Shining pure white, Ersatz’s peaceful wings of sound take the listener into a place of refuge. Hints of… is ghostly, intangible music, rolling and swelling, gliding as gracefully as a swan in mid-flight but doing something much more daring with its tone. The creamy sounds skim the music’s surface; it’s a kind of low-level flying. Beauty is dawning, a broken glint of crisp morning light rising over something as spectacular as the Alps, the rest of the scenery a complete whiteout.
As each note passes, the listener becomes embalmed in clear air. She yearns to give, because she loves. The tones would appear to be without gravity if it were not for the presence of an anchoring bass, and their fine, sensitive touch is always a respectful one, understanding of the moment. The understated trumpets are like kind phantoms emerging from the dank fog, and the music does have the quality of water in that it slips through the fingers, sliding effortlessly as it finds the path of least resistance.
Emotions (“Regret”), states (“Being”), and feelings (“Comfort”) are all hinted at, but it does so much more than that in its vague, half-there sighing. By clothing the record in a layer of transparency, Ersatz have paradoxically created a tonally fulfilling and complete album. The half-there atmosphere is surrounded by a full circle. Innocent half-phrases and softhearted melodies disappear unexpectedly, much like life itself, and we’re never privy to knowing when they might just fade away. The only thing that isn’t in danger of fading is the warm afterglow in the heart.
The slow piano of “Acceptance” is ready to move on, and the gentle electronics of “Comfort” are welcoming in their unreserved embrace, uniting everyone and everything within its music. With its weightless swells and shivering notes encased in icy blocks of reverb and delay, the piece feels cool and sparse without the bass, but when it rises up, some body heat is brought back into the music. The whirring electronics are left to flutter like closed eyelashes in the background, while plump and dreamy notes bring in the dawn of something positive. These songs have good vibrations thrumming in their core.
The deep blue drones of “Reflection” seem to emanate from the other side of a wide gulf. Serenity hovers over these subdued waters. Everything is smooth, but that doesn’t make the music emotionally stale or straight-faced. On the contrary, the stillness is deceptively deep, fathomless, and the record is a thoughtful one. This fourth album from Ben Johnson and Jim Cornick is designed for indigo sunsets and tender, light kisses in the midnight hour. (James Catchpole)