With the amount of music I receive to listen to, it’s always in an artist’s best interest to be able to catch my ear and make me need to examine their work more closely. Moonlooker (Axel Zaren) did exactly that with his half-hour offering, White Bird on Black Snow. A track from it first caught hold of me as I was shuffling my review queue; then, when I decided to dive into the whole album, it held my attention. In seven short pieces, Zaren switches up styles, mostly maintaining a quiet-flow feeling as he plays with variants on his main idea. String pads and soft wind sounds greet you on “Black Bird on White Snow,” laying down a bed that Zaren later augments with a churning beat and glittery sequencer. It glides back down to an ambient space, with long and calming pads. At nine minutes it’s the longest track, and a great introduction. “White Bird on White Snow” takes a simple approach with layers of rise-and-fall strings pads cutting gracefully past one another. It’s a nice, meditative piece that eases its way along. It melts into “Black Bird on Black Snow,” another mesmerizing set of pads, just lightly roughened at the edges and with a hint of underlying urgency. “Epilogue” unfolds into a piano piece with ambient backing and bass accompaniment. I’m tempted to suggest it’s got a bit of post-rock to it, as it’s basically piano and bass, with a rhythm carried by the low end. There’s an ominous undertone to the pads, like a suggestion that this story is not quite finished.
White Bird on Black Snow has been a pleasant surprise for me. It’s engaging and well-made, with each track giving your ear a little more to take in. Ambient fans will like it as a low-volume listen, letting Zaren’s work find its own way into the space. It’s a short album, but I can tell you that during one listen, I wondered if “Black Bird on Black Snow” was a longer piece, like the opening track. No, it’s just over four minutes, but it’s so immersive, time just took a step out. That will happen with this album. Give it a listen soon.
Available from Deep Flux Records.