Ascendant Elemental Air (2023)
Updated: Mar 17
“Great ambient beats in textures of psychill and psybient”
1 Earthbreath 7:32
2 Lucid 9:26
3 Bioluminescence 7:56
4 Gateway Meridian 5:34
5 Vespyr Descends 6:58
6 The Loom 7:19
7 Sylph 8:18
8 Under Clouds 7:12
9 Vector 93 6:18
(DDL 66:34) (V.F.)
Except for the albums of Remote Vision, a Don Tyler's project, it's been a long time since the American duo Ascendant, made up justly of Don and of Chris Bryant, produced music. We have to go back to an extended edition of the Meridian download album, Meridian EX, to find a last work co-signed by the 2 founders of the Californian label Synphaera Records. And it's on AURA, which is the exclusive portal to the musical universes of Chris Bryant and Don Tyler, including the music of Ascendant, S1gns Of L1fe, Starterra, Phase47 and Remote Vision, that ELEMENTAL AIR is released. It is an album conceived mainly on ambient rhythms of which the lyrical and organic textures, the chirps of analog years, are forming a quiet musical odyssey that we can listen to before Morpheus takes us into his kingdom. The rhythms are organized by rather similar sequencer lines that exploit tones clothed in sleet, in parasitic noises. The rhythmic fluctuations vary from ambient to semi-driving with circles, loops and lines that drift slightly into psychill and/or psybient musical envelopes. These ambient elements are linked with the usual textures of the electronic music (EM) of the 70's with layers of mists both gothic and/or soporific. In short, another nice album from the American duo that spares no effort to fill our ears with a music rich of its interstellar emotions.
Earthbreath sets the tone to this new musical odyssey with a fluid movement of the sequencer. The rhythm is ambient in nature with a series of telegraphic hits of which the continuous riffs texture sounds like an imaginary train running in slow motion. The sequencer bounces its jumping keys without respite, inserting an inflection that brings up an equally whitish shadow to give an aural illusion of skidding in its cohesion. I like this formula of the American duet which diverts thus the minimalist vision, this repetitiveness in the form of the rhythm by giving it a transient depth. It is thus magnetizing, and it flows in an envelope of passive hums, like a long imperfect filament with a delicately ascending curve and with some modulations in its color, texture, intensity and velocity. Its slightly drifting appearance also gives it a finely stroboscopic look. In short, it's minimalist with just the right amount of varying intonation to seduce until a bass line pulses and gives it a slow rhythmic boost in a psychill envelope. Lucid's structure is quite similar. The flow is slightly faster with exhalations from a bass line that are more sustained, giving a more dramatic feel to a mood well wrapped in moody orchestrations. The movement of the sequencer makes this swarm of rhythm lines undulate, as in a pendulum effect, where the modulations are more accentuated, giving that impression of velocity as the pulses push it up. The hum of the bass layer artificially inflates the reach of these impulses that drift with different intonations in the colors, giving it an organic and psychedelic appearance in an envelope that all in all is quite cinematic. After a resonant fog layer as an introduction, Bioluminescence offers a rhythmic structure firmly hammered by arpeggios that fall curtly while extending mini circles of contracted harmonies. The bass pulses are snoring and slow down the pace that quietly unravels to offer both rhythmic and atmospheric visions with sequences that run in spasmodic filaments. The movement of the sequencer meets that of the bass pulsations which is more sustained whereas the synths untie lines and waves which trace aerial swirls. The track dives into an atmospheric phase around the 5th minute to be reborn with a more spasmodic vision.
Gateway Meridian offers a pulsating rhythm that hops around in layers of ether and of morphine haze. Filaments contract and unwind in this firmament filled with fragments of electronic melodies, some haunting and others more liberated. Vespyr Descends is in the genre of Earthbreath and Lucid, while The Loom, after an atmospheric opening guided by an ambient rhythmic structure, deploys a curt and lively movement of the sequencer that makes bouncing its jumping keys in a tone as piercing as its rhythmic flow. The rhythm then goes off on a slightly more dynamic tangent. Sylph follows with a mass of floating lunar orchestrations. The rhythm follows a minimalist tangent in an ambient vision. It undulates and drifts with its psychedelic-organic tones in a gloomy universe filled with crackling drones and buzzing shadows. Under Clouds is of the more atmospheric kind without sequenced rhythms but with long, undulating sonic strands that drift as they crawl through a sound-effects-laden zone that borders psybient. One can hear, especially towards its finale, good vestiges of unfinished melodies. Vector 93 concludes this latest Ascendant opus in an ever so lyrical vision with a structure that is of the same mold as the very good Gateway Meridian.
Navigating on calm waters with slight rhythmic turbulence, ELEMENTAL AIR follows the same rhythmic poetry paths as Particle Horizon, an album made in 2017. This 6th album-download from Ascendant is available only to members of the new AURA portal for a $10 per month subscription. This portal, which has become the real thing for many musicians in the sphere of Bandcamp, is very active in terms of musical releases. It's at your discretion and it opens a door to an enchanting universe for those who love psychill and psybient with yesterday's links solidly anchored in the new technologies of contemporary EM. Let's just say that the ears get their money's worth here!
Sylvain Lupari (March 17th, 2023) ***¾**
Available on the AURA portal
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