Ready to get your introspection on? Let Last Days’ Satellite be your soundtrack. On his fourth release, Graham Richardson burrows into the listener’s soul with a set of pieces that straddle the line between electro-acoustic ambient and quiet post-rock. It’s an album where the smallest sounds matter as much as the larger ones, and the blend creates some serious emotional impact. This is a well-made exercise in pairing straightforward melodies with disparate, contrasting sonic touches–rough edges that challenge the listener while they are attempting to connect with the comparative simplicity of the music beneath. “Escape Velocity” is a great example. While Richardson slowly plays, the constant crackle and muffled roar of a rocket engine during takeoff plays out in the background. In “After the Flood” a 50/50 balance is tenuously struck between water sounds, which border on being too loud, and a beautiful post-rock song that comes in first on strings and then adds guitar. Here the treatment feels like it’s staying in touch with the theme. It’s the way in which the water sounds are vying for attention, rather than settling in as background, that ramps up the interest level. This is not a place where the edges of the two sides of the equation are harshly rubbing against each other. For that, listen to the way a metallic grinding, not unlike the overamplified sound of a subway train, works its way into and eventually takes over the melody in “Expecting Miracles.” By the time the track is done, the softer side, the acoustic and musical side, has been overwhelmed by its opposite and just disappears. These are the balances and imbalances at play on Satellite, and Richardson handles them with grace, understanding, and subtlety.
The music here is moody and inescapably sad, but it’s not an off-putting sadness. Rather, it’s a common, shared sadness, a feeling that appeals to that portion in all of us that is willing to embrace this state of being. We’ve been here, and Richardson is just putting a sound to it. This is about looking back the way you came and trying to understand how you got here and what you may have left behind. Satellite has a very human resonance; it presents its own frailty openly and honestly, which is why it works so very well. Put the headphones on, brace your soul, and have a go.
Available from n5md.