Soft Confidence bathes in the fading light of dusk. The tanned, glowing synths emerge from a rented beach house while the sunset-gazing keys stand around, clustered together like the best of friends, a cold drink in one hand and a cell phone – locked, loaded, and ready to take an insane amount of group photos – in the other. Melodies glimmer.
The lo-fi thrums are as distant as thunder in another country. They intermittently strobe, winking in and out of the music’s focus, like French lights glimpsed from an English harbour.
The music looks out at the listener through a silky veil.
Australian composer and producer Richard Pike, aka Deep Learning, has populated his new album with both a joyous spirit and a dying light. Sparkling like a can of Sprite, these melodies emerge and fizzle out. Garbled electronics enter and then fade, emanating from an old radio with tuning problems. Emotions are rubbed into the music’s skin like sunscreen; they melt into its soft curves. Synths are so often cold, sterile, and sharp enough to pinprick the song’s skin, but these synths are the opposite of that, dripping instead with a soft, lubricating shower gel, the bubbles in its bubble-bath rising and dipping like foamy notes on a steamy stave, leaving the listener both cleansed and purified.
Releasing on his own label Salmon Universe, Soft Confidence is music of subtle ambient brushes and wholehearted feels, bringing to mind a neon-lit world drunk on cocktails of fluorescent after-dark lighting and innocent romance, of shared sweet kisses under the artificial glow of a streetlight, the authentic emotion illuminated by simulated light and digital synth.
It started off as a series of sketches for an installation project by London’s United Visual Artistsat the Tokyo National Museum, but the music has now morphed into a fully-grown, mature album of soft-blowing, romanticized synths, bubble-wrapped in a light hiss and attired in the loose, baggy jeans of beatless ambient.
No sharp edges exist. Instead, soft, lipstick-smeared melodies and pulsating keys are the order of the day (or evening), with some sweet Asian flavours mixed into the recipe – the recurring staccato phrases of ‘Firefly’ have something inherently Japanese about them, as does the aptly-named ‘Tokyo Slowdown’, which eschews the fast-paced onslaught of life in the West – not that Tokyo is any slower – for a slice of hillside peace. Although Tokyo never seems to sleep, the music immediately brings about a sense of stillness and stasis without sleepwalking into lethargy; a vital outlet for rush-hour living, and a moment of necessary balancing; the inbuilt need for calm and rest will always wrestle with the twelve-hour-long stresses of another day, but for now, let’s enjoy this moment.
“The music was a respite from all the other music I was making at the time. It fulfilled me to make these small but expansive vignettes – of inner and outer life. I enjoyed creating quickly, finding a perfect moment before it became over-produced – a sense of balance that I was also looking for in my life. Ambient music is something I’ve always wanted to make. And I believe in our current times, this kind of spiritual music is more relevant than ever.”