Oceanscape is a long-form piece of 40+ minutes by South Louisiana-based Ambient artist Castleview, self-released in digital form in May 2014 and available to stream and download (name your price) at Bandcamp. And as both the front artwork and title reveal, Oceanscape is very obviously a magnanimously sized capsule of aquatic Ambient music. First envisioned as a three-part suite, this singular piece has survived and gained the artist’s approval to be presented to a larger audience. Intentionally repetitive and silky, there is a certain vibe to this piece through which the cleverly camouflaged looped state can actually be interpreted as the track’s boon. It is not just the stitches of the loops that are masked: real-world instruments find their way into the synthetic world in the – heavily processed – shapes of a guitar and mandola.
There is a reason why, despite its multitudinous clichés, anticipations and textural parallelisms, aquatic Ambient music is still beloved, regardless of whether the feeling of being underwater is only accidentally and unintentionally exuded, or there is a meaningful story arc attached to it, drawing from the vastness of the ocean. What sounds chintzy and overly prosaic on one’s reading device is recurrently majestic in its aural state, and Castleview sure enough delivers. And there is more: the front artwork gives a clear hint in terms of the simultaneity of water and air. Does Space Ambient meet its aquatic successor? I will tell you below in an in-depth review that is admittedly keen on pointing out the traditional aspects of this genre, but which is more often than not turned upside down by the languorous and half-sinister tone sequences which reign in this simultaneously wet and windy release.
Having talked about all the expectations and patterned similitudes, it is now time to metaphorically dive into the long-form piece. Oceanscape does not surprise during its infancy stage… a good thing. Castleview lets the textural amalgamations fade in slowly, but there is something grand about this piece right from the get-go: the multiplicity of both the surfaces and timbres. In lieu of softly simmering superfluids, the artist chooses to place blizzardous longitudinal airflows in-between heavily reverberated metallic afterglows. Two additional textures are of note: the omnipresence of a deep blackness – or silence – which embodies either the opaque essence of the ocean or the very boundary that may not be crossed; and secondly, there is a concoction of glacial crystal pads coruscating and gyring above the scenery. Their tonality is downright scary. Luring the diver with their pristine purity, it is the spiky uneasiness, a certain portent which allures an arcane danger.
The stokehold romance meanwhile is both a backdrop and an eruptive force. I refer to the low frequency cloudlets which aggrandize and bolster the depth of field of Oceanscape. However, they are by no means abyssal bass rivulets, for there is a certain argentine grayness injected into their radius of action, adding another light source juxtaposed to the vitreous synth chimes. This observation is only preliminarily unimportant, for aquatic Ambient music does always feature an artist’s instinct to equilibrate plinking high tones and low frequency counterparts that aurally paint a staggering ravine, the wideness and hopelessness of a traveler. Though not Lovecraftian in nature, Oceanscape and its said grayness in the low frequency spectrum allow a lactal physiognomy that is less reluctant on a horrifying blackness than a hibernal gauze. Strangely enough, the processed mandola strings, while still dark enough to be more than a tad uncanny, are a mellow foe to the glassy synth helixes whose gestalt may be awash with light alright, but also multiplexing coldness and enigmats.
A third column of the aqueous experience is based on the heavy usage of echoes, reverberations, sustained afterglows and hollow vestiges of a softened sound. It is here where Oceanscape is keen to genuflect before tradition. The endless void, a cavernous reticulation of gigantic proportions, whatever comes to mind to describe the hugeness, Castleview transforms these thoughts and impressions with the help of post-processing. Nothing jumps at the listener directly, everything is veiled and hued, aquiver with haze. The diffusion causes comparisons to aeriform elements, that is why I previously described one brazen ingredient as an airflow. This long-form journey therefore sits on – or in – the cusp of a lap joint or fin, traversing the descent from a purely liquid state to a loftier granuloma. A mucoid underwater cave maybe? I should not interpret too much into it, Oceanscape does not tell a story in the traditional sense, but the textural variety is noticeable nonetheless.
If you are a fan of Aqua Ambient or waterscapes – I’m not trying to coin witty genre markers here – then Oceanscape is an obvious no-brainer, especially so since it triggers all the right synapses and targets the expectancy of a genre follower’s knowledge. There is, of course, more to it than echopraxia or traditional craftsmanship: the interplay of and interdependency between the textures showcase a gorgeous entanglement. The piece never becomes dull or boring, even though it is clearly repetitive. Once all layers are in place, there is neither revelation nor elation to be found at a certain mark that can be pinpointed. Castleview’s piece works as a whole, and granted, it could have run for 20 minutes or 60 minutes without an alteration of its intrinsic commentariat, but all time-related aspects aside, Oceanscape is a delightful piece drawing from mysticism, infinitesimal benignancy and New Age tonalities that are not as antediluvian in this arrangement as they are elsewhere. And I for one cannot even imagine which sounds are synth-driven or based on real-world instruments. This shows that there is more to Oceanscape than aesthetic riddles.
- You can stream and fetch (name your price) Oceanscape at Bandcamp.
Ambient Review 357: Castleview – Oceanscape (2014). Originally published on Jul. 9, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.