I’ve been away, for a while! A week in turbulent New York, followed by a week with a nasty case of the flu, left all my routines in shambles. Slowly I’m picking up the pieces of what was once a fairly organised life… Excuse the melodrama, I’m doing fine really.
To be quite honest, over the past weeks there has been little music I was hearing that made me want to write. Sure, I could have done a piece on Ariana’s ‘thank u, next’, which was a pretty decent album, but I felt like waiting for something more memorable to come along.
And there came Celestial Trax. A project unfamiliar to me that I stumbled upon while checking out Pitchfork. I decided to give the new album a shot while going on a bike ride on this uncommonly warm and sunny day for February in the Netherlands, with its sky blue and bright. I had no expectations, so I found myself happily surprised when ‘Serpent Power’ unfurled itself as a beautiful, carefully paced and layered album of ambient music.
As of writing this review, I’m listening to the album again, this time in my dimly lit bedroom, the sky outside black as night. It proves quite a different listen, the album’s darker passages seem more menacing now, like the ominous beating on ‘Offline Offscreen’, while the glimmery pads on the tracks like ‘Suspended Midair’ take on a more submarine vibe.
‘Way in Is the Way Out’ for example, is a sublime, melancholy song with a warm pad at its core, and faraway textures shimmering while a lonesome piano recites a set of deeply longing motifs.
there’s rarely a dull moment on ‘Serpent Power’. The album’s many textures are constantly developing and morphing, balanced exquisitely along the frequency spectrum. While soft and blissful in majority, there is also material to marvel at, like the intricate, imposing tonal harmonies of ‘Peace’ and the marvelous emotional arch in ‘Blossoms in the Blue Sky’. Moments like these are where ‘Serpent Power’ stands out; Ambient music can be prone to becoming background soundpaper, but Celestial Trax demands the listener’s focus regularly.
It’s a mysterious record, as well. It’s suggesting some vast landscape with flourishing nature, some alternate dimension where humans arrived to earth. But there’s humanity to be found on ‘Serpent Power’, as if memories have been weaved into the fabric of all the shimmering atmospheres and melodies, forcing sonic imperfections.