review

fluid-radio

Mass collaborator, prolific artist and soundscape architect Jon Atwood (Yellow6) joins Cyril Monnard (Larkian) to release one of the best albums of the year so far. An hour long dreamscape, woven with intelligent guitar work, intense drones and a sense of assuredness that fixates the listener into a position of awe for the duration of the album.

‘Offtempo’ kicks off in what people may perceive as typical Atwood sounds, minimalism rules supreme in “Jazz F2B”. The production is fantastic and each sound in the sonic spectrum shines. What lies ahead, however, is what makes this album stand out. “Walz” starts off with a guitar line played in three/four, sounding like what Adam Jones would play if Tool had been a post-rock band. The guitar interplay is simply magnificent, layering simple three note melodies on top of each other and allowing them to exit and enter as they please. They might be played offtempo, but they sound magnificent.

It really is the sweet guitar melodies that distance this album from others in the genre (NB. if I say “guitar” one more time in this review, I think I will achieve some sort of record). Usually, even in Atwood’s previous releases, the guitar (yes! We have a record, someone call Guinness!) is laid to sleep under a multitude of ethereal blankets of reverb, the strings sound like they’ve never been plucked and the strum is nonexistent. The resulting waves are stripped of their origins, with only remains of their signals reaching the audience. That definitely isn’t a bad thing, but when one hears that chord dropping, the experience changes completely. The music feels that much more complete in a sense, the listener can get in touch with the humans that made this music with ease; the interplay takes us into the musician’s minds and guides us through their respective streams of thought. The guitar enthusiasts will pick up their guitars and try to play along, or replicate the experience on their own. It creates a bridge between creator and receiver in a way. It picks the album up from the realm of background music and makes it into a living, breathing entity that demands the full, undivided attention of its audience.

The noisy elements introduced in “Pool” add depth, contrast and tighten the duo’s grasp on the listener further. What starts off a spacey wandering piece that doesn’t stray that far from The Sky Moves Sideways era Porcupine Tree then turns into a constant tug of war between the beautiful and the dissonant, moving in waves created by reverberating drones and subdued noises. One thing to note which signifies the strength of this release is that at this point, every track left me with the feeling of “this is my favorite track on the album”, and till the point of writing this, with the beautiful last track “Sequences Inversees” playing in my headphones, resonating with full force within my being, listening to the album for the tenth or eleventh time, I remain to find the answer to that question. This is a work of utter beauty.

In all fairness, I came into this album expecting the same old ambient album, not expecting anything new, and I am glad to have been proven extremely wrong. This is the best thing I have heard out of Yellow6’s insanely huge discography so far, and I guess we have Larkian to thank for that. They have brought the best out of each other and released an album that one shouldn’t dare miss. Mr. Atwood, Mr. Monnard, I salute thee.

- Mohammed Ashraf for Fluid Radio