Signals (Sonic Reverie, 2010)
For: Max Richter, Eluvium, Kevin Greenspon
Byline: Winchester, UK ambient musician battles Tinnitus, emerges with masterpiece of nocturne beauty.
Being a recent college grad thrown into the hostile world of job-seeking in a down economy is a tough gig. I often am lured into job fairs and expos with little more than my resume and haircut to try and convince large corporations that I can write convincing enough prose to sell their products. I mean, I write a blog! Tome to the Weather Machine! It is pretty soul-sucking work and every once in awhile I am trapped in a room with former CFOs and Database Programmers forced to listen to a motivational speaker before getting our chance to pitch ourselves to HR reps from some company that nobody wants to work for. These speakers usually work on the format that a once debilitating blow actually inspired them to work harder than they ever had and achieve success they never thought possible. As cliché as it sounds, it is usually the most interesting and inspiring part of the program.
Tom Honey a.k.a Good Weather for an Airstrike could probably get up there with a power-point presentation and do the same thing. Diagnosed (if that is the right word) with tinnitus, which resulted in a long bout with insomnia and hearing issues. A story similar to, although way less dramatic than, TOME fav. Aarktica who lost all hearing in his right ear and sought to make music that replicated the far away, underwater sounds that made up the way he interpreted sound. The result was 2009's masterpiece of graceful tonality In Sea. Signals follows a similar trajectory, gorgeous warm tones of synth and guitar-based drones punctuated with moments of classical beauty via bowed violins. The idea was to create a short record of songs to help him fall asleep. The experiment would be a success if the album wasn't so engaging and heartfelt. I'm not sure if it is easy to fall asleep to staccato picked guitar lines, but album opener "Hand In Hand Into the Ocean Blue," while elegant in its delivery, seems to defy the premise of the album. Not a bad way to start an album by pretty much destroying the listeners expectations of complete Steve Roach-esque snooze-fest. "We Fall Back into the Ocean" strays the farthest from the tried and true guitar and synth based drones featured on the album, the minimal bowed violins and impeccably-timed piano lines recall Max Richter in mood and pacing, and at its best, Arvo Part in emotional weight. "Beside Me Today" and its ambient-drone cohorts are slow-drip stalactites of crystalline swells and ebbing moontide purity. Honey's compositions sound almost too perfect, sometimes allowing sound to pass right through a flawless prism instead of some needed refraction and distortion around the rough edges to keep things dangerous. With that said, for an album whose stated purpose to put the listener (or in this case the musician to sleep) often doesn't quite know how to approach this. Self-titled "Signals" and "A Last Farewell and We Shall Run," with their angel-cooing synth lines serve this purpose almost too well, while "Beside Me Today" and "We Fall Back..." are simply too engaging to let go of. So, GWFAAS, I hope you got some sleep, I hope you are feeling better, but I really hope you keep putting out records like this nocturne collection of post-classical lullabies like you would never sleep again without them.