The ultimate beauty of ambient music (whatever frilly adjectives or microgenric metrics you’d prefer to stylize it by or measure it against) is how all-encompassing it becomes when effectively employed. Far too often, though, more than just the listener is at risk of envelopment. As with all extreme applications of art – and, lest we forget, asceticism sows its own extremity – there’s a constant danger of having one’s work absorbed into the communal, featureless tapestry of whatever tropes inform it, either owed to how little it differs from ideological kin or, too often, how the individual pieces comprising a release may fail to distinguish themselves from each other.
John Bohannon’s latest effort as Ancient Ocean is a master class in how to plumb the depths of hypnotic rapture without succumbing to similitude, and it succeeds owing to each selection featuring enough timbral landmarks to keep things from lapsing into monochromatism or otherwise reading as overly homogeneous; yet, despite this welcome dedication to varying tone, there’s still remarkable cohesion to be found.
For example, there’s something gorgeously palliative about both lengthy opener ‘The Weight Of Rising Seas’ and its brief successor ‘Matrix III’, but this unity feels more akin to that of a gifted illustrator imbuing their emotive weight into disparate subjects rather than one exploring the same still-life assemblage from varying angles. This thought further satisfies when one considers that Neró’s five selections were culled from a six-year period – perhaps they diarize a recurring mood that the author felt incompatible with or distinct from the many releases they created and issued during that time? Maybe they’re merely outtakes that were deemed complementary?
Whatever the truth, Neró is a gifted exercise in surmounting the traps endemic in certain modern lushnesses without forsaking those elements which make that aesthetic so appealing.
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Writer, musician, ephemeral custodian, authoritarian left, recovering blob, et Jew sans frontières. Bad jokes, good beer, sad poems, & rare records.