Listening Mirror ~ Resting in Aspic

Listening to Resting in Aspic is like taking a long, slow stroll through the timeline of modern ambient music, beginning with Budd and Eno and ending in the modern day.  When those two luminaries began their work, their recordings operated as synthetic soundscapes atop which piano notes were placed as carefully as rocks in a Zen garden.  Music for Airports is a clear influence on Resting in Aspic, as are the environmental sounds (running water, busy birds) associated with the early days of the genre.  If the album ended there, it would operate solely as a tribute to a bygone era; but as the tracks progress, the compositional approaches change, mimicking developments in the field.

By the middle tracks, especially the 14-minute “The Organist”, we begin to hear oblique references to works such as The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Underworld.  Time is no longer a factor; the drift is the journey.  A looped, four-note female vocal is joined by the sound of children playing, and while no drums are present, the effect is cumulative and trancelike.  On the following track, insects and traffic return us to the modern world; a sweet piano motif plays in the background like an afterthought.  This “brief” (6:40) piece brings us to “Without Saying Goodbye”, which possesses a somewhat darker sheen; the rise and fall of processed sound, wavelike in volume and slightly sinister in tone, was part of the early work of Aphex Twin.  Then it’s back to the birds on “Venice Boxhead”, but the electronic tones are high-pitched and nearly atonal, a clearly contemporary addition.  The closing piece, “Wet Roads”, is the best of all: whorls of sound surrounding vocal vowels that approach and recede like those of Fovea Hex.

Listening Mirror (Jeff Stonehouse and Kate Tustain) appeared to have broken up about a year ago, but now seems healthier than ever.  While Resting in Aspic is primarily a collection of older works, “Without Saying Goodbye” is new; perhaps the time apart rejuvenated the pair.  Older listeners will be enamored by the opening tracks, younger listeners by the closing tracks, but those interested in the development of a genre may be fascinated by the entire presentation.  (Richard Allen)

Release Date: February 10

Outside Heaven

Available here

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