Inner Travels
First Light






Happy Birthday Twin Springs Tapes! Matthew Barlow’s label, based in Asheville, North Carolina, celebrates its tenth release with a special tape that evokes the aesthetic qualities of the 70’s New Age movement and blends it with the Neo-New Age tendency of late. Enter Inner Travels aka Steve Targo from Wisconsin who is also best known in the world of music for his crazily callisthenic synth synergies and rural roads to retro rusticity he delivers as Riot Meadows. Natural Circuitry (2013) is one of these beautifully organic-synthetic takes, released on Twin Springs Tapes as well. On Titanium Coma Seeds (2013), brought to light by San Francisco’s Turmeric Magnitudes label, Targo ventures into more piercing and incisively scything territories while never letting the beautiful melodies out of sight. And a third work of his kaleidoscope should not be forgotten: ENVMODCAST (2014) chop-p-ps and cut-t-t-tzzzz through MTV memorabilia and staccato fusillades.


In short: Riot Meadows continues to offer the wildest rides via shapeshifting vignettes, gates to turbulent dimensions and passageways that lead to video tape nostalgia. Inner Travels, meanwhile, is, at the time of writing this review, a fittingly incandescent side project that sparkles, swirls and glows without neglecting the importance of legato lightbulbs. And so the debut came to be known as First Light: available to purchase and stream at Bandcamp in tape form and digital incarnation, it is a much silkier, way less protrusive wonderland. The listener can be assured at all times that positivism, luminescence and carefreeness are embroidered throughout the rotatory reticulation. I can say this much in advance before diving deeper into all of its ten numbered tracks: First Light is one of those rare Ambient concept albums that can be enjoyed on the run. You do not necessarily need to listen to it from start to finish, even though this is obviously the most noble effort. But seriously, it allows the listener enough room to not be fully immersed at all costs. This has to do with its transparency, the clever stacking of thin physiognomies and other reasons given below.


 The first First Light, the second First Light and the third First Light. Photo by Matthew Barlow.


Part 1 may only be a short vignette that is a few seconds shy of the one minute mark, but Inner Travels still manages to bring his vision to mind in this moment of flittering fugacity. The rising four-note scheme evokes a soft pentatonicism, a dewy purity that heralds a new morning. Indeed, this description is overly prosaic, but egad, it encapsulates both the album title and the process of development and prosperity. Bleepy laser gusts float through the comparably dark area; after all, the light remains weak. Part 2 also shuttles between black interstices and colorful notions, its chromaticity, however, is revved up properly. Seraphic synth swirls and rectilineal foils form the veiled and droning base frame for mellowly arpeggiated pad blotches whose vigor could be almost called aggressive, although it delivers a positive form of aggression which is needed to push the emptiness back bit by bit. Part 3 is the turning point in this regard. Steve Targo does make a twofold point here: not only is it the centerpiece of almost ten minutes, its seven-digit Candela value also crosses the threshold of a supernova watched through safety goggles. Iridescent twinkles, music box-evoking patterns and cosmic bleeps mesh and dance. This helicoidal pattern manages to look lively and somniferous at once. No low frequency undercurrent is floating, just a plinking batch of stars, strums and scintillae whose afterglow turns the blackness into a royal blue haze. Pointillistic, spiraling, expanding… a strikingly mesmeric diorama.


Part 4 is no less stupefying and in my humble opinion even outshines Part 3, if not via its exposure value, then by means of its aesthetic alloy. The amount of layers is augmented with bass rivulets, polyhedric blebs and vitreous vesicles. This fourth part resembles a cyan crystal cavern more than anything. Luckily, the enigmatic mood is only insinuated through glacial echoes, as everything else is beguiling, bedazzling and (be)bustling. While Part 5 comes along in the gestalt of a short interlude crowded with polyphonic 16-bit square lead pads, window washer/whale song hybrid helixes and rapturous tonalities, Part 6 presents itself as the first proper legato sparkler. There are dripstone droplets and galactic pulses aplenty, true, but the togetherness of the majestically Japanized lead melody and the opalescent rhizomes in-between the mélange cause a constant stream of sounds and cloudlets with no cleft or fissure to be bridged.


Part 7 is a quasi-interlude of less than two minutes, and it is short pieces like this one that tear up my heart: the zoetropic pseudo-arcade that is erected here is too enchanting a place to only visit it for such a short time. 8-bit helixes let the listener travel farther back in time, with the adjacent liquedous rain pads offering solar solace and eclectic enchantment through each repeated fiber, boosting the concupiscence to soak them all in. Part 8 is a counterpart not just to Part 7, but the whole album, at least in its infancy stage which surprises with cauterized, overly mystic gradients, but Steve Targo’s synth sybaritism strikes back soon enough as the Wisconsinite wizard warps warm waves of wonder, with their unvarnished opalescence providing the auspiciously celestial phantasm to the spectral backdrop. Meanwhile, the second long piece of the album and the penultimate offering overall, Part 9, shows the cyberspace/virtual reality roots and vivacity of the artist better than any other song of the Inner Travels project, as there are not only faux birds chirping in a magical coppice, no, there is an additional Hammond organ-resembling Lounge panel whose frequency range is altered so that it resembles a droning reel. A most dizzying but no less enthralling effect which blows thermal heat into the plinking prongscape that resembles a seething cauldron in its efflorescent state. The final Part 10 then returns to legato lands and closes the divine trip with superstructures of auroral arcana, aural aurum and autarchic aureoles. Hazy temple gongs and soothing surfaces put the finishing touches on the elysian effulgence of the trip that is First Light.


First Light is a superbly crystalline affair. In its darkest spots – whereby darkness is just an abstract term in this regard – it is mirthfully mysterious, always taking the listening subject by the hand in order to reach a transcendental state. In its most blissful and complete moments, Inner Travels’ debut is closely tied to the luminiferous fragility of Tetsu Inoue’s Inland (2007) and Masayuki Taguchi’s Works1005 (2010). That these gentlemen are of Japanese origin is no coincidence, given the old but truthful cliché about the land of the rising sun. In addition, New Zealand’s composer Andrew ThomasFearsome Jewel (2003) is not just a work of similar beauty, but comprising of a closely resemblant structure: ten untitled Ambient tracks of reflected lights and sparkling flashes of colors. And I have not even mentioned Seattle-based Panabrite’s Cyber New Age classic Wizard Chimes (2010) whose pad structures and surfaces are coated in a commensurable hue.


Mentioning all these artists and their projects, it seems that Steve Targo’s Neo-New Age-oriented debut is in good company. While this is certainly true, the artist can stand on his own feet with this New Age-oid debut, especially so since the split-up of Riot Meadows and Inner Travels makes a lot of sense and remains open to scrutiny. Despite the tranquilizing movements, the ubiquity of fluorescent placidity and a wealth of whirling wisps of win, First Light never overwhelms the listener with cheap effects or an overabundance thereof. Its state is translucent. One is allowed to gaze, study and see. Even the painfully short vignettes fit into the grand scheme and do not cut through the contemplative state in the slightest way. Fans of the artists mentioned above or Ambient aficionados who want an earthbound yet somewhat aeriform synth-based New Age album without gazillions of overstated layers an imbalanced ingredients should investigate in Inner Travels’ First Light. A wonderful tenth release on Twin Springs Tapes.


Further listening and reading: 


Ambient Review 328: Inner Travels – First Light (2014). Originally published on Mar. 26, 2014 at