The debut release from Luna Firma, the duo of Kuutana and Eric “the” Taylor, is a graceful, narrative-driven album filled with small sounds and vivid aural imagery. There is plenty of thematic set dressing here, from the sounds of waves and seagulls to distant howls of wolves, but for the most part it’s underplayed. For me, that’s a plus. I don’t mind that kind of stuff, but it’s very easy to get too heavy-handed with it. Kuutana and Taylor ease it into a place where you know it’s present, but it never gets in the way of simply enjoying the music. (Although for me, admittedly, those seagulls come mighty close.) “Between Me and the Sea” sets the scene with wave sounds and shimmering tones, then brings in piano to open the vista. The backdrop is both fluid and dreamlike, and a nice dose of echo gives it dimension. As I said, I could do without the gulls that fly past later, but only for the way they interfere with what is otherwise a comfortable flow. “Light Source” starts with slow pads and a jumble of kalimba-like tones, then gives itself over to keys backed with swirling string sounds, a bit of harp, and a swirl of arpeggios. Again, the duo lead the listener into a misty and calming edge-of-dreams space. “Open Night Air” offers a bit of surprise. It begins in soft ambient territory, with whisper-soft pads over night sounds. Then, around its mid-point, it grabs a shot of tribal tonality with solid drumming and a striding, bass-led melody. This is also where you get your wolves, howling in the distance. Again, not overdone, and a nice, subtle touch in what becomes an intense piece. That intensity plays really well against the more laid-back feel of what’s come before. The centerpiece of the album is the final track, the 32-minute saga “Approaching Atlantis.” As a melodic piece of this length should, it moves through a couple of scene changes. Rising out of a watery wash of pads (hello, seagull), it shifts into an oddly mechanical, clanking tangle of sounds that, quite honestly, I am at a loss to describe. I find it odd, but it passes and deposits us back in a quieter current that uses a lot of small sounds to create a full atmosphere. It passes into a space of pads and bell tones, minimal yet in constant, liquid motion. By its last few minutes, it’s been stripped back to a murmuring crinkle of white noise, long pads, and light atmospheric touches. It’s an excellent piece that not only bookends the album, but stands very well on its own. There’s one notable mis-step here—I mean, other than the gulls. An odd sound, like you just lost at a video game, gets thrown into “As Of Yet Unknown.” I was listening once in my office, and had to take off my headphones to make sure it wasn’t someone else’s computer I was hearing. Tore me right out of the moment…and it gets repeated. An iffy choice that acts like a big bump in the flow.
I’ve listened to Falling Toward Atlantis a good number of times, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve lost track of time while listening. The work glides past, always quite touching and affecting, but quietly so. It’s a very soothing album, even with the passing primal snarl of “Open Night Air,” and it’s certainly a candidate for long, looping sessions. Kuutana and Taylor have created a very special album here. They have recently released a follow-up album, and I’m looking forward to hearing what they do next.
Available from Bandcamp.