Channeling – Bluffs (Polar Seas Recordings, 2017)

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We don’t always need big, sweeping albums to make statements, even in Ambient. Sometimes it’s good, refreshing even, to listen to a release with a shorter runtime, especially if its thoughts and feelings are well crystallised. Channeling’s Bluffs barely makes it to the half-hour mark in its three refined pieces, but it’s quality over quantity at its finest.

The first two tracks are a contiguous pair of seascape visions; opening “Drifts” is serene in its smoothed drone airs, glassy and refractive tones that hum with an aged power as we look out upon the endless, timeless turnings of the ocean. Frothy synths skitter and bleed out of the backfield, liquid waves delivering their energy, transmuting into a vaporous mist of electronica as the power of an entire sea’s worth of tide is unloaded, wave by wave. Anything caught idling in it would be helpless against its barely restrained strength, and as the synths and drones make way for the crooning guitar we migrate into the resistance of “Bluffs”.

The pickings are echoic, stoic, isolated. They are the jutting headlands and underappreciated cliff faces that stand in quiet defiance of the water that undoes them, tide by tide. Even in destruction they shield, the scree at their slopes nullifying wave energy and absorbing impact damage to slow its advance, but erosion is an inevitability. The piece crumbles slowly, static abrasions creeping in with each cycling riff, stripping the music back into its constituent grains as it mulches it into a sandy oblivion.

Let us find some other landfall, seeks closing “Doves”, somewhere less at the mercy of the sea. It leaves its rocky shorelines far below, cruising on soft drones and lightly crinkling noise like wind rustling over feathers or sweeping busily into the ears. It feels soft and hopeful, its early oscillations blending out into more luxurious passages as drone vistas inflate the air, a curious lightness that seems to fill the sky and the mind, jet streams delivering us to new and distant shores with the promise of Sun and safety.

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