Quicksails – Silver Balloons In Clusters
Under The Spire has struck gold again with this, a vinyl reissue of Quicksails’ Silver Balloons In Clusters, which was originally released on cassette by Deception Island in early 2011. Ben Billington drops the sticks for the most part here and wires up the synths instead. Quicksails is a radically different sound for the man best known for his drum work in Tiger Hatchery and some almighty solo percussion sessions. Anyone who knows him from White Prism will have a better idea of what to expect.
But that’s not to say the album is totally without a beat. ‘Must Never Catch It’ shakes past breezily on a tribal clatter and ‘A Million Knots’ unravels out of regal Kosmiche layers to start throbbing subtly at your temples, the loops loosening on their spools as gorgeous washes of pure space flow around them. Having said that, there are less percussive elements at play here than on past Quicksails releases. Instead Silver Balloons In Clusters allows samples and effects to carry it forward. ‘Deep Creak’, for example, is the aching sound of ghost ships approaching through thick fog. The ancient groans and crashing waves are pitted against alarm sounds, blaring out as if preparing shore-dwellers for imminent doom.
‘Constant Air Reservoir’, the sprawling centrepiece, brings together the other songs on the album in a twenty-minute medley, serving as a kind of prolonged fever dream, as though all Billington’s ideas are swarming around his head at the same time. It doesn’t sit altogether comfortably in a sequential sense – especially as it comes only four tracks in – but take this one on it’s own and it’s a potent dose. ‘Could It Be A Silver Balloon?’ returns to aquatic swells and lulls but drops far into the abyss. The distant echoes and faltering electronics combine to create a feeling of total desolation before pretty flickers of light skitter the scene like curious deep sea animals and the grit begins to settle.
Billington treats sound like Goethe did light. Silver Balloons In Clusters is an album of both severe darkness and epic luminosity and either one would be impossible without the existence of the other. Here they combine like specks of dust do with sunbeams.