Goldmund - Occasus

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-04-13
Goldmund - Occasus
Goldmund - Occasus

What makes an album ambient? To take the explanation given by original master Brian Eno, "Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting." In that regard, Keith Kenniff does a perfect job with Occasus, his latest album as Goldmund. And while it spans that divide extremely well, upon the other primary divide of ambient music, sincere or bizarre, it falls squarely into the sincere category. In fact, in some ways it takes on a new age quality, where you should be lighting scented candles or clipping the branches of your bonsai tree while listening. But it never devolves into cheesiness. Instead, the music often takes on a cinematic quality.

There's an ineffable sweetness to many of the songs here. They seem to be striving towards some numinous light just over the next hill. Opening track 'Before' is exemplary in that regard, like watching the sun rise, building slowly from mostly shadows to airy brightness and then lifting into the clouds. 'Above' uses guitar in tandem with the piano to make itself even more delicate than the rest of the set, fragile almost beyond tolerance.

Most of the songs in the album's first half are simple piano-centric affairs with a gentle brushing of effects across the top. 'As You Know' is a somber piece that develops a melancholy Blade Runner flavor toward its conclusion. It's followed up by the achingly beautiful 'Circle', which feels both sad and life-affirming in its vibrant tones. 'Bounded' and 'Breaking' use more sparse piano, but build in huge, pulsing background bass shrouded in mists. 'History' is like waking up to a gentle morning rain.

The back half of the album breaks from that style though. 'No Story' converts the piano into a background texture and lets an unsettled bass and creaky string dominate the second half of the turn. And while some songs do add electronic flavor, others are even more purely piano, such as 'Radiant', which is almost entirely undecorated but still quite moving. 'Thread' uses the bass effectively again, making it feel like plunging into a series of ever deeper membranes, falling and falling. 'Terrarium' has a sense of a massive void, with huge, gaseous pads drifting through the ether, and uses the bass to alternately provide warmth and menace. 'Moderate' is desolate and bleak, like gazing out across an abandoned battlefield. Some of these later songs shade more into Steve Roach territory in their gloomy ambience.

Occasus is, plainly put, gorgeous. And it works both as background music, providing a soothing atmosphere for work or play, or as something you can focus intently upon and sink deeply into. Despite the darkness present in some of the tunes, overall there's a sense of hopefulness across most of the music. That well crafted sense of optimism means this album will be making plenty of ambient best of lists at the end of the year.

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