review

Olive Music

George Mastrokostas has been producing music (with the aid of some friends) under the Absent Without Leave moniker since 2006. Though having produced grander pieces of work (see: Bon Voyage), his first EP outing on the French Three:Four label 'neath the Tumbling Stars is a significantly pared-down effort in comparison. Expanding upon the solely guitar-based work on 2008's Postcards From Nowhere, Absent Without Leave has come its closest toward ambient music.

The opening title track best characterizes Mastrokostas' post-rock influence, though avoiding many of the genre's conventions. Introduced sparsely with a bouncing chord progression, the 12-minute piece expands by way of unveiling melodies and choral-like harmonies, reaching a crescendo of hiss-ridden static gusts. The B-side wanes in breadth with two five-minute sequences. "As the Leaves Fall From Trees" trudges along a downcast arpeggio that-- not aiming for the amplitude of its predecessor-- circles around a soporific repetition, like walking down a boundless path. Closing on an astral note is "Calm of the Sea," with its head tilted toward tree branch webs and its body weightless.

In the ever-expanding world of ambient music, Absent Without Leave's transcendent passages lift the project out of the surrounding crowd. Akin to much more traditional circles in music, 'neath the Tumbling Stars shines brightest in the midst of its rich keys and melodies. Brevity plays a key role in the EP as well, allowing Mastrokostas' loops to build and expand without spreading themselves thin at a concisely powerful 21 minutes.