... which seems to almost always say, " it is okay, but if only had a better beat, or a better this an that"... Ambient music lovers couldn't have it better with the latest releases from these three artists...

June 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterA.

Prejudice is a strong word A. Musical genres need to move forward at times and apart from the odd artist such as Murcof, Tim Hecker or Oneohtrix Point Never, I hear little from a lot of artists in this field that makes me think that this is happening. There’s a lot that is competent and initially pleasing, but I don’t warrant that as sufficient to avoid criticism.

Toby

June 2, 2010 | Registered CommenterBleep43

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