Indigo Symbol (aka Richard Soto) comes to the ambient genre from the world of industrial music. That can be a fairly substantial divide, so I’m pleased to report that his album, Zenith, manages to embrace both sides of the river. The work here sometimes packs the considerable density and grim undercurrents of industrial, but also opens, widens, and lightens slightly in tone to offer a dose of good, free-floating spacemusic. So if darkness isn’t your thing, the nightfall heft of “The Beginning” might put you off. It’s bass-loaded and slow-moving, with a yawning electronic wind softly wafting through it, but it pulls you directly into its droning flow. There’s enough of a dynamic at work to give your mind’s eye plenty to do. The first half or so of Zenith stays mostly in shadow. “Cryostasis” pulls listeners fully into a dark-ambient realm, or perhaps more accurately, off to the borders of isolationist ambient. A minimal drone structure, amplified by the cold breath of an electronic wind and a slowly pulsing sound like the thrum of weird machinery, etches out the image of a barren landscape, lifeless or dormant or simply abandoned. It’s a very lonely-sounding track, but its quiet voice and almost unshifting cadence renders it quite hypnotic. It slides into the equally drone-loaded “Dematerialize.” This is a nice, deep flow that rolls quietly on for over 20 minutes. It marks the start of the upward movement on Zenith, offering more glimmering tones peeking out of the wash. It still whispers along, drawn on long-held notes and a well-layered structure. “Eclipse” carries the trend forward, working into a rise-and-fall wave that’s equal parts ease and drama. It strives upward as it breathes, and when Soto cuts it off, we exhale along with its deflation. “Chasm Light” is another rich, warm, and bright flow of pure meditative pleasure. Not to spoil the surprise, but the closing track, “As They Lay Still,” shifts from low drones to morph into a rhythmic, analog-flavored track. Nicely echoed touches of percussion find their way in to play with bouncing sequencer. It’s a very cool dose of energy at the end of a long, deep set of flows, and it works incredibly well.
The only weak link I find in an otherwise very strong release is the use of a distorted vocal/narrative in “Of Time.” Tucked into the flow, it’s hard to hear, and just seems out of place. Maybe if Soto had re-used it later I’d mind it less. It’s not a deal-breaker, it’s just overdone and feels unnecessary.
Zenith gets a great deal of its allure from the smoothly navigated voyage from heavy and dark to lighter and bright. It happens naturally—so subtle that it’s almost hard to notice. It’s something you became aware of slowly rather than having it dumped upon you. That alone shows a practiced hand at the controls. When this album goes deep, it goes very deep, and it sucks you right in with it. That stretch that goes from “Cryostasis” through “Eclipse” could stand on its own. Luckily for us, everything else here is very well done, rich enough to pay off a focused headphone listen, and primed for looped play. Definitely give this one a listen.
Available from Earth Mantra.