■ – The Choice (None)

■ - The Choice

It is difficult not to feel hopeful, optimistic and inspired while staring at the album art for The Choice by the anonymous collective of artists we shall refer to as ■. I keep imagining to myself what might be off to the right of the woman standing there. My top 3 guesses are: 1) Godzilla, 2) giant ice-cream cone, and 3) just some more fluffy white clouds. 🙂

Artist: ■ (an anonymous collective)
Title: The Choice
Label: The Black Square
Cat#: None
Keywords: Ambient, Drone, Dub, Experimental, Glitch, Industrial, Minimal
Reviewer: o (an anonymous reviewer)

Hello again, it is I, your humble reviewer… ah, nevermind! I almost slipped up and revealed my true identity. For the extent of this review I shall remain anonymous, but you can call me o. Think of me as a shadow… no, wait… think of me as the figure of a person who’s face is blotted out by a mosaic of pixels. This entire block of text, which you might normally read as though it were my voice — or, rather the voice you would assume I have — has had it’s pitch altered by voice-masking technology so that I am even more enigmatic. I have expunged my identity from this review just as the artists responsible for creating this piece of excellent music have done… and also because I thought it would be a bit of fun. Everyone likes a good mystery, I think. Now that we’re all very confused about everything, I think I’ll start talking about the music…

… it all begins with a track titled ‘Pro-Choice’, on which a very textured and deep ambient pad floats in with a fleeting bell occasioning to parley across my field of hearing. It sounds heavenly, with a very subtle, steel sheen making up the lower frequencies, something that sounds a little like a grinding mechanism of some sort. The harmonies are very bright and nice, and toward the end a kind of static interference develops that wonderfully transforms into…

… another track, beginning with the same static energy, titled ‘Choice To Choose’. We hear a jazz drumset enter the mix, which I’m loving right now! Then these spacy sounds warp through a portal and into our minds, accompanied by brightly reverberating congas, the sound of wind blowing. It’s a very serene moment despite the underlay of funky downtempo jazz breaks. All of that disappears momentarily, replaced by sweeps of airy pad choruses. Then the beat comes back. So nice! It almost reminds me of the later-period ambient dub jazz of Controlled Bleeding on albums like Gilded Shadows, of which, strangely, there seem to exist no Youtube videos for reference. You can hear clips of it on LastFM, though. Comparatively, this is far more minimal, lots of imaginal space and room to breathe left open.

Next is ‘Illusion Of Choice’, comprised of subtle white noise frequencies at first and then adding a sort of liquid bubble bath of sound. Strings rise into focus. You feel as if showered in warm sonic frequencies but there is, maintained in high octave, some very bright, almost cold string pads… they’re held overhead as if something to aspire to from our position in the hot springs. It’s an interesting feeling, that of coldness and warmth simultaneously experienced, like huddling in a sealed space in winter but touched by sunlight and it’s radiative heat, but on a pleasant day it becomes a sensorial joy. The track then calmly manifests into…

… ‘Rational Choice’, which starts with the bubbles and continues with even more modes of subtle expression, a cavernous, deep space that echos out… then these really gorgeous bells come in that I’m obsessed with, and there’s also a light trace of a bassline comprised mostly of low, throbbing frequencies. This is one of my favourite pieces on this album so far. Very nice melodies, with spacious and nearly percussive reverberations that somehow feel harmonically fused to the bells throughout the work. This track is almost reminding me of Steve Roach & Robert Rich. It then builds into a bright synth sequence and I hear traces of what might have been a rhythm masked under intense layers of reverb, which unfolds into…

… the next track. It’s called ‘No Choice’, and it immediately drops the pretense of rhythm to send lush pads of breathy-feeling atmospherics straight to our ears. These disappear like a fog, replaced by reversed percussion snaps, timbrel bell harmonics. It feels like the sounds were culled from a monastery someplace out of time, it is like an incense leaving the vapour-trails of another world in our own…

… it goes into ‘The Right Choice’ soon, a piece of ambient music filled with bright harmonic pads, whispering voices that are hard to make out, a lovely and very subtle Gregorian hymn. I can almost see monks standing upon clouds in my mind, oh no! But, it’s very nice sounding and I’m enjoying it immensely despite the mental projections I’m occasionally subjected to. Strings come in as well, filling out the wonderful harmonics with their arrangements! It ends with what almost sounds like an ecclesiastic organ tone…

… which runs off to become the album’s ‘Outro’, a windy, atmospheric piece that lasts just 48 seconds, during which the breathy, ambient pads quietly fade away.

I love this album. It’s partly in the giant mystery of the collective, but more-so in the humanist vibe of the whole enterprise. Regardless of the insistence on the Bandcamp page for this album that it is apolitical, I felt there was something of a political message transmitting via the collective track titles — but it’s more of a rational humanist ethos that comes across than a body politic, particularly while listening to the sounds which are very dreamy! I’d highly recommend anyone reading to check it out, which really makes me want to put a link down at the bottom of the page like this:

http://theblacksquare.bandcamp.com/album/the-choice

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