Altus has pulled off quite an alchemical trick with Excursion 3, creating pieces that are lighter than air while still nicely weighted with emotion. Over the course of these three mid-length pieces (10, 20, and 30 minutes, respectively), musician Mike Carss maintains a quiet yet meaningful voice, and guides us on a journey that begins melodically and melts down into a silken ambient space. “Journey’s End” opens the trip with a lullaby-ish quality courtesy of a gently swaying rhythm and a repeating phrase on chime-like tones over an ambient pad backdrop. A softly persistent chordal pulse on keys adds to the depth. It’s lovely and charming and works perfectly to relax you for the rest of the hour. “Gathering the Moments” is the most straightforwardly melodic piece here. Piano takes the lead. Carss’ playing pulls in a light touch of drama, the space between notes played out perfectly. The notes glitter brightly against a hushed curtain of synth. I like that Carss does not overload this track. It has a well-thought-out sparseness to it, a wideness for lack of a better term, that lets focus more firmly on what is here. And what is here, we connect with very directly because of it. By the time you reach “Silver Shores,” the longest track, you are fully immersed in this quiet space, and Carss gently holds you there for half an hour. This is a classic ambient piece, full of pads that rise, fall and shift, packed with hints of starlight and a cadence that controls your breathing. If you happen to be looking for a soundtrack for a 30-minute meditation, look no further. Slowly and gently, this track brings Excursion 3 to a close. When I listen, I typically spend the next few minutes in silence after it finishes, letting the effect of this wonderful release fade as I slowly resurface. And then I want to head back in again.
Excursion 3 is a remarkably beautiful album, and very affecting. Dedicated headphone listening is highly recommended. This is a release you will want to be completely alone with. An incredible effort from Altus, and a true must-hear.
Available from Earth Mantra.