To the last spiteful sceptics still unimpressed by the power of penetration some finely woven soundscapes can have on a human mind, let’s first put one thing straight: quality ambient music neither equates to functional sound loops for the elevators, nor does it make for a mere ASMR auxiliary for the anxious, sleep-deprived bourgeois seeking a bit of rest amidst the city’s turmoil.
Quality ambient music is, by definition, situationist, whilst immersive in function. Similarly to a hefty body subjecting you to the effects of its own mass and gravity, ambient music alters your immediate perception through ways and processes that can get so deep they’d be well worth analysing in scientific terms. Yet, since IA is no psycho-acoustic focused journal, we’ll take a look at Ultrafog‘s brilliant new mini-album, ‘How Those Fires Burned That Are No Longer‘, under more of a poetic, narrative angle, as the LP shelters a wealth of feelings and sensations to experience.
Landing via Motion Ward by early September, Kouhei Fukuzumi’s debut long-player shines with both a multitextural and multitextual density, blurring the line between the transience of the present moment and the everlastingness of memory. Ebbing and flowing through a post-trance state of daze, the album’s opener ‘Swallow‘ ushers you into deeply emotional limbo, conjuring up Hopper’esque images of empty rooms and troubling perspectives. A sense of timeless organicity flows across the grooves (‘OIO‘), drawing parallels with the work of Russian composer Eduard Artemyev, although the feeling of solitude to be felt here mostly belongs to the digital-frantic era.
If ‘How Those Fires…‘ is in some ways the fruit of an ill-designed world where missed calls and falsely rewarding social interactions trace diverging, knotty patterns to live by, it also gives its all in bandaging these open wounds. By turns icy and warm, lush and minimal, inviting and volatile, particularly graceful moments emerge from behind the leafy curtains adorning Fukuzumi’s shape-shifting melodic framework. Here, the emphasis on a synth or subtle natural noises rapidly acquires symbolic value, and once they get under the listener’s magnifying glass, it’s a lavishly forested microcosm that blossoms, never quite stripping bare of its mystic aura (‘Golden Tundra‘, ‘Scent‘).
When speaking of Kouhei’s work as an attempt to evoke memory through the prism of sound, the label actually makes a strong point. Fukuzumi’s subtle craft translates the fluid continuity of time and its mark on us via an intricate maze of submerging sound layers, and where each corridor opens on distinct windows, each of them displaying distinct flashbacks. This is where Ultrafog’s music gains a further impressively haunting power of seduction, seeing him merge its malleable nature with the recipient’s singular history to construct an object truly unique and compelling.
A3. Golden Tundra