Although I must admit that I am not familiar with Robert Davies’ work, despite his being a recognized and prolific name in ambient, I have been a fan of Blake Gibson’s music as Broken Harbour over the last few years. That appreciation continues upon listening to Quiraing, the first collaboration between these two artists. This is a very deep, very immersive drone-based release, shadowy and lush. The basic chemistry at play is to match whispering, sometimes gritty low end sounds—I assume from Gibson, for whom it’s something of a signature—with softer ambient washes and the occasional field recording. This is another of those albums that never raises its voice, relying instead on its skillful layering and the interplay between sounds to carry the changes in intensity. This is most definitely a headphone listen. The detail work runs very deep, whether it’s the well-tempered use of nature sounds, from the chirps of small birds to the full-on cry of gulls in “Lochs Obscured,” or just the inclusion of small, vital sounds that add dimension to an evolving set of layers. Gibson and Davies also keep a careful eye on the dynamics. They guide it skillfully up and down the scale, moving, for example, from the big, dramatic tones of the title track to the spacey, floating feel of “Seaside Surreal.” “Moorlands” pours on the density again, building itself into a broad, hissing wall of sound, to be followed by the lighter “Stone Circle” with its appropriate air of mystique. Best of all, both sides of all the equations in play—the light and heavy, the dark and less dark, the rough and the smooth—are played equally well, and nothing in the several changes of tone disrupts the voyage. It flows sensibly and organically, and once it’s got its hold on you, you’re in for the whole ride. Gibson and Davies close out Quiraing by taking a bit of a risk—one that I feel pays off. Coming out of the brightness of “Sunshowers,” the last track, “Only Rain,” is five and a half minutes of exactly that. Rain. Like a classic environmental background tape, Quiraing winds to its close giving you an opportunity to just be soothed by nature. Strangely enough, it’s not hokey. It’s not out of place. It’s just…relaxing.
I have given many hours over to Quiraing, gladly, and I keep finding more to hear. It’s a beautiful piece of work that captures its theme perfectly and draws us fully into the vision. This is one to let loop, and it’s as good at low volume as it is up close. One of my favorite releases this year. Get this.
Available from Databloem.