Dark landscapes described in low-end-heavy pads and drones welcome listeners into Through the Gates to Nowhere, an album artist Jess Sola notes was two off-and-on years in the making. Sola says the music came as the result of revisiting the work in various states of mind, but from listening to it, I’d think those states were mostly quite pensive, perhaps gloomy, and mildly haunted. And for that, I thank him, because that’s exactly how I prefer my Numina. In waves of (mostly) beatless, impressionistic soundscapes, Numina surrounds the listener in atmosphere. The early tracks swirl like windblown fog, a grey and moving space filled with small, important sounds. There’s a spiritual weight to it, not oppressively so but definitely tactile. Perhaps it’s just pushing down to help you move inside yourself. And you will. By the time the windy and suitably cold “Arcfrost” fades way into “Furrowed Transitions,” I have no doubt you’ll have settled into a space of dark meditation. As if to help deepen that even further, Sola lays in tribal-style percussion, just a woody clattering in a constant rhythm. It’s comfortably familiar, and works its brain-massaging magic. “Reflexion Canyon” switches overt percussion for distant, echoing metallic clashes, perfectly partnered up with bright chime tones and deep vocal drones. There is a weightlessness to it, but the environment around you as you float through is somewhat less than comforting. It is a point of passage. The play between harsh industrial and glimmering ambient is smoothly balanced. As we come to the final two tracks, the voyage arcs slightly upward in tone. “Amidst the Mist” is drawn in lines of light, slowly curving through the air. Classic ambient with just a hint of quiet spacemusic at the edges. The stretch that encompasses “Reflexion Canyon” and this is a pretty-much-perfect half hour of deep immersion. Much power comes from the contrast between them. “In Our Absence” continues the upward flow, its tones and repetition of phrase cleansing and bright.
It’s been a good year for Numina. (And, along with him, those of us who enjoy his work.) His collaboration with Zero Ohms, “Broken Stars Through Brilliant Clouds,” is an album I expect to crack many “Best Of” lists this year. This album, with its seamless shift from shadow to spirit and its totally immersive vistas, ups the ante and serves as a reminder why Numina has been an ambient name you must know consistently for the last 15 years. Get this now.
Available from Relaxed Machinery.