I don’t hide the fact that although I’ve been writing about ambient music for more than a decade, I cannot for the life of me create the stuff. Seriously, you sit me down at a synthesizer and tell me to make music, and I’d probably put an eye out. But with the latest offering from dreamSTATE, I can dabble a bit. Ephemeral City is a mix of album and app, a set of infinite loops controlled by a slider that allows you to balance the mix and flow between three soundsets at a time. The soundsets change across time, and always offer light, “medium” (for lack of a better word) and dark apsects. For example, at one point you can alter the flow of Alley/Slowlight/Bassilica, then look again to find you’re mixing Cantus/Slowlight/Roller. Once you’ve set yourself a flow, tap the screen and watch morphing cityscape photos from ScottM2. Ephemeral City also lets you set the speed at which the visuals change, and a timer will tell it to turn off anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours after you start. So what about the music, since this is, after all, a music review site. It’s classic drifty ambient stuff, big pads moving in glacial rise-and-fall shifts. It’s excellent background material, and with the timer, also makes for a nice way to drift off to sleep. Obviously, it’s almost limitless in what it can and will sound like, so that’s fun to delve into.
While the dreamSTATE web site refers to Ephemeral City as a new paradigm in albums, and it may well be, the idea has been implemented elsewhere–notably, for me, Steve Roach’s Immersion Station. The difference, I think, is that while the latter was created more as a dynamic “what can you do with it” concept, Ephemeral City is more about recreating the album. Remixing as opposed to mastering, if you will. However you approach it, it’s not bad $3 investment.
Available from the dreamSTATE web site.