Prior to starting any Altus album, I make sure I have nothing else I need to do, because I know that all I am going to do is listen to Altus and maybe do a bit of introspection. Innerspace keeps that tradition alive by easing out over an hour of slow, sometimes somber, often broad ambient constructs that get inside your head, quietly sever your consciousness’ connections to your body, and take you quite far away. On one of my first review listens, I looped it for about five hours. I listened to it, examined it, let it become background, lived within it, napped to it… It was a very good five hours. Innerspace is signature Altus, meaning that it doesn’t use a lot of velocity or motion, but rather focuses on the slow drawing out of an emotional thread across a series of calm vistas. So your mind stays focused on the tidal rise and fall of the layers while you sit back and let your feelings find their way to the surface. A beautiful sense of yearning comes through, to my ears, on “Vast Yet Insignificant.” Pads like very long strings pull this one along, and as one fades I find myself waiting for the next. This is one of those “this is why I listen to ambient” pieces, and on one listen it occurred to me that I’d love to hear this done by an actual string ensemble. I think it would be fantastic. “Reflection” takes the ever-popular choral pads, draws them out and immerses them under the surface of bright, warm drones that curve gently upward like a prayer. I hear sacred music undertones rise as the piece goes along its meditative way. Lest I lead you to believe that it’s nothing but quiet drifty things on this album—although that’s the main focus—I love the simple bass pulse, a single note, that taps out the passage of time on “A Universe Within the Atom.” By the time this track lands, we’ve been adrift on warm, melancholy-tinted seas for more than 20 minutes—and blissfully so—and this unassuming note changes the timbre of the journey without really doing much. For this artist, it’s a momentary change of brushes on the same vast canvas. (He even sneaks in a distant drum beat.) Complete immersion comes in the closing piece, the 21-minute “Innerspace Outermind.” For an inward-looking piece, it’s got spacemusic cred dripping off it from the outset. Greeted by thick, warm pads brushed with high tones and tethered by a rich low end, the listener is instantly pulled far down into the sound. Unhurried, the elements shift and meld and expand as the real world just keeps getting farther away. The rise and fade of the bass chords are like intermittent swimmer’s strokes that come solely to take you along on these warm currents. If you ever find yourself in need of a perfect 20-minute meditation break, here’s your soundtrack.
To me, Altus is one of the top purveyors of quiet, reflective music working today. Mike Carss has an amazing ability to pull strong feelings from you without rippling the surface. His music just eases itself into your ears, heads for your soul, finds that part of you that’s resonating with his ambient reflections, and works on that harmony. It’s effortless—all you have to do is listen. Innerspace is yet another superb, repeat-ready release from one of my personal favorite artists. Get this, and resonate.
Available from the Altus website.