In my previous outings into the sound worlds of Off Land (aka Tim Dwyer), I saw him as a purveyor of quiet drone-sculpted spaces and deep textures. Which is part of what makes Afterglow such a surprise and an excellent release. Here we get a somewhat different Off Land, or at the very least an Off Land who’s decided to go play in a different sandbox for a bit. Which is not to say it’s better than his beatless works. Rather, it’s another great case of an artist stretching his craft and hitting a fresh mark. The difference sets in straight away, with the world-music overtone of “Zodiacal Light.” Its easy groove, gently tapped percussion, and well-placed bird-like squawks create a cool tropical feel, somewhere green and shady and gloriously overgrown. Dwyer also plays with classic EM and Berlin School styles several times on Afterglow. “Subtypes” locks down a low-volume sequencer line, then traces floating melodics over the top. Chime tones sparkle across the space, and a heavily echoed and subdued vocal drop slips in for extra interest. “Pulsar” sets up a swirling spiral of sound, then slyly slips in a beat and a sequencer line. The build on this track is excellent and evolutionary, with each new element really ramping the piece. It leads into “Radiance,” which matches a chugging sequencer with round chime tones and rise-and-fall pads. The contrast works well, with the chimes never trying to match the pace of their accompaniment. The ambient and spacemusic side of things gets its moment on “Photosphere” as Dwyer lays down long, large-scope pads with a distinct dramatic flair. A manipulated vocal comes in, raw and distorted, as if to denote the point here he starts to smoothly nudge the piece into a slightly different shape. Without leaving the spacey side of it behind, Dwyer folds in new textures to keep your attention focused. (It’s easy to lose your way in such a hypnotic vista…)
One thing of note is that while Dwyer gets more active in a lot of the work here, he doesn’t forsake the kind of cloudy quietude that tends to envelop his music. He’s found the right blend of his signature ambient style and the stronger dynamics of classic EM. His thoughtful approach to building layers and tones is definitely on display, and his attention to the smallest details makes Afterglow very rewarding in close listens. This is an excellent release that shows Dwyer taking his Off Land identity in interesting directions. He has always been an artist to keep an ear on, and Afterglow takes that from a suggestion to an imperative. If you have not done yourself the favor of looking into his work, start here and start now.
Available as a download from Carpe Sonum . Physical release expected to be available in 2017.