The spell of late summer seems to enjoy the same easy going spirit of those summer months just gone by. An Indian summer may hold on in the air when the leaves should really be changing in their evolving, spectacular display of reds and golds, and yet still the ghost of mid-summer thankfully remains. It may be September, or possibly even October if we are lucky, as the days never give up on the season that should be coming to a close. As Autumn is delayed, the scorching late seasonal show kickstarts a rock ‘n’ roll rebellion in its disregard for a cooler temperature it should really be recording. It’s a sweet, seasonal disobeyment that is always invited, and a season that’s always inclined to recline.
Flares of late summer light play across the lens of our vision, entering between our fingers in a delayed spiritual afterburn, and as insects flicker and fly past in a chaotic preparation for the arriving season, music, too, can indicate a seasonal shift. Fill up on the sun cream lotion and fill up a glass of orange squash, because if ever the late summer atmosphere was recorded and captured on a piece of music, Summer Haze would be the result. It’s gonna be a fine day.
Linear Bells ensures that the air quality remains clear throughout his latest record. If a tonal temperature could be recorded, Summer Haze would be humid under partly cloudy skies, with the temperature peaking at a scorching, steady thirty degrees all day, every day. The rising humidity as the record’s drones progress into the centre attracts the t-shirt to the skin in a sticky sweat; the air becomes clammy as the day passes underneath the afternoon sun, and from there on in the late dusk settles the temperature aside in a cooler, yet balmy, feel that leaves the skin toned in healthy colour much like the drone.
The sun may set sooner than one seen in June, but that just adds to the glory of the season and its defiance; it’s like the warmth has slipped out at night when it should really be sleeping and no one else ever realising it’s staying out late. If you were to capture that cover artwork in the mind’s eye, it wouldn’t be too far off the musical horizon. Summer Haze is the scent in the air as early sprinkles of rain drop onto the grass. As the ambience advances, the sky turns to a deeper, late morning shade of blue; the sun shifts delayed light which walks through the clouds and dissolves any white that may be gathering. The heavy drones weigh over the music like the sun mercilessly beating down, one that leaves everything washed out, but rejuvenated for it.
Summer Haze may follow hot on the heels of An Island, but it displays an entirely different sound, one that is developing constantly and one that is already a million miles from the island’s setting; a secluded place where it’s possible to settle down. A place tamed by a dose of sun saturated drone. Electronic synths, so prevalent in Linear Bells’ past, have evaporated like the morning promise of an arriving, gorgeous day. Summer Haze also differs from the past in length and scope. At twenty six minutes, Summer Haze, the first of the two compositions, is the longest piece of music Linear Bells has attempted, and this shows an increased confidence and an assurance over where he wants to take his music. It’s natural to think that an increase in confidence is something that will always be expected as time progresses, but at such an early stage in terms of his discography, it’s an aspect that very much excites. The music sounds deeper, in control and well articulated in a way that Los Angeles and An Island promised but never quite attained to such a clear degree, despite the haze that surround the music. Linear Bells hasn’t needed much time for any stylistic adjustment, as he leans more towards drone than any synth driven ambient, and this may point to a future direction. The use of guitar, although undetectable, alongside piano, melodica and dazed field recordings, slants the music at a sleepy angle that develops at ease, like sprawling on the grass as skywatching turns to stargazing.
A haven of tranquility surrounds a circular stretch of claimed grass in the park. Summer Haze wraps all who listen in a time-lapsed breeze, arms spread wide amid the mixed scent of lavender and grass, laying low to the world as it drifts ever on. An ever-shifting light simmers the drones, heating them up the longer they remain outside, until eventually they breathe down upon us like fractured, failing rays falling from a transparent, mirrored sea of blue and tanning the neck.
Yet, we are not totally out of the world’s reach; the music, while relaxed, is also alive to everything around her; a park, or a field, may only be an entrance to a city district or a sun-washed suburbia. Linear Bells reflects this in his use of field recordings; an intruding, revving engine, accelerating to an unknown destination, light birdsong and unclear voices of passers-by, both indistinct in distance and in sight underneath the shades. The use of active field recordings creates a sense of awareness, and an immediacy to the world around us. The peaceful afternoon, hours long, can easily be interrupted by the approaching evening light, or sleepy conversations that seem louder than they actually are as we drift off. These recordings effectively split our attention away from the main drone, sprinkling the atmosphere as they are absorbed into the air, while the sun continues to circle us in a halo of holy light. Around the twenty minute point, the drone becomes luminescent and invincible, until it fades like the late evening sunset. A light glow is left behind, followed by five minutes of silence.
“This Afternoon or Tomorrow” hydrates what has become sun-dried in its refreshing raindrops and slowly gleaming synths; reminiscent of Robert Rich, it’s a shaded cove that contrasts the scorching heat. The synths aren’t without their own heat in the lines of emerging drone, pulling at the angles and trying to reach our now tanned skin. The rain trickles down and refreshes the lips, allowing us all to take in drink after the almost thirty minute soak in the sun that has left the face radiant (if the lotion has worked.) Linear Bells seems to have realised that a contrast was required after the tanning, but “This Afternoon or Tomorrow” isn’t there to just fill out the record; it’s a separate piece all by itself, and regardless of the asymmetry in length, it deserves to be here.
Late summer can still be seen in September, as the sky remains dressed in a deep azure. The silence at the end can only mean that the death of summer is almost here, as the cooler winds of Autumn approach. Any arrival is delayed by the haze that continues to set us adrift. It may be September, but Autumn can wait awhile longer. (James Catchpole)