While many ambient releases owe a debt to Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, few share its specific subject matter. In presentation and timbre, Porya Hatami‘s latest album can be seen as the spiritual successor to that earlier work. The piano, textures and washes of drone serve as reminders of the liminal space.
Only twice – once in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and another time in New York’s JFK – have I heard music such as this played in an airport. Unfortunately, the more typical soundtrack is one of soft pop and rock. The purported goal is to put people at ease, but not everyone is eased by the same sounds; some will feel left out, while others will feel more anxious.
Hatami’s viewpoint is that of the pilot, who also must wait to take off and land. The special edition packaging is a “Pilot’s Logbook”, the highlight of which is a glass slide that is embedded in the cover. Inside, one finds a selection of ephemera akin to the loose papers a pilot might have, although in this case they have been sewn into the book. Mine includes a handwritten flying time summary and a page from a radio navigation book. My grandfather loved planes and wrote many books about them, so the logbook evokes happy memories.
As one might expect from Hatami, whose last reviewed album was promoted by a video of a snail, the album’s pace is slow and soothing. This is more an album for flying above clouds than it is for flying into a storm, and one imagines a voice from the cockpit saying, “You are now free to move around the cabin.” The most effective piece is the center track, “Landing”, as it includes radio transmissions and light engine sounds, leaving no doubt as to its subject. Strangely, crickets seem present as well, operating as metaphor as one does not normally encounter the insects on planes or in terminals. For the most part, Hatami’s typical electronic pops are held to a minimum as he concentrates on keyboards and extended tones; there’s certainly nothing to fear on this flight. When the plane has landed, the pilot places another entry in his log: another mission successfully completed. (Richard Allen)