The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Andrew Thomas
Between Buildings And Trees Sebastian Reynolds , March 12th, 2010 10:55

A stalwart of the Kompakt label and a modern minimal ambient master, New Zealander Andrew Thomas returns with another record of gorgeous minimal ambience and barely there gossamer atmosphere.

The pastoral meditative aesthetic of the album certainly brings to mind those expert cultivators of ambience, Brian Eno and Boards Of Canada. Appreciated best as one long piece with ebbs and flows, the opening track, 'A Dream Of A Spider', sets the otherworldly tone. Delicate crackly piano glitches, wavering synth drones and skittering percussion fragments all bathed in a warm, soft focus glow.

The sparse of the loops and glitches recalls Leaf records veterans such as Murcof and Berlin ambient maestros Swod, while 'Blue Cassette' conjures a daydream of New York City's finest drone merchants, Growing, at their most lethargic. A near seven minute suspended chord drone wash, with enough movement and sound colour to keep it out of the perilous bucket wall paper muzak paste in which lesser artists can sometimes find themselves stuck..

The broken piano shards of sound that run through 'Above The World So High' are akin to the opening bars of 'Card Nation' from minor ambient masterpiece 'Grinning Cat' by Japanese sound artist and spaced out vibes man Susumu Yokota. 'One Thousand Black Pinholes In A Black Paper Sky' takes things even further down the deconstructionist route. Seemingly a collection of simple vinyl loops, it's a warm haze of nostalgia and wonder that tugs at the heart, as only the very best in ambient drone can. In interview Thomas refers to the production of the album as being "a process of uniting new music together with remnants of old cassette/4 track recordings and early digital recordings", and this is a fine example of that technique working perfectly.

With so much of the music being very obviously looped analogue sounds there's a visceral physicality to some of the pieces. Certainly with 'Moth In Mouth' one could imagine being shut in a darkened room with several skipping records and a crackly old radio. It's as much an exploration of the decay of audio formats as a meditative study of how the human mind responds to the infinite grandeur and scale of the natural world. As Thomas himself says, "when working on this album I would often be looking out to the sea, the hills, the mountains. I would do this a lot in the evenings – dusk, with the sun/light in it's dying moments" and the qualities of that sort of environment shine through every note and crackle of 'Between Buildings And Trees'. The album closes with another textural chord wash, 'Haze II', and it's all over too soon, disappearing before you've even realised that it's gone.