The rule of thumb we attach to the Florida-based Rainbow Pyramid cassette label in general and Wisconsinite Steve Targo’s Inner Travels moniker in particular is that of a New Age approach regarding the vitreous synth washes and pristine clarity which are radiated even by and within the interstices. Both the artist and the label deliver tasteful New Age music by getting rid of the antediluvian dark matter pads and an all too specific natural habitat. On this record, the rule of thumb applies as well – but said thumb is now green! Enter Garden Music, a journey of roughly 40 minutes caught on tape and available to stream and order at Bandcamp. As is the case with Targo’s previous releases under the more protuberant Riot Meadows moniker such as Natural Circuitry (Twin Springs Tapes, 2013) or Titanium Coma Seeds (Turmeric Magnitudes, 2013), the tape does house two long-form tracks that are actually themselves capsules for various smaller vignettes and movements. Filed under the New Age category, Targo occasionally looks back to the golden era of the 70’s and 80’s, but does neither care about dolphins in the sky nor whale songs in the sunset. In lieu of these tacky pictures, he uses shiny synth patterns, soothing drone washes and pentatonic keys. Inner Travels' official follow-up to First Light (Twin Springs Tapes, 2014) succeeds with the inclusion of real-world counterparts amid the synthetic vortex and is therefore consequentially reviewed in-depth as we speak.
Already proteinaceous right from the very first rhizome that is pursued through the medium of sound, Inner Travels launches side A with a two-part synthetic mitochondrion comprising of a massively euphonious stem and a loftier, gaseous vertebra that is twisted around this state. This polyphony alone sets up the positive vibe that is to come, but once the diaphanous whistles, the birdsong-fueled field recordings and chip tune-oriented 8-bit square lead gustatory aura altogether cajole their way to the listening subject’s ganglionic appreciation, the garden literally comes to life, still willfully artificial, at times mercilessly apocryphal, but nevertheless harboring the infinitesimally chintzy nucleus of New Age for this very reason. Pentatonic faux harps evoke vanillarific mountain vistas, heavily reverberated segues meanwhile serrate the aqueous vesicles of a dripstone cavern with a thiazide of saltatory leach – not leech – blebs.
The oscillating pulses are probably the archetypical force in Steve Targo’s recent output, being seemingly decorticated directly from the Mana tree. Fibrillar and viscid, these crystalline chimes are the golden thread hued in cyan colors. When side A reaches its apex, a magnificently glassy photometry is unveiled, consisting of opalescent pericarps, aggrandized afterglows and coruscating chroma illuminants. In short: it’s a chimescape par excellence. When Inner Travels leaves room for a tad of darkness or nothingness, the luring textures succeed, but even when synth superfluids run as alimentary tributary rivers, their agglutinating albumin make up an equally important part of the titration.
Side B meanwhile starts in a different fashion and is much more playful to begin with. The textural range is the same, the arpeggiated chiptune mirage exudes the same benthic odor, but the surfaces have changed quite a bit. Now resembling darker emerald or even fir green tinges, Inner Travels captures additional galactic whistles and ameliorates the horticultural lavabo with a particularly glistening luminosity. Merging the histrionic beams of Space Ambient with a perfectly earthbound sea level granuloma, this anacrusis of three and a half minutes is probably closest to Steve Targo’s previous moniker Riot Meadows. This moniker might be resurrected against all odds. Stranger things have happened in the music world after all. In other news, there is a certain trait the Wisconsinite succumbs to on this tape that has been heard gazillions of times, but which works flawlessly in-between the oneiric reticulation of the prismatic synth blotches: a field recording of plain rain drops. However, the clandestine chlorophyll cavity profits from this liquid link to the real world, and the amalgamation of mucoid mysteries and dilute dots has to be heard to be believed.
The aforementioned pentatonicism is a mark – or stigma, if you will – that graces many a New Age record. Those Chinese tone sequences shall inherit and spawn purity, the positive withdrawal, one’s innermost sanctuary, you’ve heard it all before, most certainly in a satirical context. I can fully understand that many Ambient listeners have since moved on and prefer darker re(ve)lations in their music, but Inner Travels tries hard to synthesize said Asian influence with wondrously quirky textures and patterns. Consequentially, side B features such a section as well, right in the middle. When the synth syrinx wobbles and stumbles in the darkness, the process is both bizarrely graceful and oddly chaotic on each tone’s surface level. It is, as I’ve hinted at, the good kind of New Age music, absorbing the cyber straits of the 90’s while traveling further back in time to the late 70’s. The endpoint of side B is magnanimously elasticized and prolonged, featuring an aural ctenidium of comb-like synth scythes and flute-like bokeh dioramas. The endemic light feels fresh, atomizing less thermal heat than it is keen on a certain newness. Since side B comes to a halt any second now, the atmosphere of departure looms but is interlocked – or better still: dovetailed – with the spirit of optimism.
I do not want to glue certain attributes or genre conventions to Steve Targo’s Inner Travels moniker as of yet, for this is the second tape he comes up with. Who knows, the third one might add an industrial vibe to the scenery, a film noir element or whatnot. At the moment, though, I can securely declare my excitement for his synthesizer movements that delineate both textural and artistic clarity. There is no need to be afraid of anything, the vibe is always unapologetically positive, with no strings attached. Whereas the movements of Riot Meadows are eclectically versatile and perversely diverse, re(as)sembling more of a – nonetheless joyful – cloak-and-dagger or shock-and-awe guerilla ploy, Inner Travels keeps up the intrinsic spirit and appears more streamlined and whitewashed. Since these two adjectives also carry negative connotations with them, let me explain: what you see is what you hear, and vice versa. The front artwork approximates the music, but it is the latter that enchants full force. Far Eastern caves, microscopic looks onto, into and through life, aural YMCK ribbons, these delightful oddities are transferred onto the reel of the tape. Maybe it’s a personal notion – then it is my loss entirely – but I really don’t want to attach the New Age genre convention to the music of Inner travels, neither as the sole focal point nor as a definitive categorization. In addition, think of distant cyber realms and even a faraway Vaporwave esprit due to the hyperpolished architecture and its adjacent droplets. Garden Music has it all… and presents these parts in the most tasteful way.
Further listening and reading:
- You can purchase and stream the tape at Bandcamp.
- Twitter intermission: @1nn3rtrav315 & @rainbowpyramid.
Ambient Review 372: Inner Travels – Garden Music (2014). Originally published on Sep. 3, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.