Broken Harbour: The Geometry of Shadows

Inspired by the possibilities of faster-than-light communication, Broken Harbour (aka Blake Gibson) returns with a set of long-form pieces that range from sparse, isolationist wanderings to hushed, spacey ambient drifts on The Geometry of Shadows. As always, Gibson’s work is minimalist at its core, maximizing the impact of a relatively small number of well-orchestrated sounds. His layering is full but not overly deep, which lets the listener hone in on the specifics. Gibson offers up five tracks that cover an hour of solid sonic imagery. In general, and with the exception of the title track, each piece starts from a place either sparse or relatively dark, then works its way upward into a vaster, more freely flowing space. The draw of the disc is in how Gibson manipulates each ride. “Superliminal” starts out with cold-wind drones gliding across a barren landscape. Gibson works them through roughly textured filters to have them emerge softer and warmer late in the track. There’s a nice pulse running beneath it that plays well off the longer stretches of pads and washes above it. “Between the Darkness and the Light” is aptly titled. In its early minutes, it’s a cold breeze of unwelcoming drones. The shift here is virtually unnoticeable until you’re in the middle of it and an awareness overtakes you. The darkness has moved off, you’re breathing easier, and the sound is light and shimmering. The subtlety of going, as the title says, from dark to light is masterfully handled. “Luminosity” begins in a brighter place than its counterparts, and soon develops into a beautiful ambient piece made of long, floating pads. Eventually these are underscored with a low drone that rises and falls in fairly quick order, creating a sort of three-note phrase. This gives the piece a sense of motion, an arc as it glides along, and the suggestion of a beat. This may be lightest I’ve heard from Gibson. “Ansible” drifts in on a sustained drone and a breath of wind. A gentle waver in the otherwise unchanging drone becomes hypnotic as Gibson wafts more sounds through the mix. As noted earlier, the title track breaks the mold, and it does so superbly. From the start it takes the listener to a place that’s murky and coated in grimness. Gibson’s fond of using the sound of crackling vinyl in his work; here it scratches its way quietly beneath his fairly foreboding drones. New sinister sounds slip in and out, maintaining a hold-your-breath aura of darkness.

In my opinion, Broken Harbour gets better with each disc–and that’s saying something, as I feel he came out of the gates as a very strong artist. The Geometry of Shadows finds Gibson exploring his boundaries and urging them forward, finding new minimalist modes of expression and sharpening the keen emotional edge of his work. Break out the headphones, loop this disc, and immerse yourself in The Geometry of Shadows.

Available from Relaxed Machinery.

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