On their sophomore album Landforms, Scottish ambient duo Kinbrae tap the Tay Valley for inspiration, introducing slight and lean electronics into their set while developing a record head over heels with its surrounding geography. Twins Andy and Mike Truscott explore the River Tay and its banks, and the impact the area had on them as they were growing up. Following on from their debut, Tidal Patterns, and releasing on new London label Truant Recordings, Landforms eschews the modern classical bedrock of their past to incorporate meandering electronics and peaceable, flowing ambient tones, both of which evoke the running river. Its notes sit by the river, brass melodies fluttering in a breeze. Ahhhhhhh. But wait a second. Landforms isn’t music of stillness, at least not total stillness. Instead, it’s one of dynamic and rapid change; always on the go. The valley changes over time and through the seasons, and the music changes with it. The river’s water has a direct and physical impact on the banks, too. Everything is connected, and as the water meets the sides, erosion takes place, changing and redefining the landscape.
Coupling Andy’s synthesizer with Mike’s brass harmonies and experimenting with modular equipment, samples, and field recordings, Landforms is active and not reactive. The album was recorded at the home studio of Edinburgh musician Ben Chatwin, and this helps to widen their usual field of sound, becoming more adventurous and expansive, and thankfully veering away from the trademark of Difficult Second Album. The record never stays still. Dynamically alert, Landforms fluctuates and leans into the healing power of water, becoming a therapeutic and cleansing element on the oceanic ‘Confluence’, where a gushing stream of ambient surrounds the listener.
Water shapes the land and the land steers the current.
Kinbrae’s music passes through and moves on down river, running from its source in the hills to the open jaws of the North Sea, where it finally releases, and the music evokes all of the river’s moods: its frosty sheen over long winter months, its surface still a mirror as Aquarius shifts into Pisces, its powerful, tempestuous teen tantrums, its raging swells and rapids, and its summer job as a peacekeeper. The storms come and go, but the brass melody is a comfort, and it’s never too far away. Through all of this and more, water keeps on flowing in a steady stream not too dissimilar to its brass instrumentation, so sweet and smooth is its course, and the instrumentation droops into the record from time to time like a thirsty weeping willow. ‘Wave Propagation’ moves into the science behind the motion, concentrating on the waves with a lilting, repeating melody which gently comes into contact with the vertical palms of the bank. ‘Tributaries’ reaches the end of the album’s course. Its melodic fragments branch off, each one providing a different route but leading, unceasingly, to a single destination: the mouth of the sea, the gateway to an ocean; an ending, and a beginning.