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Synthetic Block "Means of Ascent"
Long form space music from the Gears of Sand label.

With the release of their latest disc, "Means of Ascent", Synthetic Block have crafted a thoughtful study in long form ambience that skillfully blends both electronic and organic ideals. Surely another excellent addition to the Gears of Sand catalog, "Means of Ascent" is a fine example of the impressive talent associated with the label.

The disc begins with the slow pulse of "In Transit", a melodic space piece with a decidedly retro feel. Instruments and tonal choices have a very smooth sixties space age sound. Pads move and intertwine with small phrases and tunes, slowly building in clarity and form ultimately becoming a complex and intricate weave of sounds. Yet despite it's complexity, it never seems overpowering, never seems crowded, each part retains a certain clarity and sense of purpose, a distinct voice in a chorus.

The long form title track "Means of Ascent" follows, a centrepiece for the disc and a long form work of great beauty divided into three parts. The first movement begins with a series of drones that wind in and out of the soundfield, a sparse piano playing haunted melodies in the background. There's a hypnotic feeling to the track, a spiraling form that draws the listener deeper into it's spell. As the track progresses new melodies and tones appear overtop the drone, each one having a distinct voice and interaction as if to suggest a series of conversations floating through the ether. It's quite an engaging effect, quite mesmerizing. A second movement removes the drone element and replaces it with a steady percussive track that plays along with an oscilating analog synth notable in that while it sounds completely fresh and new in the context of the piece, it still retains the same sense of rotation and spiral from the track's earlier section. A shorter third movement closes the piece with the sound of bells and a distant drone, the sound of faraway galaxies spinning in the cosmos. Truly an impressive work.

The third piece, "Proximity", ends the disc, a melodic analog work with deep and lush synth sounds that ring and chime throughout the senses. It's an impressive track (and would have to be after the mastery of the previous piece), bringing a particular organic element to the disc despite it's deep electronic origins.

As a whole, "Means of Ascent" is a powerful disc that impresses on many levels. I strongly recommend it to both listeners already familiar with Synthetic Block's work, and to those who aren't already aware of them who are looking for something new to listen to.

rik - ping things

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last updated 05/04/11