Language of the Ancients, the debut from S1gns of L1fe, offers up spacey, melodic electronica with an attitude so chill it’s got frost on it. I hear in its crisp, easy beats and funky bass anchors echoes of Carbon Based Lifeforms and the laid-back “exotic electronica” that used to come out of Waveform Records. Loaded with hooks and some nice “oh, yeah” moments, this is a disc to drop into and stay with. The opener, “Aphelion,” lays down the equation for most of the tracks, with its wispy backdrops and instantly infectious rhythm–part straight-out beat, part glitch. This one hits cruising altitude pretty quickly, and then it’s smooth flying from there into the cool glide of the title track. This one has some nice breaks in it, spots where musician Chris Bryant strips his sounds down to a minimum. “Symbiosis” carries an excellent retro feel via simple sequencer lines paired with glistening pads. This is another track with that pare-it-back/build-it-up construction, and it hits a nice stride coming back in. But it’s not all beats and bloops here. Bryant can dial it down to lay out very workable ambient-side musings. “Catalyst” doesn’t speak much above a whisper, nor does it really need to. Its hushed tones and quietly pulsing beat work perfectly, laid out over thin, stretched pads. “Saros (Interlude 2)” puts together low-volume, drifting pads and a mid-paced sequencer that Bailey modulates in and out. The base flow is simple and calming; the sequencer adds vibrancy without disturbing the hush. “Metamorphosis” comes in on a drone that Bailey spreads toward the horizon. A very light pulse works its way in, just enough to waver the surface. And just to be well-rounded, on “Imminence” Bryant goes the abstract route, filling the space with misty, crawling sounds that gurgle around before a light-as-sunrise pad pushes back the borders for the second half. The transition is smooth and very effective.
Language of the Ancients is a very pleasing disc on a lot of levels. It’s easy to take in, it’s quite engaging, it’s a perfect wind-down groove, and it has just enough retro edge in spots to ping those particular pleasure centers. There are one or two places where I found Bailey’s bass phrases a little too static for me across the course of a track (“Cell Theory,” for example), but that’s a minor quibble in a disc I’ve enjoyed as much as this. There’s a lot of depth and detail at work here. Expect this one to get a lot of repeat listens. A very promising debut from S1gns of L1fe.
Available at Bandcamp.