Arkhonia – Trails/Traces
Arkhonia’s “Trails/Traces” fulfils the much promised, but seldom delivered, remit of large portions of ambient music – “to take the listener on a journey”…
From the deep rumblings of the album’s opener to the final decaying notes and crackles of its closing track, all manner of mood-shifting experimentation directs (and occasionally derails) the listener along a sonic path that is at times unnerving and, at others, warmly welcoming.
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Each piece leads neatly into the next and one would not suspect that this album was assembled from material produced over the span of the last decade – the production values on display in the oldest pieces are qualitatively indistinguishable from the most recent and all are invested with a luscious, finely honed depth of texture.
Conventional song structures are eschewed and supplanted by morphing, reverberating assemblages that, whilst never sounding instrumentally “organic”, appear to have been grown rather than written. Tellingly, the only track which appears (slightly) more conventionally musical is a remix/reworking of a live recording taken from a Liondialer release on the same label. Even so, the Blade Runner-styled epic futurism of ‘GDLadyburn’ never exactly bursts into pop hook territory – its brooding, expansive synths and onslaught of widescreen ambience conjuring up neon-lit, midnight cityscapes more readily than falling back on the gentle pastoral stylings of so many other acts operating in this musical sphere.
Elsewhere (on ‘BCTrails’), chiming chords spread out across fizzing computer hiss and provide a familiar ebbing warmth that regular listeners of the genre will find pleasingly absorbing. The evolving, stretched notes and waves of layered sound provide a thread guiding the listener into a meditative state, alert to subtle changes in the soundscape and willing to be lulled deeper. The merest hint of a chord emerges in the subsequent track (‘CDTraces’), playing out at the borders of consciousness and hinting, through the surrounding noise and sounds of a distant storm, at the beauty about to follow in the (previously released) track ‘DDRhodes’.
“Trails/Traces” is a great, absorbing listen from start to finish – it definitely falls within the “ambient” genre but is assured enough to vary the flavour of the ambience throughout. As a result of this willingness to push the sound of the album away from a single-vision exploration of minimalism, Arkhonia has produced a captivating release of quite impressive scope and depth that rewards a patient listener with its, often surprising, twists and turns.