Saturday, September 05, 2009

Variant - The Setting Sun - Echospace CD

It’s been a heck of year for the kind of music I love and two of the highlights so far have come on CD from the Echospace stable. Following Brock Van Wey’s stunning album comes this new project from label main man Steve Hitchell. Having been responsible for so many awesome tracks over the years, collaboratively or in a solo capacity, it’s really refreshing to find Steve coming to the fore with this style of deeply atmospheric music.

You could, in some ways, call it ambient I suppose, but it has way too many hints of his rhythmic background to be 100% beatless. On the contrary he uses percussive elements in such a keen way that they serve to accentuate what we all know he’s so good at: those chords and melodies. Another big feature of this album is the inclusion of a wealth of field recordings made whilst experiencing a late night storm in Berlin and a train journey in Japan. These recordings perfectly fit the ambience of Steve’s work, particularly the train journey elements. There’s something about his tracks that gives you a sense of movement – I can vouch for the fact that this album sounds utterly amazing whilst gazing out of the window sitting on a train.

There’s a captivating spaciousness and mood that instantly clicks with the melancholy side of me and I’m still not 100% sure what it is. The layers, pads and chords are probably mostly responsible, but it’s also the little touches of melody that fade in and out, never overwhelming, just complementing the sound. The other big key is the pure emotion that drips from every moment of every track - you can feel the love that has gone into this, even when it sits on the darker side. The care and attention that pervades the production and structures of the tracks is gorgeous and the title track itself is nothing short of divine, clocking in at a healthy 23 minutes which really allows the artist to give you an intimate and personal sense of how he’s feeling.

Ranging, as it does, from pure ambient / drone through to organically inclined guitar moments (yes, that’s right, guitar) via some uber-chilled out dub-inflected moments you’ll discover that this is a listening album of absolutely the highest calibre. I’m glad the label has this avenue of music to explore and I can’t think of many other people that I’d enjoy hearing do it quite so much.

This is a must for fans of not just Echospace, but beautiful, deep electronic music in general. Pure gold and something you’d be well advised to grab as soon as possible.

Check it out here...

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