Stained Glass by MonochromieRelease date: January 6, 2017
Stained Glass found its way to me from Brussels via the internet and it’s a brilliant example of serendipity and good fortune in the digital age; this is one of the best ambient releases I’ve heard in a long time and whilst I’ve heard a lot of great music in that wider field of sound recently, this release to me is a brilliantly succinct example of how electronica and chill-out music should be done.
‘Overture’ introduces itself to us with the hissing of tapes and delicate reverberated keys, caressing gentle melodies into a euphonic lullaby. It’s reminiscent to me of bands like Wired To Follow and Be Water who individually have produced some of my favourite ambient/post-rock or post-ambient music of all time. Do not operate heavy machinery whilst listening to this because its serenading ambience has a delightfully narcotic tranquillising effect that will see your surrounding to Homer Simpson-esque cloud dreams faster than someone who just dropped three Xanax and intended to carry on with their day.
‘Umbrellas’ utilises its keys like droplets of falling rain against the constant sub- patter of bass tones. Its a traditional take on the idea of ambient music, literally shaping the listener’s imagination and creating a sense of atmosphere and space in its beautifully sedately tones. This is taken to a greater extreme in ‘Radiance’ a track that exudes head-spinning energy and an almost ecological sense of entropy like insects swarming and multiplying under a microscope or waves of heat drizzling onto the screen of some thermodynamic machine. The bassy undertones that cut through the mix at the end of the track give it a highly satisfying iridescence and a grounding to lose yourself in.
With the glacial expanse of hypnotic pads, ’Cirrus’ beckons slowly into the album as a slowly transforming piece of meditative ambient music. Its simplicity is its charm, only halfway through the track does additional instrumentation enter the mix in the form of subdued mallets lightly tapping monosyllabic chimes into the third quarter. The slow unravel ends with bassy tones crooning gently beneath the surface again offering ground as a final reassurance like a child going to school or riding a bike for the first time and taking one quick look back for encouragement.
‘Patterns’ is the most surprising track on the album; it’s quite intense and abrasive, yet it retains the album’s washed out trance-inducing spell of reverberation and comforting slow extension. It’s a good move to have the penultimate track grab the listener’s attention so firmly and still show potential new directions for Monochromie’s future releases and in that sense adds a lot of extra scope the album.
The late night ambience ends with ’Sunrise’, it’s interesting that most of the times I listened to this album it was way after midnight and I like to think that apart from travelling, the early hours of the morning really are the best time to listen to immersive, introspective music like this. It’s a great closer for the album because it shows each of the elements strongest elements shining brightly; the tape hiss, the pads, the piano work and electronic elements. However, it is also a uniquely bold and progressive track on the album that is arguably its strongest, most developed foot stepping forward; its complexity does not hinder it, it helps it flourish and assures the listener that the simplicity of earlier tracks was an intelligent display of musical brevity. The track is rich in textures and development and highlights every great thing about the album in a sentimental ode to one of the parts of a day that cinematographers call “magic hour”.
Stained Glass is a stellar ambient-electronica album traversing post-rock and experimental elements to successfully create atmosphere and relaxation…and Monochromie is clearly an artist to follow.