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“In violent times, you shouldn’t have to sell your soul” ~ Tears for Fears (Ian Stanley/Ronald Orzabal) “ Shout”, Songs from the Big Chair 1985

 

This quote from 1985 is rather poignant in today’s political climate. As the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, scholars, the dispossessed, and those who resist are under attack by our own government, art becomes a medium in which expressions of rage, consolation, resistance, solidarity, sadness, and hope can be expressed. These artistic expressions are not passive, they are not void of meaning nor are they empty. They are a means to join in, to evoke, and to mobilize those who would resist oppression. They make us think, ponder, internalize, and act against the oppressor. They call us, not to be passive, but to be active and, therefore, not complicit in the violence that infects people’s lives.

 

Keith Kenniff of Helios, Goldmund, and Mint Julip has gathered a group of artists to contribute to a compilation in solidarity with oppressed groups. The proceeds from this compilation will go to The Trevor Project, Human Rights Campaign National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education, The Natural Resources Defense Council, ProPublica, and RAINN. The artists involved in the collection include Balmorhea, Ben Lukas Boysen, The Album Leaf, Mint Julep, Eluvium, Windy and Carl, Benoit Pioulard, Synkro, Helios, Christina Vantzou and John Also Bennet, and Hammock. The compilation is laden with mournful and hopeful ambient tracks, full of abstract, emotive expression that both mourns the present while looking to future hope. Each artist has provided tracks that are lush soundscapes, experimental, and expansive in nature.

 

Disquiet Vol. 1 begins with Balmorhea’s ode to the “Natural World”. Balmorhea’s vision is expansive and contemplative. “Natural World” begins with sounds of wind and builds into a complexity that includes warm synths, backwards samples, and fuzzy textures that vibrate and undulate, creating a sense of awe appropriate to how one ought to view nature. It seems that, here, Balmorhea attempts to remind us all that nature is meant to be protected, not exploited. Ben Lukas Boysen offers “Kentograph (Short Version)” which is a beautifully introspective composition with airy drones and bright, sparse guitar melodies. Eventually, a syncopated beat joins the guitar, but the minimalism is maintained. It’s a brief contemplative track that encourages self-reflection.

 

 

The Album Leaf are third on the compilation and contribute the track “AW 11316”. Dreamy drones begin the piece and then Jimmy Lavalle’s signature keys enter the mix as a bright, melancholy melody plays over the drifting soundscape. This is one of those moments of lament as a reflection of current reality sets in after the end of 2016. It’s a gorgeous and beautifully pensive piece. Mint Julip’s offering, “Longshore Drift”, has a deep, foreboding drone that is joined by dancing, joyous synths and ethereal vocals. I hear here an underlying mournful tone topped with a hope for the future. A looking forward amid tragic circumstance. Eluvium contributes a track entitled “Windmills”. Like Eluvium’s other work, this track is spacious and has, at its center, Matthew Cooper’s patient prowess in composing meaningful soundscapes. Perhaps “Windmills” evokes the windswept coast or the electricity generating white giants of the pass near Palm Springs or the giant fields in west Texas. Either way, at least for me, Eluvium’s track joins hand in hand with Balmorhea, calling all of us to embrace and cultivate the earth rather than destroy it.

 

 

Windy and Carl, longtime favorite artists of mine, offer “For End of 2016” as their entry. The bewilderment of the entire end of a year that, by many regards, was problematic, is encased in a more hopeful piece here, with shimmering guitar and ghostly drones. Perhaps it represents the edge of the precipice, with an entire nation about to drop into the oblivion of the unknown or, perhaps, it’s a signal of hope and solidarity with those who are more vulnerable. Benoit Pioulard offers “Home Taping Billowed Edge” as a dreamy, thought provoking piece that has beautiful swells, layers of warm synths accented with horn-like sounds and slight feedback, and a glacial pacing. It’s a gorgeous piece that moves one in mystical ways.

 

 

“Transition” is a piece composed by Synkro. I imagine here a reference to the move from one sort of world to another, more complicated predicament. Synths soar and float about, one over the other, in a cascade of sound. Helios calls us all to look “Within” with this track that seems to evoke thinking about one’s place in relation to others. If there is anything this past political cycle has shown, it’s that there is a lack of empathy and sympathy in the larger cultural arena. For me, at least, Helios calls us back to those concerns for, as we venture into our own selves, we begin to see our response to others there. Synths rise and fall in contemplative patterns, easing one into a meditative state.

 

 

“Chione” is an electronic, eerie piece composed by Christina Vantzou and John Also Bennett. There are east Asian elements in the strings here as they glisten amid the sparse and sometimes unnerving drones. This is cinematic brilliance, echoing the likes of John Carpenter’s work. The composition is glowing yet dim, placing juxtapositions of hopefulness and dread right next to one another. The final touch to this incredible set of artists is the ever-perfect Hammock. The twin musical powers of Mark Byrd and Andrew Thompson have produced “In the Shape of Longing”, a melancholy track teetering on the edge of anxiety but being pulled back by the beauty of possibility. Strings weep and drones flow, with water-like textures moving about. Perhaps there is a longing for those who are oppressed, those who are exposed, to be safe in a society that ought to be inclusive, safe, and, ultimately, free. It is a beautifully poignant finish to this collection of tracks meant to lead to helping others.

 

 

As people continue to rise up and stand in the gap for those less fortunate, for those less recognized, and for those who have little or no power, art will become central to the expressions of that fight. This compilation is going to be 1 of 3 compilations coming from Unseen as more artists join the group of people contributing tracks. Disquiet Vol. I is $10 and all proceeds go to the above-mentioned charities. Please, contribute and enjoy the ambient journey each artist takes you on.

 

Jason Lamoreaux is the owner, writer, and editor of Somewherecold, owner of Somewherecold Records, and a published author. He is also a collaborator on the ambient project Aural Blankets and has his own recording project called The Corrupting Sea.