neon demons feels like a soundtrack to a great film I’ve never seen. Equal parts ethereal and assertive, the music invites and engages the listener. It always impresses me when instrumental music outside of jazz can hold my attention for that long, but neon demons has enticing synth sounds and progressions. Even at it’s most abrasive, the album doesn’t alienate the listener. This choice always presents itself to an experimental musician, but solarein made something very palatable and enjoyable here.
Usually, I’m able to see reference points in someone’s work but I’m not sure who else solarein sounds like. At times neon demons reminds me of the soundtrack to 28 Days Later. The cinematic quality of the music reminds me of the ambient parts of Another Green World, which I think is ambient music at its best. ‘Evergreen’ is a particular highlight and great choice for the penultimate track on the album. A sense of calm washes over the listener. On this track and this track only, I feel the influence of Arthur Russell’s World of Echo. Whatever music influenced solarein for this project, they did a great job at making something original.
The song lengths on neon demons don’t go on for too long. Actually, looking at the tracks now I wonder if it’s a coincidence that tracks 1 and 4 are 1:44, tracks 2 and 3 are 4:44, and the final two tracks are 5:55. If this was planned intentionally, it only ads to how impressive this record is. I’m also left wondering what synthesizers were used to make neon demons. They have a nice full sound regardless of whether they’re virtual or real instruments. In my opinion, part of the beauty of music today is one can make an album like neon demons entirely on the computer.
All of the songs on neon demons seem to be pointing somewhere, or like the listener is being led on an adventure. I really liked this album and look forward to exploring solarein’s other releases. I would recommend this for people who are new to ambient music, as it isn’t a challenging listen, but it’s interesting enough to engage with.
I was unaware until halfway through Encoder that it was a collection of covers. Having missed that part of the Bandcamp description initially, the fact that I didn’t pick up on that is a great sign. There’s a thematic unity to all of these records like their all Closed Circuits originals. Two obvious reference points for me with Encoder are Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. There’s a lot of reverb on the songs with provide the songs with the space they need to wash over you. This aspect provides an ambient drone quality to the work that separates it from what I see as it’s two greatest rock canon influences.
As always, I can never be sure where Closed Circuits draws their inspiration from, but I think especially the Waits comparison gives listeners an idea what they’re in for. However, Closed Circuits’ voice is more melodic and not really gravelly in the same way Waits is. Nick Cave’s solo work is a glaring omission in my musical knowledge and I think that may be the only other popular artist this record reminds me of.
It’s interesting then that Closed Circuits chose to cover Cave’s old paramour PJ Harvey on this album. Harvey and Nick Drake are the only artists whose work I know of all the covers on the album. One of my favorite parts of Encoder is I can’t tell what instrumentation is synthetic and what is “real.” I hear bowed strings which could be actual processed strings, analog synths, or VSTs, and the percussion if synthetic is powerful enough that it doesn’t have a tinny quality that one finds in a lot of electronic music. Encoder is a warm record that invites the listener into a very melancholy world, but one as the Bandcamp description writes, with space. I don’t even want to look to see which song is performed originally by who until I’m done with this review, because Closed Circuits really made these their own. Recommended somber listening.
Lime Eyelid’s album Week of Wonders is an enjoyable exercise in heavy psych. Lime Eyelid appreciates the value of a good riff and they’re sprinkled hypnotically throughout the album. I think Week of Wonders is at its best when all the band members are playing in tandem. There were more ethereal parts of the record I enjoyed as well, but the riffs are what make this record. I can’t tell how many members there are of the band which is always a good sign. Something of note also is the reverb-drenched drums played skillfully but sparse.
The second half of the album is mostly a drone that reminds me of what Bowie and Eno did to the second side of Low. Gone are the riffs until a few minutes from the end when they return triumphantly but also gloomier than ever. Doom psych?
Horse Trailer immediately invites the listener with undulating guitars and lovely steel guitar on ‘Tabletop Moon.’ The spoken word part fits the song nicely and helps add to the ambience. As an opener it does a good job of not overstaying its welcome. The titular song, ‘Horse Trailer,’ starts similarly but with more pronounced guitars and reverb. I really like the lyric “horse trailer parked in the spot behind the house—no one has ever used it” which Tapes & Tubes chose to highlight on their Bandcamp page. The song conjures up nostalgia for a country past that I don’t have. Again, the steel guitar is a big highlight here. I hear traces of Neil Young in the music but the spoken word does a nice job of making the music unique. The final track, ‘Mike, Henry, and Hank,’ sounds like the narration to the beginning of a movie. The entire EP is really cinematic which impresses me that 3 songs can capture enough of a distinct flavor to exist on their own. I’m a big fan of the EP format and Tapes & Tubes did a great job making a statement with 3 songs. Highly recommended for fans of folk, country, ambient, and the intersection of these genres