Veteran Hypnagogue readers are probably well aware that your host, being a gentleman of a certain age, has a touch of a weak spot for music with a 70s/80s flavor. So I’ll tell you up front that listening to Sectio Aurea from Ombient is like having the stuff I love mainlined straight into my system. It’s a knob-twiddling, oscillator-tweaking, sequencer-adjusting, leave-me-alone-for-the-next-hour bolt of analog pleasure. Ombient (aka Mike Hunter) eases his way toward the front of the analog/modular resurgence with this release, definitively showcasing his understanding of the rhythmic latticework complexities of this style. To this he adds textbook compelling fills and runs on high, flute-like notes. There’s sometimes a slight rawness to these that suggests creation in the moment, and it ratchets up the release’s genuine appeal. After a brief warm-up with “Overture,” Hunter offers up four more long excursions on craft that may be familiar but are nonetheless a fantastic ride. You’ll want to listen closely; he believes firmly in the power of small sounds, and these pieces are loaded with them. They may just be be momentary squibs that flit across your headspace in the time it takes to flick a switch or twist a knob, but not a one is wasted and they all need to be heard. From warbling swirls that spin dizzy spirals in the title track to corrugated trills poking through “Undersea Miner,” Hunter slips in some tasty ear candy to go with his rich bass sequencers and straight-line step-and-repeat weavings. “Undersea Miner” is where you’ll draw your strongest TD comparisons (which are, naturally, inevitable) as it chugs forth. Its core sequence feels somehow more strident than the pieces before it, and with more of a low-end aspect. Something in that just screams TD to me. That, and the rushes of electronic whirl and whoosh that run through it. I keep coming back to this one, and for more than just my hit of nostalgia. “Ataraxia” has a great stretch where whimsical notes bounce around over a springy sequencer—it’s just a dose of cool using minimal elements about mid-track before Hunter sends back into a higher-velocity space. “Olostanette Recumbent” begins in a quieter space, offering you a bit of a breather. Echoing chime tones and more electro-wind patiently fill the space. This is an excellent choice after the more complex, heavily loaded pieces before it, and shows that Hunter also knows how to use his gear’s capabilities to carve out a more meditative space. The classic analog tone is still firmly in play, but he takes the idea down to a minimalist zone and pulls a melodic line into a long, hushed stretch.
It must said that, as always, that this site is about one listener’s opinion. And while this one listener can occasionally find repetition dull in some releases, when we’re talking about this school of music, it’s all about the repetition, and the way in which the musician pilots it onto different shapes and cadences. If you weren’t all that hot on Berlin school music to begin with, Sectio Aurea may not be thing for you. For me, Hunter nails that sweet spot between hypnotic sound mandala and velocity-changing joyride, and along the way gives me a lot to take in and dig on. So take this advice of this gentleman of a certain age and give Sectio Aurea a deep listen.
Available at CD Baby.