Recorded along the shores of the Indian Ocean between 2012 and 2019, New Isolation is a compact album, but it packs a lot into its running time and it’s also expansive in its use of field recordings. Good things often come in small packages and the album is tightly compressed in terms of quality. Nothing is wasted, and like all good things, it’s taken a long time to come to fruition. Usually, a longer gestation period leads to an increase in quality, and the wait was well worth it. Matt Rösner is back after an eight-year hiatus, and this mini-album sees his return as a solo artist.
The album begins with ‘The South’, which was recorded at the Hardy Rivermouth and the Porongurup Ranges. Ocean sounds open the record, but a quiet and understated piano soon slides into the album. The piano acts as a midway point, even though it appears as early on as track 2. While this may be a surprise, it only further cements and reinforces the album’s short length: time is of the essence here, and it’s evaporating like smoke with every dying second.
The piano’s unfolding narrative is part of a wider picture, acting as the first part of a trilogy. And these three tracks are bookended by the south and the north, indicating a trek up and along a faraway shoreline. In addition to the piano, some blurred electronics and minuscule manipulations are a part of its environment, the real landscape coming into contact with the artificial, like plastic in the ocean, or a wind farm in the middle of the sea. A six-minute drone permeates the final part.
The sound expands, even in the face of very little movement, and one can’t help but feel a distinct chill leaking from the electronics. The drone is a frosty blue, although appearing as a thought, a mood, or a real outer temperature, one is never able to properly distinguish. Final track ‘The North’, recorded at Ningaloo Reef – a World Heritage area in Western Australia’s remote North West – enters with the sound of the wind, returning to his field recordings and bringing the album full circle. New Isolation captures the spontaneous, improvised sounds of nature and works them into the more rigid dialogues of Western music. The two can coexist. So can we.