On August 19, Serein releases Orbital Planes & Passenger Trains Volume 1, a sixteen track compilation of ambient and modern classical music. Available on double vinyl, CD, and as a digital download, the compilation features new music from a number of key artists in the scene today, including Brambles, Otto A Totland, Dan Abrams (of Shuttle358), Olan Mill & Isnaj Dui, The Inventors of Aircraft and Benoît Pioulard. The Welsh label has also set up a nicely designed interactive site for you to check out here.
The music pulls out of the station; a soft tinkling (or tickling) of a piano opens the journey, gliding over the music smoothly. On “Petrichor” the rougher edges of the strings contradict the smooth, dark stone colors, and an ethereal vocal glides around a forest of dim sounds, brushing away the foliage with outstretched notes, all the while surrounded by the haze of a purple dusk.
Like a pack of Skittles, every track has a different flavor. At one moment, grey waves surge and loose clouds of sea foam break against the shore. At the next, bright arpeggios relax beside the light, clasping sound of a wet beat. Reverb is an essential element in ambient, and it’s utilized in a number of ways throughout the record, cloaking, clouding and showering the music. Fine orbs of lights sparkle brightly, and a gentle tone fizzles away like a recently opened can of soda. This surrounds the harmony of Pioulard’s “Alogia”, tanning the magical music until it’s crisp and slowly beginning to burn at the edges. The slow pace continues with “87 Billion Suns”, a beautiful track by Strië which features a cool choir and is embellished with a reclining, shuffling rhythm. When these two elements unite, they produce an authentic sunset moment and a nice Balearic shimmer. The Balustrade Ensemble‘s piece is recognizable for its piercing clarity and its emerald sea of glass.
The piano of “Storfjord” is like an ice cube in the ambient drink, cooling, hydrating and refreshing the compilation as it ticks over the halfway point. The siesta energizes the remainder of the album, because later on there’s a clattering of drums and some more light experimentation which nevertheless manages to keep the calm disposition of the record intact. Clanking pipes, shuddering chasms and eerie undersea moods fill “A Lightless Volume of Water”, its ocean hiding wonderful behemoths, while “Solaris”, by Yui Onodera & Chihei Hatakeyama, glows warmly, the guitar’s bright notes reminiscing on a golden summer vacation. A drone plays under the guitar, and soon the strings enter, repeating those precious memories (and melodies) that can last a lifetime.
The wind-swept beats of “Frozen” (Segue) mix with the gently strummed and delay-stacked chords, its casual air ascending as easily as an airliner. The graceful lifting is balletic in spite of the engine’s deafening roars and shrill whines. The laid-back rhythm slowly pushes the track forward, like gazing out of the window at fifteen thousand feet and gradually seeing the ocean touch the port. Whether flying or cruising, the music is perfect for summer. The sublime “Zazen” guides the music onto its final approach, and it closes the compilation. The melody of the flute is made out of silk, and it snakes around the swelling, golden light of a summer’s dawn. The finale is a stunner, but we’d expect nothing less from Alex Smalley. The music is fluid and always composed. After 76 minutes, the excursion is at an end, but there’s no jet lag or post-vacation blues. (James Catchpole)