For long periods, ambient music shrouds itself in a still-warm afterglow; during a golden, San Antonio sunset, or on a spring evening out in the country when the air is full of a dusty light. An endless summer that couldn’t possibly last has given way to autumn’s fading, misty light, and now the radiating atmospheres are quickly cooling until they’re just a distant memory. One night in November feels just as long as the entire summer season, but now it is a dark and silent affair. Undressed branches reveal stark, hollow indentations. Notes are laid bare. The warm harmonies seclude themselves away from the world for another year. Rattled by a blast of frigid air, these introverted, introspective tunes are perfect for the long chill of winter. This is Ambient Zone 2.
Digitonal‘s “Sentinel” points the way to a blue, tonal period. It sets off on its cold, January journey, leather boots clinging to the icy walkway. A densely-formed cloud-cluster lowers the visibility. “On Wings” by Afterhere is next up, and the heavy fog settles into the music. Sparse piano chords map out the cool terrain. “New Age Sunrise” by Chris Coco is a warmer piece. Deeper synths push themselves forward. A lovely electronic melody sleepily circles with eyes half open as the winter day dawns. A faint glow warms the body and the heart, but the music’s interspersed with pockets of ice-carved air.
The piano of “Autumn Hill” (Jon Hopkins) is a blissful two minutes. It sits alone, like a naked branch in a misty field. Otherwise, the place is empty; everyone’s gone into hibernation. Loner‘s “My Kingdom, Your Sunset” is tinted with a strange, off-kilter sadness, and the deeply haunting, heavy synths wrap their tentacles around a lovely, deep progression. The lyrics are caught between cool reflection and heart-crushing pain: ‘your sun set in me’. And the lyrics reflect the changing seasons of life as well as those of nature – ‘they come, they go‘. Every rose has its thorn. It’s the closest we come to a dark pop sound. “Caeleste” (Echaskech) is an icy soundscape that gives us time to pause, and things get even cooler with Xspance‘s “The Last Sunrise”. Walking ever on, the music drifts and slows until it’s close to stasis. Heartbeats slow to a crawl, but they still keep a regular pulse. Closer “Paths” (Dan Arborise) bids us adieu as the strings of an acoustic guitar ring softly. Mixed by Chris Coco, Ambient Zone 2 is another cool selection. Set aside some time on a December evening, play the music, and you’ll feel thoroughly chilled. (James Catchpole)
Release date: 20 November