Oh, how we long to travel again. Even those who flew over the holidays experienced excruciating delays and cancellations. Prior to the pandemic, Alex Green was able to visit locations throughout Europe, Asia and the United States, collecting field recordings as souvenirs. These travels provided perspective: Planet Earth was not as divided as it seemed, nor were the personalities of its inhabitants. The more Alex traveled, the more he saw commonalities: people separated by continents but united in hopes and dreams. During the isolation of the pandemic, Alex decided to compose a collage of global impressions, stitching together an encouraging document that makes the world seem a little less large and intimidating.
This may be a good time to mention that Alex Green is himself a composite: two people, a character, a blend, in the same way that “people are composites of the places and experiences that shape them.” This may lead to some confusion, in like manner as Marian Hill; there is no Marian Hill, as there is no spoon. The diversion is intentional, meant to underline the commonality of experience.
While the album is ambient, it also possesses an electronic sheen, many sequences reminiscent of The Orb’s “Little Fluffy Clouds” or even Lemon Jelly’s body of work. The album begins in this vein with piano, cello, guitar and found percussion that sounds like bicycle wheels and light workshop tapping. After this overture, a more ambient tone enters in waves and loops. There’s no indication what country we are in, and the background conversation (in English) yields little hint of tourist or resident ~ likely an intentional choice. Then the English disappears for a time, just as the American travelers give way to the global experience. Children’s chants in “Kottiyoor” are a kind inclusion, the area itself home to a temple and wildlife sanctuary. Morning arrives, and there are roosters and other birds, and around the world, listeners remark, we have roosters and other birds too! In the words of the famous hymn, Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine. But other hearts in other lands are beating, With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
The music gently embraces its narrators, creating a cocoon in which it seems we might get along after all. “Do we know each other?” asks one speaker. “Why, do you think we’re going to? Lord, I hope so. I suppose so, I don’t know,” respond others. “Philately” (which refers to the collecting of postage stamps) proceeds into the post-rock arena, momentarily reminding listeners of where Public Service Broadcasting started before they became more commercial. Even the speakers of “Thinking With the Wrong Head Again” are treated kindly as Alex Green’s empathy washes over their oblivious f-bombs.
The album closes strongly with “Prettier in a Different Context” and “Circular Me.” The first is a love letter to the skies, folding in samples from air traffic control. The finale, the album’s finest track, brings the message home with beautiful dialogue, intertwining and overlapping: “What might happen when we all at once awake?” The implication is spiritual, as well as physical ~ despite being grounded, we are still able to fly. (Richard Allen)