Egress / Tidal Locking
Liquid Transmitter is the ambient electronic project of Berlin-based artist Jamie Drouin. The latest two releases to appear under this moniker are both the result of a residency at Stockholm’s legendary EMS Elektronmusikstudion, each album using one of the studio’s classic analogue synths: a Serge modular system for “Egress”, and a Buchla synth for “Tidal Locking”. The tracks on “Tidal Locking” are named after moons of Saturn and Neptune, and both albums have something of a sci-fi soundtrack feel to them, though certainly more Andrei Tarkovsky than J.J. Abrams. There is a quietness and weightlessness to the music that evokes, intentionally or unintentionally, the empty landscape of space. Quite often, rhythms come in the form of underground pulsations, their insistence felt more than heard; when clear tones pierce the hum, their directness is startling.
Although the rhythms at times become more explicit, they still retain a sense of quiet patience, the stars rushing by at a vast distance across the void. The sound is at times powerful, yet restrained. The emphasis of both “Egress” and “Tidal Locking” seems not on pushing the two synths to their respective limits, but on creating a believable sonic world using the tools the synths offer, something both albums achieve without having to be overly obvious or symbolic in their operation. The sound of the Buchla seems ‘wetter’ and ‘rounder’ than that of the Serge, and at the same time less clearly articulated; having loved the sound of the latter on Thomas Ankersmit’s “Figueroa Terrace”, it’s great to hear it put to very different use here.
The only other sound source used apart from the two synths is a field recording by Drouin’s frequent collaborator Lance Austin Olsen of someone moving around at work at some indiscernible activity, and its occurrence on ‘Naiad’ seems somewhat incongruous — a cosmonaut doing her daily systems checks, perhaps. But the incongruity only appears if the music is heard in the way described above, as a sort of world-building exercise, which is of course only one way of listening to it. At any rate, Drouin’s take on these two classic synths and on quietly evocative ambient electronica is definitely worth checking out.