No Anchor by MemorybellRelease date: May 7, 2021
Label: Hidden Shoal
I’ve never heard anything by Memorybell or the music of the artist behind the sobriquet, Grant Hazard Outerbridge, but as soon as I saw the cover art and read that it was piano-centered ambient music, I got the sense that I would enjoy No Anchor immensely. The album is compromised of three long-form pieces, with the title track doubling up in length to expand over 40-minutes.
‘Beneath A Soft Clearing’ opens the album with warm, contemplative pads secreting opiate mountains of sedation to battered hungover brains and overworked eyes. Each intermittent piano key stroke, a sunbeam cascading onto an otherwise dismal day. Ambient music is like a balm or a dressing on the acid burn of capitalism; almost anyone can seemingly do it. But, it has an almost divine, transgressive grace to it. It’s a genre of narcotic reprieve, and whilst it means that very few artist’s sit atop the pile as the ultimate high, the vast majority of ambient artists, I tend to enjoy and this is no placebo. This first fifteen minutes of couch-slump, post-dopamine surge tranquillisation is as effective as any other great ambient/drone work in its ability to take the overwhelming chaos of existence and slow it down into gentle manageable waves of time, space, emotion and expectation.
The serenity carries over into the sophomore track, ’Soon To Wake’; a track reaching out with tape hiss arms and crackled embracing intentions. These delicate oscillations of noise, like shampoo slowly dissolving between ears and bathwater amidst ovarian peace and comfort. The true beauty of this music is its ability to lure the listener deep into the cosmos of introspection. Its composition is rudimentary, but its production is well-polished and its emotional efficacy casts a tall shadow over the vast majority of releases we’re submitted day-to-day.
I could say that this album just requires the patience to enjoy it, but I am extremely impatient and this album when I gave it my time rewarded with me clarity of thought, allocated space to set everything else aside and a journey out of this world into my own subconscious. Sometimes you have to remember that nothing really matters, everything we know is a societal construction or a humanisation of sciences beyond comprehension and we are all free, even when we choose to bow and conform and sink into the sand box lifestyle of salaryman capitalism. At any point, you could run off into the woods and start again, all on your own willpower. At any point, you could abuse the system, swelter in a haze of addictions and barbarise your mind into a paste of ignorance. At any point, you could follow your dream, take a leap of faith, stop saying what if and begin saying what next? All it takes is one deep repine into the wilderness of your thoughts.
I like to imagine that ‘No Anchor’ is quite aware of how far away and interconnected with the album the listener is at this point. After half an hour of meditative listening, it’s quite safe to assume that most people will likely be thinking about other things. Each person on a rudderless journey into an almost medicated state, no anchor for direction, always moving, changing, ascending, transforming. The track becomes almost like time itself; a vast river where you place your hand in and never touch the same water for a second. Each part droplet of the river is its own unique piece making a greater whole. This track is repetitive, but each swirling pad is informed by its predecessor. We don’t experience it the same because it rides the momentum of each of its formers. None of these pad strokes are the same. They inhabit the same space, but have different contexts and intentions and from one end to the other they evolve the track like slow falling dominoes. Seemingly its all the same but, every little thing pushes a little differently.
No Anchor is an excellent ambient/drone album that I’d highly recommend to fans of the genre and psychonauts alike.