Oöphoi & Paul Vnuk, Jr., Dreamfields

Good things come to those who wait. The latest collaboration between ambient masters Oöphoi and Paul Vnuk, Jr. began its life in 2005 when Vnuk sent Oöphoi (Gianluigi Gasparetti) a series of improvised loops. That back-and-forth eventually produced their first album. Then, in 2009, Oöphoi returned to those source loops and began creating something new. Three years later, with both artists adding their signature touches and machinations, we are treated to Dreamfields, four long tracks of spacious, shadowy ambient constructs. “North Field: Axis” arrives bearing big, bass-heavy synth pads that bully open a real sense of space and distance, of an unspeakable vastness ahead. My own personal frame of reference takes me to Steve Roach’s “symphonic ambient” works like Magnificent Void; this track has that same building majesty under it. There’s also a sound early on that I can’t help but liken to a core sound in The Dream Circle. Oöphoi and Vnuk build this one to a gorgeous density, then spiral it back the way it came, paring to silence. This is the longest track of the four, and it acts as a gateway into the other, different spaces. With your brain suitably salved you can move into “South Field: Khyber”–a decidedly grimmer affair, awash in tenebrous swirls of dark sounds and a sense of dislocation. This track is thick with ghosts and whispers, both passing in a constant, vaporous stream. A snippet of Vunk’s son reading poetry slides in under the sounds later in the track and ups the creepy ante. A great atmosphere overall. The duo widen the space back out and lighten it slightly in “East Field: Helikum.” There’s more breathing room here, although the memory of shadows still curls up around the edges. Those rich undertones from “Axis” rise up in places; the mix of textures here is superb, and the drift is warm and enveloping. The disc closes with “West Field: Awua.” Here the duo spread their sounds to a thin and breathy wash. A sense of slow motion takes over. Chimes sound in the darkness to guide you back home–all the more effective for their being the only “solid” sense for the better part of an hour. Gently, Oöphoi and Vnuk guide the piece to a close. The sensations, however, linger. Dreamfields gets better and deeper with every listen. There’s no doubting the alchemy at work here, and no doubt that you are in the hands of a pair of ambient masters. This is a disc to set aside time for. The rewards begin immediately and just continue. This is music you will feel. One of the best ambient releases of the year.

Available from Projekt.

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