As well as the well-deep, murky waters of bittersweet nostalgia and memory, ambient music is capable of stirring up emotions, too. Gazing into the water produces a true reflection of the self, be it good, bad, or indifferent. A single phrase can bring a whole host of memories back from the ether, echoing into the mind from another point in time, like a dozen ripples skirting over a silver lake.
Means of Knowing is another beautiful album from Hotel Neon, who describe it as being ‘an exchange with the world, an effort to know it and ourselves more deeply’. Accompanying the still set is a flickering, short-circuiting socket of white noise. It’s a light drizzle upon the ambient texture: there’s no chance of a rain-out, and no deluge of distortion. Rain and melancholia are linked, but this exudes feelings of introspection and comfort.
This is the sound of your favourite walk, taking place in woodland or over sands, gentle and yet striking, like an autumn breeze as it ruffles turning leaves and shakes high trees; a sudden whoosh that takes your breath away.
The Earth has music for those who listen. The outsider may only pick up static, but you’ve taken this route a thousand times before, and you can hear its invisible music. You can hear the radio, and not the shrill buzz of static. You can hear life, and not death. Sure, the uneven path is the same, but it’s also different, changing with every passing day. The daisies grow along the sides of the bank, as do the bluebells, but the seasons change and sculpt the landscape, just as the seasons change the self.
Nothing remains the same forever. We’re all constantly changing.
A pair of feisty geese will try to blot out the encouraging sense of serenity, but the walk is beautiful, healing and restorative, rising higher than those angry honks, and music is a perfect companion. The years are condensed into this record.
As a glint of sunlight will pour through a jade-painted leaf, so too does the subtle, shifting drone exhibit the same level of transparency, shining through in a beam of victory. The music is also its own being, capable of standing apart, of playing independently, of walking with you on this peaceable amble, and being a true friend. Music brightens everything at once, as would a burst of sunshine on a day of infinite cloud, but the music doesn’t become excitable.
It’s introspective. It’s introverted.
And there’s something buried within the music, kicking up and swirling around the music’s trainers like dirt and dried mud from a well-travelled path. Sounds from the physical world are inserted, deepening the connection, and processed synths run alongside them. When you cut through the bramble-like clutter in our own lives, you get to this. The soundtrack of your life (the original, uncut edition) is played in stereo, and the ambient runs through the narrow arteries and connecting veins. Similarly, it also runs through the leaves and their vein-like tunnels. Carrying life.
Everything is connected. It runs deep.