As a genre, ambient has been generating a few more pixel inches than usual recently. XLR8R, FACT and A Strangely Isolated Place have all dedicated lengthy wordage to a musical form edged into popularity since Eno’s pioneering of the style back in the late ’70s.
One of the greatest facets of ambient music is not just its ability to tell a story, paint a picture and accompany your mind on whichever journeying direction it may wish to take but also, as many of the above articles allude, it’s had complete resilience as a genre over time – being one you can hop in and out of whilst still remaining enjoyable and relevant as a listen.
Of course, all this depends on the music itself and it’s with much anticipation that I fire up Neel’s “Phobos” which, on paper, has all the hallmarks of a great example of ambient production. Not least does it hark back, rather joyously, to ’90s ambient space themes but there’s obvious hints this should be something special following Neel’s work with Donato Dozzy on 2012’s sublime, verging on classic, ‘Voices from the Lake‘.
As with “Voices…”, Phobos is best consumed in one take – working far more effectively as a totality listen with each track flowing effortlessly into the next, creating a whole movement than set of separate pieces. Primed by the accompanying notes to ‘end in a moment of bliss’ after a narrative arc ‘traversing deep space’, I’m pleased to say that against these two descriptors alone the album more than delivers.
Rich drones and luscious synth work caress the ears as opener ‘Post Landing‘ announces the beginning of our journey. Solar wind particles scrape past the ships’ portholes creating static interference as we thrust through the geomagnetic turbulence of ‘Storm in Stickney‘ (which despite sounding like a Northern English town is, of course, the largest crater on Phobos).
We enter proper psychedelic wormhole territory across the middle section of the album – things could not be more sci-fi as beautifully poised organic sounds rumble in the depths of our ship’s hull whilst classic cosmic hum (not unlike the ever present ‘silent hum’ in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey) accompany us through ‘The Gravity of Limtoc‘ and ‘Travelling on Kepler Dorsum‘.
‘Life on Laputa Regio‘ and ‘The Secret Revealed‘ announce a majestic conclusion, unfurling the first melodies proper as strings, bell like tones and probing subs form a beautiful nebula of sound to bring our cinematic voyage to a close.
Need I say more? An absolute must for all fans of exquisitely produced deep ambient music.
‘Phobos’ is released 10th November via Spectrum Spools, order a vinyl copy through their web-store.