I have to honestly ask myself if I like Intersecting Skies just for its deep flows, or for how much it pings the Steve Roach reference points in my head. From the first few moments of this release I was finding analogues, no pun intended. In his efforts to capture the essence of summer weather in the northeastern US, Roy Mattson relies on a lot of Roach-esque sounds and styles. I felt like I picked up a hint of the grating stone sounds from Early Man on “Transitory Season,” caught some familiar tones in the tribal-style grooves of “Respective Realities,” and the tiny analog scritches and insectile burbles in “Unstable Atmosphere” launched me into memories of Possible Planet. Fact is, a lot of ambient artists draw on similar sound libraries or find ways to create familiar sounds in their own gear, so I’m not suggesting Intersecting Skies is derivative–it’s just not unusual for me to hear reference points in this music because of how much I listen to. It just seems like here, there’s a lot. Considering it regardless of its sonic waypoints, this release finds Mattson in his signature territory, a place where cloud-like pads hang out with field recordings and most everything moves at the pace of a comforting breeze. It’s a bit more active at the outset on “Transitory Season” as Mattson throws a bucket of sound sources out to play amongst each other. A sequencer line chugs along through the middle of it all. After “The Calling” slips down from its burbling start into a more distinct ambient space, we get a hushed flow that runs for several tracks. The title track and “Lichen Lattice” hit some very deep spots. Mattson increases his atmospheric colorings starting with “Humid Heat (Barometric Depression).” Field recordings of birds and wind play against the slow pads and super-light touches of percussion. This one moves lazily, the perfect feel for conveying the thick air of a humid summer. Crickets chirp on “Slate Clouds in Granite Skies” and the pads start to take on an almost watery hue. With “Electro-Static Release” a summer storm arrives, complete with thunderclaps and rain. This is what the album–and the weather–has been building to, and I like that Mattson doesn’t take this as his cue to make it all dramatic and over the top. He lets the field recording convey the storm, and keeps his pads going with cloud-motion grace. The final movement of the album, “Clearing Summer,” is loaded with the hopeful tones of a rain-washed sky, the way it always seems cleaner and brighter once the storm has passed.
I enjoy listening to Intersecting Skies, but I do find those Roach analogues a bit hard to ignore. Over the course of several albums Mattson has shown himself to be a thoughtful and talented ambient composer. To lean this heavily on his mentor’s style is a bit of a stumble. Still, there are plenty of solid ambient vistas being crafted here, and he pulls his theme through the entire album without a bump. Worth checking out, certainly.
Available at Bandcamp.