Stratosphere, Rise

strato_riseApparently, all it takes to make misty, thoughtful post-rock that skews more to the ambient side is one guitar, one bass guitar, and some effects. That’s the gear list at play on Rise from Stratosphere (Ronald Mariën). The seven tracks here feature spiraling loops that build and thicken, almost but not quite hiding their melodies behind walls of sound. What distinctly comes through that wall is feeling, pure and human and touching. The title-perfect “Melancholy” sets the tone, and also delivers the message that you need to throw on those headphones to take this all in. Mariën’s layers run deep, and it’s a pleasure to hear each one being smoothly slotted into place. “Hypnotic” wafts up slowly, grabbing long chords as it comes. Single notes ring out, opening the way for the more distinct melody line to come through. “Enmity” follows with long drones led along by sliding bass notes before breaking into a post-rock line. After the melody’s had its say, Mariën folds it back down into wavering pads and one final bass note. “Duality” seems like the first track to let its post-rock side take the forefront over the pads and mist. Late in the track, a big, potent wall of chords lifts up, its insistent buzz leading a shift in intensity. The last couple of minutes hit hard, and I like it. The album closes with “Explore.” This is eight blissful minutes of a long, layered drone peppered with small, almost chiming pings. (Again, get those headphones on!) It’s one of those tracks that doesn’t appear to have a lot going on, but its ambient voice and mind-massaging texture are super effective, and they bring the album to a meditative close.

There is some degree of sameness to Rise, as everything’s built on drones and loops, but Mariën so effortlessly folds one track into the next, it feels more like a singular journey that shifts its look. Every piece has its own distinct flavor, and as I will say for the third time, getting up close with this in headphone is imperative. Falling between minimalism and post-rock, Rise is well worth a listen.

Available from Bandcamp.

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