I listen to a lot of ambient music. This isn't a boast but a personal observation ... a considerable amount of my personal identity is wrapped up in the word 'ambient'. My eldest daughter calls the music I love 'elf dance music' and speaks of my obsession in these terms. My eldest is 14 and she is a big fan of Coldplay. With their involvement with Brian Eno, I know its only a matter of time before she get's her inner Legolas on ... I can wait.
I volunteered to review Summa's latest self-release - Roads - because I was intrigued by the simplicity of his bio. He described himself as an 'Alternative/Ambient musician based in Brighton" ... and I wanted to know more. He had pricked my curiosity because ambient, like metal, has more sub-genres than the world has countries and Alternative/Ambient seemed so nondescript. I also wanted to hear how Brighton would shape his music. To be honest, I was just curious.
I wasn't disappointed. Roads is an aural delight and neither alternative nor ambient, certainly not in the forms I have come to know.
The three tracks are heavily influenced by ambient music: the use of long, sweeping chords played on floaty synths and the wall-of-sound aesthetic are used heavily in ambient music, as they are in other genres.
But there is more to this music than simply ambient. The three tracks are wide, vivid, vibrant musical expressions. They are rich in sound, texture and percussion; the use of ethereal vocal samples and backbeats really set this release apart.
It is in the vibrancy and 'aliveness' of the sound that I hear Brighton, a place I have yet to visit but, through my friend Roy, (who is running the Doodlefest at the ONCA this weekend) I have heard great things.
The first track - 'Diapason' - is all about swirling synths at the start before the haunting vocals appear and the track builds with piano and percussion to create the most wonderful wall-of-sound. It is a rich, vibrant cacophony of sound that stirs the heart.
The next track - 'Muscle Memory' - is the shortest of the three tracks on the EP but still packs a wallop. It opens with an atmospheric field recording and some deliciously broad synths before sounds are manipulated to form another wonderful wall-of-sound.
We then shift effortlessly to the third and final track - 'Sirens' - which is an amazing track that begins with a sample of a busy street and the most delightful of female vocalists singing in a middle-eastern still before broadening out with synths and percussion.
Regardless of definition (Summa's sound is more electronica than strictly ambient) Roads by Summa is sweet headphone music for the heart ... it also sounds great on the ol' hifi rather loudly.
I would highly recommend this EP folks with a thing for upbeat walls of electronic sound. What Summa distils into 19 minutes is more than some artists can convey in an hour.