My initial impression of Nocturne – Soundtrack for Science Briefings by Matthew Florianz was that it was thin. Even for an ambient album, it felt like it lacked depth. As it looped through several listening sessions, however, I realized that although that thought never quite left my head, I was still getting quietly pulled into the music. For long stretches of its 93-minute run, Nocturne – Soundtrack for Science Briefings gets whisper-quiet, turning from a classic spacemusic sound to barely there, meditative ambient. Florianz mixes in sequencer runs and other small flourishes at points that nicely break up the flow. Between those points he’s inclined to lay out the more minimal pathways, with breathy pads and spiraling lines that exist just below the surface. It’s the kind of stuff that makes this a very effective headphone listen. Although it may seem contrary to say so, while Florianz’s quieter constructs are as calming as one might like in this kind of music, I find that by and large it goes by without leaving a larger impression. I know I’ve heard it, and I could listen to it again, but at no point does it make me need to listen. It’s one thing to get lost in an ambient/space album; it’s another to have a moving enough experience to immediately hit play again. I do enjoy the leg of the journey formed by “Dark Matter” and “Life.” In both piece, Florianz plays with slightly different versions of putting a slow-moving arpeggio over washes and pads. It’s that solid-versus-ethereal motif that works so often for me. “Life” blossoms out into a pad-based vision of stellar distances. The first half of “Do we live in a multiverse” is one of the album’s most immersive spans. This is where Florianz really reduces the sound down to a next-to-nothing state. Very light chime tones at the outset place waypoints for the unsure path ahead. From there, it gets very sparse but remains in constant, softly churning motion.
This is a good album to put on quietly after you’ve done your headphone explorations. It’s very ambient for the most part, content to just drift around the room. And while I don’t often comment on titles, I do wish Florianz had found a less antiseptic name for this album. Although it’s true to the music’s origin as soundtrack pieces for videos exploring the “unexplained mysteries of the universe,” I can say that the title made me hem and haw about whether I even wanted to listen to it. Hopefully it doesn’t turn listeners away, because it does offer some good ambient and spacemusic visions.
Available from Bandcamp.