Listening to Meltstream should accomplish two things: solidify Steve Brand as a vital name in the current ambient canon, and introduce you to new talent Roy Mattson. (Having listened, I immediately headed off to Mattson’s site to check out his solo work, and I suggest you do so, too.) The duo’s chemistry first bubbled up during a 2007 sound workshop hosted by Steve Roach, and Meltstream is the initial culmination of the work that began there. All in all, it is a lush and gorgeous drift packed with big ambient vistas, wisely utilized field recordings, and skillful organic touches. As it gently makes its way through an hour, Meltstream never feels the need to raise its voice above a confident and confiding whisper. There are times when things get so quiet, I have actually stopped to check if I’d set my player’s volume too low. This, obviously, makes it an excellent open-air listen as it drifts mistily through your space, just another element in the atmosphere; in headphones it becomes a very personal, meditative thing. It’s quite easy to get carried off in these rich flows, but do try to pay attention to the small touches these gents have laced through the work–the dry, hint-of-tribal rattle of shakers, the sharp call of the ocarina, the easy harmonies created by the intersecting pads. The long, quiet space created by “Leeward Shadows” and the title track will give you a solid half-hour of introspective time. “Leeward” shifts, briefly and appropriately, into the darkest stretch of the album. Discordant pads and the metallic clatter of wind-blown chimes give an eerie air. “Meltstream” just wants you to relax in its warmth. This is some fantastic melodic ambient, with the kind of wide-screen sense I love. It opens up feeling big and deep, then glides down to a gentle current of sound.
Meltstream is one of those releases where I struggle to find words good enough to describe it. I was already a fan of Brand’s work, and this collaboration deepens the appreciation. Mattson is someone you should keep an ear on, and this album certainly makes a great starting point. I look forward to more moments of chemistry from Brand and Mattson. In the meantime, I think I’ll loop this for just a couple more hours before moving on. Get this.
Available from Relaxed Machinery.