Austere, Euterpe

In a genre that tends to be dominated by the “record today, release tomorrow” mindset begat of and enabled by the influx of DIY technology and software, the duo Austere distinguish themselves with a work ethic that involves composition time followed by shelf time, agonizingly self-critical consideration, and a refusal to release music just for the sake of being heard. This translates to a good thing, as their releases carry the quality that comes with a surplus of patience and control. Their latest, Euterpe, revels in its deeply layered sounds, quietly anchored by what the duo say is a “centuries-old Tibetan meditation ‘pulse.'” The blend of near-drone tones and the heart-slowing effect of the pulse make Euterpe a disc to fall directly into. First, however, you’ll need to pass through the slightly darkened gate of “Polyhymnia.” This piece features vocals from Christina Carter that, while lending a sort of mythic/spectral feel, are also just keening and edgy enough to make you work to take in the beauty. The depth of sound here gives it a sensation of sitting in a temple, listening to these wordless prayers echo off the roof, the sounds redoubling on themselves to discover new depth. From there, though, the duo settle down to carve out constructs that they self-deprecatingly (and with a bit of a Wink) call “ambient mindscapes that even your Mom will like.” Well, I’ll tell you what–I must be your mom because I like the coming-sunrise washes of “Roseate” and the way it quietly builds while keeping an optimistic tone.  I could happily just curl up into the warm, hypnotic sound-cocoon of “Sunshone” and stay there as its base drone keeps wrapping itself around me, textural touches easing past like wayward thoughts. And I love the ode-to-the-muse flute work from R. Johnson and Glurp on “Betroven,” paired against another whispering and unwavering drone.  The thing about Austere is that even if they decide to do “accessible” ambient–and let me say here that I’ve never found them all that inaccessible–they’ll do so (and have done so, here) with their signature depth. They will tweak it to make it specifically theirs. Euterpe is not a disc of simple ambient music; it’s deeper than that and requires you to have a real listen. Spend 17 minutes inside of “Totonality” and you’ll get it–there are sounds upon sounds, including guitar work from Freq.Magnet, and the interplay between everything is mindfully made and deliciously complex. Euterpe needs and rewards attentive and/or headphone listening. As with any Austere disc, the wait was decidedly worth it.

Available from Relaxed Machinery.

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