So here’s a bad thing that turned into a good thing. åpne sinn (aka Geoff Small) was hard at work on a full-length album, the followup to his excellent En Seier release. Months into recording, his computer decided it had other plans. As he notes on his page, “I had to ditch; throw out ACID, welcome in Ableton and pretty much start over. And this took a long time.” Luckily, Small was able to salvage the four tracks he presents on Worlds Apart, the first offering in Relaxed Machinery’s new line of EPs. Of the four, I very much like three, with the last only getting relegated because of the relative ambient strength of its mates. That one, “Slight Return,” is a light track, with vibraphone-like tones bouncing and popping over quiet pads. It’s got a playful feel, and I find myself trying to suss out the cadence and the math behind the way those tones collide. As for the other three… When Small offered this album up and I had my first listen to “Auspice,” I was less than halfway through that track when I knew I’d be immediately dropping it into a podcast episode. It has such potency, such an immersive atmosphere, that I had to share it. I liken this to his track “What Rough Beast” from En Seier in that it largely eschews musicality for a dose of pure viscera. Yes, it has its slowly intersecting and harmonious pads, but they’re carrying a minor-chord urgency and surrounded with hissing winds and lightly serrated textures. Darkly meditative, it has a hold-your-breath quality I can’t get enough of. For pure emotional content, “Seven Ways” absolutely shines. I know Geoff somewhat, and I think I have a good idea what this is about, and it’s beautiful. The song is clean and almost simple, its melody played out like well-chosen words. I love the use of a voice-like pad here; even softened around the edges, it has a rich human quality. If this track doesn’t stir a little something in your soul, please consult your metaphysician. The EP closes out with the title track. Here, Small folds in a sample of someone chanting in prayer in Istanbul—I recall being privy to this sample in his studio a while back. He has seamlessly folded it into his ambient structure, underlaying it with long, slowly shifting pads like he was hired as an accompanist. A very light touch of piano hit with some reverb slips in, a perfect touch of solidity in this ethereal track. You’ll feel your breathing slow to come in line with this one.
While I am sure that Small’s constructs have plenty of layers going on—he has a very good way with small sounds, no pun intended—what I find remarkable about Worlds Apart is how deceptively simple it sounds. By “simple” I mean clean and uncluttered and exuding an interesting patience from start to finish. Yes, it’s just 30 minutes, but that brevity serves to play up that sense of patience. He’s not trying to cram things in, he’s giving the pieces exactly the space they need to say what they need to say. In this release you get darkness, light, love, prayer, meditation, and bouncy things. What more can you really ask for? Although I’d never wish a catastrophic system failure on anyone, this particular meltdown resulted in a really enjoyable listen, so…hooray for that. I know that Small is back to work on his next release, so I am letting Worlds Apart serve as a great, loop-worthy placeholder while we wait.
Available from Bandcamp.