The music of Chris Russell and Disturbed Earth (Dean Richards) on their first Relaxed Machinery release, The Approaching Armada (RM0008) fully lives up to any expectations created by such a compelling and dramatic title. This album is beatless, atmospheric and mesmerizing.
Wonderfully-woven textures and bedrock drones irresistibly draw you in. Especially strong in this regard are Clutching at the Strands, with its buzzing, churning, strongly-breathing processed harmonium tilting endlessly around a hearty drone; and the title track, which perfectly embodies that title. A strong sense of foreboding grabs you at once. A heavy drone with a rising and falling chord sweeps us away before it.
The opening piece, Watching as Pools Form, has a metal-tinged church organ-like texture, with high voices flying away in spirals, awe-inspiring, mystic and majestic – we could be watching an abyss forming, a Grand Canyon or a Mariana Trench.
Each piece dwells in one place, in one moment, like a still life – but raised gloriously to three and four dimensions and beyond. Harmonically, they hardly move, but when your chords sound like this, you don’t need many. There’s nowhere to go, except right here.
That said, there is still some sense of motion, intensely so on Neon Light, with its frenzy of pan-echoing whooshes and receding glassy clanks, swirling in manic fashion, threatening to disorient. Similarly, Leaves on Trees features open, sweeping, sky-high Oberheim-like pads, tumbling over each other like roiling storm clouds, along with short spiraling motives.
Cold Night features chilling chords and a filter-sweeping spacey, hard metallic edge. It’s cold in deep space. The closing (and longest) piece, To the East of Evening, has an intense, breathy, choral presence. Strange, brief events flashing by – and the unrecognizably-processed voice of guest performer Pixyblink – inform this piece, hints of things unseen and unraveling. Moving east in the evening leads into darkness, the unknown. We definitely turn the page with this denouement, to face new and (for now) unknowable possibilities.
This is ambient music in a very classic sense – except for one point: Good luck listening to it as background – if you turn it down very quiet you might have a chance. Otherwise, prepare to be held rapt for the duration. Highly recommended!