My brain goes into a sort of sound-association, Name That Tune mode when I listen to Paul Ellis’ new release, From Out of the Vast Comes Nearness. Ellis manages to meld the familiar and the original in a very listenable mix that’s kept me engaged for multiple repeat listens, and not just for the way it puts me in very good mind of classic ambient and electronic tunes. While I may pick up traces of Tangerine Dream in twanging bass lines or a tang of Vangelis in Ellis’ bolder moments, there’s never any doubt that you’re listening to an individual talent. Ellis offers up five sizable tracks, the shortest clocking in just shy of 11 minutes, giving himself plenty of space to express and explore his own ideas while tipping the hat to his influences. “The Infinite Minute by Minute” opens the disc with spacey electronics; pauses give structure, creating fading moments from quick runs of notes and giving focus to the dwindling sounds in the spaces between. A nice science fiction soundtrack feel courses through it. The minimalist repetition of “The Click and Chime of Passing Time” drives forward with an infectious energy punctuated with easy tone shifts. This track does me the disservice of sounding like something I know but can’t place. I love it while I’m banging my head. It’s the first shift, around the 4:45 mark, is where I hear it. Up to there, I’m caught in the high-register bounce, taking flight with the feel of a classic early electronic piece. “Firefly Rising Outshined by the Moon” also plays with minimalism, the guitar line at its center confidently repeating its message against whispered electronics. It’s a nice touch when bass sounds enter to bolster the guitar and rich vibraphone-like tones. The title track opens with a tactile darkness courtesy of a thick bass wave, then settles into a deep-space drift with a potential energy that just burns slowly. This track puts me in mind of the superb collaborations between Craig Padilla (with whom Ellis had worked) and Zero Ohms. I could loop this one all day. “Watch the Stars Come One by One” is a pure homage to TD, a dramatic bass riff anchoring appropriately twinkling high notes. The main sound just drips with the pure pleasure of 80s-style synth work. The longest track at 21 minutes, it’s equal parts guilty pleasure and synth-lover’s joyride. I particularly like the way Ellis stretches it out to sparseness in the closing moments.
From Out of the Vast Comes Nearness has the immediate effect of making me regret not having heard Paul Ellis’ work before. The disc clearly shows off its heritage without getting bogged in it. It’s familiar but not slavishly attached to its inspirational source material. As I said at the outset, I’ve had this loop literally for hours without it wearing out its welcome. It has energy, narrative, drama and fun tucked into it. A superb work and a must-hear from Paul Ellis.
Available from Spotted Peccary/Lotuspike.