“But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. So fine, so rare, coolly sunk beneath the surface the beam I sought always burnt behind the glass” – Virginia Woolf.
Summer recess is on the horizon, but class is still in session, and disciples of ambient music should be taking note of For A Wandering Beam of Sun, a near-perfect ambient album from Solidarity Hymn, the new project from Andy Othling (of Lowercase Noises) and Steven Kemner (Hotel Neon). Lucidly shimmering in the total transparency of light, the music glints with haloes of soft afternoon sunshine. The processed drones sometimes segue into a piano section, blowing lightly through the music like a kind breeze. The music is traced with the faintest of touches, as light as fingertips grazing leaves, and an angelic vocal can also be found inside its foliage. She bisects the fluttery drone, mirroring the way the sea tears itself away from the sky; two worlds divorced by a single blue line.
These two musicians – these two friends – have produced a glowing album of ambient sound which glints like amber as it comes into contact with a kiss of direct sunlight. The music responds to this light just as a flower does during photosynthesis, growing all the while, its pupils dilating to take in more of its light, to drink more and more of its swells and its differing, subtle-but-evocative shifts in texture. As these elements come to fruition, the music is able to stand upright and separate itself from the burgeoning and sometimes-tepid swamps of ambient.
A single week’s worth of writing and recording was all it took to produce this baby. The shifting tones and cavernous swells capture something like fairy dust – it’s untouchable, but you can feel the magic of the music as it shimmers and stirs in the atmosphere, bending in the fragile light of the evening and producing soft, golden shapes which surround the music’s collective being, like an aura in musical form. Splaying itself out, the music catches the transparent light as it will the hair of a beautiful woman, blinking in and out of sight as if blocked by a family of trees.
‘The Beam I Sought Always Burnt’ is the recorded sound of heartbreak, but these tones are soothing, too, acting more as a comforting balm, a remedy, than anything else. The tones are soft, but power can lie in stillness, and they mustn’t be confused for being passive or weak. As still as an eyelash in deep sleep, the music prefers to engage the listener in its deep thoughts and emotional stirrings. It demands attention in that it doesn’t want to hang like a painting; it’s in motion. Alive.
The undulating rhythm of ‘Here We Slept’ mirrors the automatic, easy breathing of delta sleep. The echoing piano notes inhale and then exhale before ghosting out of existence. Closer ‘The Treasure Yours’ opens its heart, and when it does, its light is all-encompassing and strong, even brighter than the beams of the sun. For A Wandering Beam of Sunis the sound of perfect alignments.