The Colossal Ithaca Trio – New Music from the Delta Quadrant
Posted In: - James Catchpol, Hibernate Recordings, New Music from the Delta Quadrant, The Colossal Ithaca Trio
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The Colossal Ithaca Trio’s music is, no doubt, music on a truly eternal level. As high as the Heavens, the music is a celestial zone of soothing, serene ambience, cuddling up to us amicably after a tiresome day when it could so easily choose to intimidate us with its spacious soundscapes, like city skyscrapers that dominate the eye from all angles. The Colossal Ithaca Trio doesn’t need this ‘look at me’ attitude to gain our attention; the music is gorgeous in its understated ambience, like the beautiful girl at the back of the class, free of make-up, who doesn’t pretend to be someone she isn’t. It may seem strange, then, to proclaim that New Music from the Delta Quadrant is also a highly intimate, personal listen, despite its endless atmosphere that seems to stretch on and on. It’s close enough to feel the breathy drone rustling over your neck. This raises an interesting point; music that is capacious in sound can also, paradoxically, stick as close to us as an unseen guardian angel, cast down from an ambient afterlife onto the physical Earth as a caring protector.
Colossal was not a word frequently featured in New Music’s original production, released back in 2010. Only 10 hand-made editions were readily available, so even the thought of listening to the music in its entirety became a source of disappointment to many and a rare pleasure to a few. New Music has enjoyed a re-released, a re-working by the Trio (Oliver Thurley) and a re-mastering by Lawrence English, all of which should help to dispel any disappointment the first time around. Thanks to the music’s tweaking and re-mastering, the thought that runs through the mind when listening to New Music from the Delta Quadrant is that this is the first time around.
Deep at the core of the Trio’s music lies an ambient, experimental approach that sometimes, alluringly, strays into drone. A warm ambience lays deep inside the heated, billowing layers of drone like fresh, warm sheets wrapped around a lover’s body. ‘Fluidic Space’ sets the stunning scene. In fact, it’ll be difficult to find a point of departure any smoother than this opening track. A beautiful female vocal repeats in a shimmering loop, ascending and descending, and a deeper drone adds the founding backbone (but it’s still a backbone as soft as glistening, ambient jelly), curving itself over the sound and enveloping everything in a warm hug. This voice may be the one of our guardian, her voice looping as she descends through thin clouds, sending traces of angelic trails into the air like the white lines of a jet-stream. It’s a serene harmony, gliding to Earth on golden wings of peace;. a peace that is very much needed in the world, as we fade out of another year of sustained uncertainty.
‘My Mind To Your Mind’ transfers this peaceful imagery from artist to air, source to tributary, like ambient telepathy. Piano plays alongside shiny, dappled crackles in the recording; those tiny, yet essential fizzes on fresh vinyl, like an injection via the turntable’s thin needle that always adds an extra special depth to the recording. They aren’t just pops, and this element reaches new altitudes when put alongside ambient music’s fine degrees of subtlety; it’s a subtlety not to be overlooked. Every detail in every second adds an extra dimension to the atmosphere.
This warm bubble echoes outwards, safe and protected inside the ringing drone. Like a chiming bell knocking against the breeze and tickling the strings, a guitar comes into focus, perched only a degree above total silence. The guitar repeats notes in an urgent manner, as if speaking of an angel’s arrival; underlining the importance of the message, it’s a reaffirmation to make sure we understand. Clouded in the doubt of a non-believer, it is at this point that the atmosphere turns black. Strings suddenly scrape along the ground, like a skeletal scythe eavesdropping on the conversation, a winking glint of a dangerous blade buried in the soil. A tense air is created, and then the scene evaporates.
Darker strings knock at the entrance like a wolf at the door, with a burning appetite for wings of an innocent angel; a troublemaker who desires conflict on an international scale. There is no peace here. Shattered, we must start again. Piano notes fall like rain, or maybe they’re tears for a lost future; an opportunity to embrace love and friendship rejected, and walls that are impossible to jump over put up in their place. At this point, the hope that the opening ambience brought seems a long way off, not even visible in the distance.
The guitar fades, stuck on the dock while a voyage sets sail over a silent ocean. The spray in the ambient texture sprinkles the face, especially over the eyes. Yet, this helps to disguise any tears. On ‘Regeneration’, echoes of chirpy, faint birdsong dissipate into an aquatic drone. Not too dissimilar, the hazy soundscape and flowing style reminds one of Tim Hecker’s Radio Amor; a full-throttled engine zooming over the bay, jumping up and down over the choppy sea, or that same jet experiencing some turbulence before the final approach. This drone eventually levels out and a smooth ride once again takes shape. At this stunning altitude, halos of light sparkle, reflecting in the eyes like orbs of the spectrum. A white light trails left to right in a descending arc, but it is only caught out of the periphery of our vision. The15 minutes may reflect the necessary, lengthy period of renewal and of regeneration, but it never feels like 15 minutes.
At first, a guitar sings an introspective lilt. Next, deep blue layers unfold over a wet drone, and the track resurrects into a beautiful Bermuda Triangle – itself a coincidental trio – changing into an almost tropical drone. Perhaps the angel is destined to dive into the ocean. This track feels like an experimental drone piece when placed alongside her sister tracks, but the atmosphere remains warm, thanks to the body heat radiating throughout the album. ‘Soong (after Lore), is the dusky light as the record comes to its conclusion. The ending is sliced suddenly, in an intentional, staggered end. The cut is a reminder that even in relative ambient safety, a sudden end always waits around the corner. Cut down in her prime, all safety – or the illusion of safety – is shattered. She’s been shot down, without warning, by the species she was sent to protect.
My baby shot me down…
Only a single feather is left, swirling to the ground like autumn leaves saying goodbye to their mother. Although it’s been a long time since we last heard her inspiring voice, it is set deep into our heart. She speaks a message that doesn’t need a re-release, or a new slant. If our guardian angel is always with us, in our spirit, surely her music lives forever; she may even be music Herself. This is the open spirit that lives inside of New Music from the Delta Quadrant. It’s an opportunity to put things right, and to experience heavenly music the way it should be experienced; easily available, for all to love. Rising against this frequently frightening world, we realise that the music, not the angel, is our protector.
- James Catchpole for Fluid Radio