“F (noir)” is gentle ambient music. I suppose that could be said of ambient music in general, but this really is soft and cool to the touch. Some artists try too hard in order to get that ‘feel’. Bill Seaman, as we’ve seen before, has a natural understanding for ambient music. It seems effortless, and it comes across as easy and fluid: just what you’d want in an ambient record. It may sound fairly obvious, but it’s very, very tricky to pull off. In any case, gentle and relaxing are two different things. Sure, most ambient albums out there are relaxing, but they might not necessarily have that soft, caressing tone. “F (noir)” isn’t your typical ambient record, in that it doesn’t completely relax. There’s a noticeable tension in spite of its gentle sound.
The fluttery female vocal of ‘Shadow Detail’ is met by a slow melody, played on the piano, and it instantly sets the tone. Darker sounds creep past the lonely voice, and eventually little phrases overlap and layer the original set of chords. It’s a shady world, full of brooding, sparse instrumentation and cool, unnamed threats. The songs meander slowly. They lie close to the ground, like a cloudy cluster of fog. The sunken tones shape the dull, jaded colours, and their slow movement gives the music an air of subtle mystique. The colour almost leaks out of the record, leaving it in a dulled dimension of black and white, just like film noir. An old photograph, or a silent film from long ago, accompanies the music. People walk by in frames of stuttering slow motion, and the crisp pops and crackles you can occasionally hear in the music drip into the grainy circles of the old film, the blackened corners stained by a century of cold theatres and light-tainted dark-rooms.
The music is vampiric in the way that it sucks the colour out of the tones. It leaves behind a pale, cool face, offset by moody hues and deep, saturated blues. As the record progresses, it turns slightly jazzy, with the sound of a silky brush stroke and some sleepy, sultry horns. It’s original, and it works perfectly. Normally, for reasons unknown, ambient music isn’t inclined towards the trumpet or the saxophone. It’s a thing of beauty to see it play such an important role. It colours the music in a brand new way, like a fresh coat of paint. ‘The Undoing Of Time’ is slightly snappier, but ‘Endgame’, with its roaming sighs and drifting cries, brings a distinctive fragrance. A light tap of percussion adds some spice to the music. Middle Eastern in tone, the music opens out sparsely, beautifully, draping itself over the land and its great plain of sand. “F (noir)” is a captivating album from a known ambient master. Right from the very first second, the music wraps its tendrils around you, drawing you into its lair, inviting you to drink of its strange potion.