Given that the following statement from Massergy’s Bandcamp page is true, A Novel Sense of Calm takes on a whole extra level of impressiveness: “Nocturnally improvised and recorded in an undisclosed nature preserve. All sounds are true to the original performances and have not been treated in a studio.” Which would mean that this almost-90-minute excursion of soft ambient landscapes and guitar streamed quietly from the artist’s soul and straight into his listeners. To that, add the knowledge that this album is a tribute to the artist’s deceased brother, and you’re listening to and taking in the essence of a catharsis—and it’s as beautiful as that might suggest. Massergy (aka Eric Jensen) skillfully mixes pad-based softness in tracks like “Dusk Affinity” with pieces infused with a quiet vibrancy (“Phenakistoscope”). So within this elegy-inspired album we get equal parts introspection and optimism. It’s a moving celebration and remembrance. “Reed Fields Eternal” is a deep track that opens with a slowly plucked acoustic guitar backed with bright synth swirls. Just as you’re settling into the mind-calming wash, Jensen adds light percussive taps for an understated rhythm, then laces in fresh instrumental sounds and broadens the scope of the piece. “Archaism” will find a place among your favorite spacemusic tracks. Listening to the crisp arpeggiated phrasing that takes center stage, you’d be surprised to know (as was I) that Jensen used no sequencers on this album. Choral pads round out the classic SM tone. “Guided by Sparrows” is another hushed drift filled with glittering tones and fantastic pad work. Well-placed, brief rises in tone and intensity add some dramatic weight—but never take over the flow. This is another track that makes a slight switch in identity partway through, and steps up ever so slightly in pace. Again, it nudges us gently out of reverie and introspection, and gives us a subtle ray of light that lets us know it’s all okay. It’s a balance, and it’s handled perfectly.
A Novel Sense of Calm is a very loop-worthy album, and one you need to get up close and personal with. There are no wasted moments here, no bumps in the flow. Just a smooth journey that takes a shortcut through your soul.
Available from Relaxed Machinery.