The three gentlemen of Imprints know how to fill up a room with tape machines, synthesizers, homemade pedals, computers, pedal steel, mixing boards, and whatever else makes music-making-sense at the time. Have a look at their recording setup. Shaun Crook, Darren Clark and Alex Delfont refer to their live performances as a “battle” between each other and their gear. When one performer is ramping up the intensity the others have to pull back, as Imprints uses Terry Riley’s method of looping and feedback called the “Time Lag Accumulator.” If the sound is pushed too hard, everything will be lost in a harsh, unsalvageable wall of sound. The survival of a live performance depends on the commitment to ebb and flow, dark and light, tension and release.
The visual chaos of their setup makes for some sumptuous ambient compositions. The loose organics of the music on the group’s debut Data Trails properly reflects the fact that Imprints recorded the five tracks in about three days, which is certainly a triumph when one hears how fluid and varied each track gets. In “The Sea & Electricity” a glow is cast much like other ambient artists like Mountains – a melodic dream coming into view. Disparately “Wardenclyffe Tower,” steps into sonic skree and blown out computer damage that is more akin to Fennesz lit on fire and broadcast in black-and-white.
Not unlike another Serein release by Donato Wharton, Data Trails has a placid yet bleak nature, the rawness of an icy dawn. And yet, it is not without sunlight to melt the chill away. Imprints continually toys with the balance between warmth and cold. “White Russian” has the pacing of a campfire saga on the tundra with its shuffling, slow focus clicks and hushed rhythmic clatter. As a cold drone swells around an electric piano melody, the blowout becomes imminent. Gracefully, the song is saved from oblivion, with an aftermath peppered with humming tones that feel like the dying embers inside a furnace.
This album is a great example of ambient music behaving as environmental sculpture. Each moment feels alive as no glitch or sound is ever repeated. When looked at objectively there are clear strands of melody and rhythm, but the source materials are often so obscure that it is easy to let the music just be what it is. While recording only took a few days, the manipulating and overdubbing process took the group two years, sometimes in person, and more often through the Internet from various countries. Ambient albums that take so many varied sounds and contain them in a smooth blend are a joy to listen to over and over. The album often feels intellectual or physical, rather than emotional, but the live drums of “The Sea & Electricity” bring our circulation back. This closing track fills the wintery air with a thermal wave, striking a fine balance for a detail-rich record. (Nayt Keane)
Check out the Interactive Website for Data Trails