Within Reason
Subtle Shift






Within Reason is a relatively new project, but the man behind this moniker is a veteran in the fields of Ambient and New Agified music: Gregory Kyryluk is usually releasing music under the name of Alpha Wave Movement since 1992, but on this record, he is trying something novelly, possibly so shocking and far off his usual paths that this reinvention is better suited for an alias. Thus Within Reason was born. It won't remain a singular affair, for the Massachusetts-based artist is going to reactivate this moniker in 2013, and supposably beyond. Subtle Shift, released in 2012 on the Periphery label, is an eight-track album which, as its title already implies, tries to be a melting pot of Alpha Wave Movement's deep layers of synth-driven Ambient streams, gentle field recordings and New Age ingredients on the one hand and – here comes the boldly mentioned shift – energetic synth stabs, fierce pads and a constant inclusion of downbeat 4/4 rhythms and dubbier injections. The dreaminess is also upheld on this release, but the listening experience turns out to be much more dynamic, densely-layered and also surprisingly lofty due to the many glistening particles. The album shuttles between a poeticized apocalyptic mood and a transfigured flow of seraphic patterns. Despite this stylistic wideness, Subtle Shift presents a cohesive arc. You can listen to the album via this Bandcamp link. Read more about all eight tracks below and the surprising similiarities of this project to other well-known artists who altogether do not exactly sit on the Ambient fence, making this hybrid an even more interesting offering.


And off Subtle Shift goes with the eponymous opener whose title is so meaningful. The first few seconds, however, comprise of the kind of material that could well have been released by Apha Wave Movement: a mellow synth-driven ambience is interspersed with New Age chimes, chirping birds and cracking branches. The eerie downwards floating synth wave is the first marker of a quick break in style, as are the accrueing retro synth stabs that are usually found in more Dance-oriented electronic genres. The New Age flavor has vanished without a trace, replacing the sun-lit forest atmosphere with artificial wind gusts. A mellowly bouncing beat, plinking pads and ethereal shimmers, the latter now being the only hint of Kyryuk's Alpha Wave Movement, merge and create a rather dusky setting. Soft cymbals, whimsical scents of Balearic guitars, whispering voices and far-away liquedous machine drones round off the impression of this, well, subtle shift which comes full circle at the end when a quieter field recording of a similar forest scenery is played. Evoking the later works of Orbital, Subtle Shift is a surprising concoction that is indeed worthy of being released as a side project, as it might alienate and disappoint die-hard New Age fans all too much. The following Memory Filament is more densely texturized, but equally gloomy. Softly arpeggiated, sunset-red three-pulse synth pads meet with an iridescent synth river and a 4/4 beat scheme which underlines the voluminousness of the main pads. The highlight of this arrangement is reached after more than two minutes when wraithlike brighter synth spirals and coruscating molecules lessen both the heaviness and snugly warmth of the first phase. Soft fizzles and silky hi-hats complete the layers of the mix. I particularly like the repetitive pattern of the main pads, as they never become tiresome due to the intermixed ornaments whose modulations conflate with the leitmotif.


Bodhi opens the stylistic range of the album for the first time, and decidedly so, as it resembles a synergetic aqueous spacescape with galactic synth streams, croaking crickets, luminescent neon pads, darker but warmhearted synth strings and boosted celestial New Age chimes. The bassline is much more Dub-like this time, although a 4/4 beat aorta is omnipresent as well. Echoey timpani and a less densely layered middle section expand the wideness and decrease the thermal heat, but no matter the current phase, Bodhi's effervescent forward-looking solemnity is ubiquitously perceptible. A strong, colorful piece for Space Ambient fans. While Grey Area moves into the phantasmagoric melancholia realms of Pop Ambient artist Triola thanks to its tremendously cozy – or rather misty-mystifying – synth shapes and the darker pastel colored synth stabs in the vein of the Icelandic producer Yagya whose 2009 album Rigning is chock-full of such synths, Carbon Interface harks back to the earliest Ambientscapes of Alpha Wave Movement like Behind The Twilight Moon off the 1995 debut Transcendence and ennobles this dreamy clime with a meandering breakbeat, wonkily brazen raindrop pads, heavily trembling gelid waves and reverberated shakers. A very deep track which fills the whole (head-)room with its energy.


Nimbus replaces the blue-tinted synesthesia of the previous two tracks and replaces it with an intriguing mélange of enigmatic streams that fluctuate between tense minor and more relaxed major tones. A soft 4/4 beat accentuates the feeling of progression of this otherwise strictly Ambient-focused arrangement. A few aquatic synth drops remind of Global Communication's eternal classic 76:14 (1994), but the clave-like particles and the celestial iciness of the whirring backing synths augment the density much further than Global Communication ever could due to technical limitations of that time. To my mind, Nimbus comes closest to Kyryluk's material as Alpha Wave Movement, as the listener can equally feast on the cloudy synth washes, the playful micro droplets and the beats. Now referencing the album's intrinsic style in its title, the following Liquid Language opens with an oceanic field recording at a coast or cove, but almost immediately intertwines apocalyptic Faithless-like synth vesicles which glow in disturbingly purgatory-like colors with richly texturized Atomic Age flecks, goblet drum layers and New Age infusions in the form of short didgeridoo bursts. The ensuing synthscape is surprisingly eclectic and convoluted, but the ingredients mesh together like clockwork, offering a superb carpet full of microscopic blebs, atoms and shatters. In this regard, Nimbus is the standout track of the album and provides the biggest change from the cozy walls of sound Kyryluk is known for. Even more curiously, these exact walls are nonetheless clearly audible on Nimbus as well, making it an eminently successful mediation between numerous styles. The final Deeper Below closes with glacial blizzards, lilac-colored Detroit (!) synth hooks, golden-shimmering guitar-evoking accents, dry bass melodies and walloping bubbles in a strangely tense yet quiescent outro full of the lively kind of melancholia. A muffled public service announcement closes the album in tandem with one last dark synth string.


Subtle Shift provides a deep listening experience that is indeed not that far away from the ethereal climes of Alpha Wave Movement. The album title is hence a totally apt choice and leads back to this stylistic assertion. Regardless of the currently played song, the listener can always be assured of magnanimously texturized synth washes which have as big an impetus and are as celestial and lofty as on Kyrluk's better-known material. The second main ingredient which justifies the titular subtle shift consists of the punchier, usually darker but oftentimes surprisingly glowing synth pads and related stabs. And while they are tremendously important, they do not carry the whole track, but depend on the interplay with the blissful density, the dubby basslines and the gentle insinuations of the more club-compatible yet always cozy downbeat schemes. The album is loaded with changing patterns and interesting hooks, but it isn't until the last two tracks that the little setscrews really seem to mesh, as the many layers work together and amplify the complexity and coolness of a song. In these electronic surroundings, I find the occasional New Age remnants all the more annoying and out of place, be it the overly meaningful chimes and bells or the short eruption of a didgeridoo. While these devices and the few field recordings belong to Kyryluk's expected repertory, their appearance on this album does not bode well in the much more sophisticated, lively and bustling settings. I cannot even pinpoint a good reason for my perception. It is a gut reaction that is probably triggered by the much more Dance- and Detroit-oriented style. This is naturally no Deep House release, but if the beats per minute were revved up, the Within Reason project would be almost there! All in all, the dusky, frosty and intense ambience works fabulously well in the given context. Those who dislike beatless Ambient realms and are decisively in favor of a more dynamic theme in the veins of pristine Pop Ambient or gloomy Techno Dub should check this side project out. I believe there are quite a few people who would wish that Within Reason became the main project. And I have to admit that I am among this group.




Further listening:

The physical version of Within Reason's Subtle Shift is sold out at Bandcamp, but you can still listen to it in full via this Bandcamp link and purchase its digital version at iTunes, Amazon MP3, etc.





Ambient Review 174: Within Reason – Subtle Shift (2012). Originally published on Jan. 23, 2013 at AmbientExotica.com.