If I could only give you one single piece of insight into my earliest and most prominent musical influences and how they've shaped me to this day, it would be this: I have a deep, undying obsession with the music of Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie/The Microphones), and have for over half of my life. While I won't get into it too much here, it is important for you to understand — especially in the context of this review — that Phil's music means the world to me, and has gotten me through some of the toughest times in my life. Needless to say, when I received the press package for the newest release from one of our favourite ambient labels, Shimmering Moods, my interests were piqued in a big way as soon as I found out that the album not only contains, but actually opens with the sample of an early Microphones track.
While the novelty of hearing my favourite musician sampled within my favourite genre was not lost on me, I think what really excited me the most was learning more about the kind of person who would decide to sample The Microphones for a drone piece in the first place; Phil's work, at least until recent years, has always maintained a sort of "in the know" elusiveness to it, with a massive discography slowly revealing a constantly evolving, career spanning narrative of interweaving themes and recurring characters that all but alienates the casual listener, while further enticing the initiated and the long-obsessed. Needless to say, before I even pressed play for the first time on the new V I C I M record, I already felt an immediate connection to the artist and their work through this one small — and yet hugely important — commonality. Two weeks and nearly a dozen listens later, convenience has not only proven to be one of the most engaging and thoughtfully composed ambient albums of the year, but, much like some of the best Phil Elverum works, promises to continue to reveal itself and its infinite complexities over many more years to come.
untitled universe opens the album with the aforementioned sample, a choir of mournful operatic wails that ascend like giant curtains lifted to reveal an elaborately dressed stage, where the infinite breadth of large scale tragedy plays out in tightly confined spaces, and the rise and fall of entire civilizations unfold not over centuries, but mere moments. As the air begins to collect in distorted masses, a distant note blurs like foghorns in the mist; the enticing call of oblivion sung from the bow of a pale ship, hanging in the midst of an endless night.
Permeating each moment of continent's duration is the unshakable sense of the inexplicable and the profound taking place, like peering momentarily beyond the veil of human understanding into a knowledge both ancient and transformative. sarus the witness burns with the mystical glow of dark magic coursing through the heart of some living, breathing island; synths falling like the crash of water on rocks before dispersing to a fine mist, an intangible energy flowing like life's blood through subterranean root systems and pouring out from the trees in echoing birdsong. silver bodies on the shoreline drifts with an unknowable intent, like the slow motion migration of a colony of water-beings, liquid bodies drifting across the shore like shifting light, each graceful stride containing it's own hidden, esoteric meaning.
Plucked orchestral strings sing out in subdued tones as if muted by the vacuums of space on album closer 33 33, a celestial ballet of planets set in motion and left to flicker in the night before dissipating like stardust. Like the rolling of credits after a perfect final scene, 33 33 arrives with a certain finality, and yet somehow also maintains the sense that convenience's journey doesn't simply end with its final notes, but continues to live on in the recesses of the minds eye — like the secret song of the universe whispered gently in your ear at night, and echoing in subtle reverberations throughout the following day.