This week’s sale item (and personal favorite of mine) is Stephen Philips’ “Into the Dark,” priced at just $5.99 through January 5th.
Into the Dark is a beautifully restrained and elegant piece of ambient music reminiscent of Neroli by Brian Eno, and Entering Twilight by James Johnson. Moving patterns of sounds, varying from bell-like chimes to deep rumbles vaguely-ethnic rattles, interact and react to create an always-shifting atmosphere, a sense of “place” and mood while avoiding ambient music cliches.
Stephen Philips is a prolific ambient music composer, best known as founder of Dark Duck Records, and he has collaborated with such diverse and respected artists as Numina, Austere, IXOHOXI, Ben Fleury-Steiner, James Johnson, Rigel Orionis, Ben Summers, and Isomorph. He has frequently performed live, and has worked in styles ranging from drone minimalism to glitch to deep chill, mostly centering around restrained ambience.
A single, continuously-evolving track of over 74 minutes, Into the Dark works great as a background atmosphere for continuous repeat play. But like the best ambient music, it is appealing enough for careful listening as patterns repeat and evolve, and themes emerge throughout.
“Sometimes even reviewers judge a book by its cover. Hypnos release, check. Stephen Philips, check. Abstract cover art, check. A single track over an hour long, check. It’s obviously going to be deep dark ambient drones for the duration, right? Well, that impression goes out the window on the first note. The pinging noises sound more like the Barron brothers’ “Forbidden Planet” soundtrack or modern classical, than say, the latest Steve Roach hour-plus ambient epic. Bells, gongs and chimes are the predominant sounds, used rather sparsely, with synths and other sounds and effects for good measure. Wood blocks appear now and then, just briefly. Bass notes ring out from time to time and give just a hint of jazz flavor. This is thinking man’s ambient, like Brian Eno’s recordings from 30 years ago. While quiet, it isn’t exactly background music, as it doesn’t exactly flow. Notes are discrete and intermittent. It is subtle yet assertive in a way. The basic overriding theme and sound palette changes little over its course, just the placement of the notes and sounds. It’s like taking a thin slice of something and studying it intently, deliberately, ignoring everything above and below. Engage, listen intently, and see what you find.”
–Phil Derby, ElectroambientSpace
“I have had it on continuous repeat since I got it out of the envelope. This isn’t the drone that Steve is known for but instead a very addictive, work of highly refined minimalist ambient–as Mike G mentions very much in the tradition of Eno’s utterly sublime and timeless Neroli–Steve lays down a very catchy main rhythmic motiff that floats over propulses of light chiming exhalations. over and over again for 74 minutes and 29 seconds…. It’s one of the best single track immmersions in a very long time.”