Various Artists
Oceanic Triangulation






Oceanic Triangulation is not your typical compilation where various artists present their tracks and the listener is then advised to hear the attached agenda reflected in the sound waves. Instead, it is a two-tape split release presenting four well-known Ambient artists, all of them situated in Ambient’s focal point of synthetic and organic dreamscapes that contain a certain gravitas while at the same time stressing a life-affirming insouciance. Released on the Oakland, California-based Inner Islands label and available to stream and purchase at Bandcamp, the four featured artists are as follows: Hakobune aka Takahiro Yorifuji from Tokyo, Oliwa aka Sebastian “Sebi” Oliwa from Buenos Aires, Former Selves aka Paul Skomsvold from Oakland as well as Panabrite aka Norm Chambers from Seattle. The works of these artists are spread over two tapes, each of them presenting one long-form piece on a side dedicated to his vision only. Cleverly enough, the Inner Islands label does not even hint at the meaning of the title, let alone the intrinsic topic that is to unfold within the realms of the reels. But what the concept deliberately lacks in description, it gains in coherence at all events when it comes to the most important thing: the tracks themselves. I don’t know whether the tracks were curated or the artists created them in an insular process without knowing about the project of this tape in advance, but it seems as if a golden thread runs through each composition. Merging the greatness of Drone, New Age, ethereality and rurality, Oceanic Triangulation is a very intriguing release, one whose four triangular constituents are reviewed in-depth below.


Hakobune opens the tape duo with a track called Kakogawa, an silvery Drone piece of almost eleven minutes. The processed guitar sinews are eminently hazy, yet their viscidity allows them to gently seep and float; no surprise, given that the track is named after Japan’s eponymous river. Since Hakobune’s contribution is awash with a cajoling simultaneity, the mood is hard to pinpoint, but most certainly prone to an encapsulation process, offering the listening subject shelter in a safe environment mostly in major. While some of the guitar placentas evoke moments of mystery and uncertainty, there is one lead guitar decorticated out of the moiré. Serving as an illuminant within the fibrillar photometry, it protrudes the titration, gleams in cautiously aureate hues and evokes rural pictures. Meanwhile, an oscillation procedure takes place: Kakogawa is still a proper Drone manifestation alright, but its rectilinear legato tendons contain micro echoes, an infinitesimal-incidental chopped physiognomy which lessens the immersion factor and seraphic notion in order to append a certain synthetic wall. It is as if the listener cannot reach the lake’s innermost essence. However, since the mellowly uplifting tones and the textural soothingness outweigh the faraway recondite interstices, Hakobune’s opener comes close to the oft-cited state of bliss.


Oliwa takes over side B of the first tape. His contribution is called After Night, Before Sunrise; it is based on two movements and mirrors the duration of Hakobune’s aural river. The artist from Argentina is known as a synth tweaker, and so the ensuing soundscape is naturally supercharged with iridescent organ washes. Or rather not. In lieu of an all-encompassing ethereality, Oliwa stresses the granuloma in his piece by carving out the pericarp of the synths. The mood is definitely uplifting, but the synths themselves willfully desiccate and appear in a frosty guise, with pristine cracks and amplified nano jitters added to their polyhedric state, probably in order to stress the crystalline complexion. A glacier-like elasticized chime reticulation is an important part right from the get-go, but is toned down once the first movement reaches its apex. After a moment of quasi-quiescence, the appendix comes into play, a curiously murky yet upbeat amalgamation of dark matter pads and scintillating industrial cymbal aureoles in tandem with a breakbeat galore. While this convulsive interplay is running, the background slowly opens up and reveals a purified fog hailing from the distance. This endpoint seems to resemble the soon-to-arrive titular sunrise. Deliberately rough and jarring in its last stage, After Night, Before Sunrise keeps the pace and makes a theophany out of a gigantomachy.


The second tape is reserved for even longer long-form pieces and launches with a sparkler of 17 minutes by Former Selves called Triangulate Upon Paradise. The title itself is a wondrously oneiric entity, with the attached sound waves being on par with this creative textual outburst. The track is undoubtedly the most New Age-inspired capsule of the whole release: a prominent synth syrinx towers above an efflorescent undercurrent of withdrawn remoteness, the mood is as doleful as it is content. This nebula could go on for eternity, but let’s not forget that the track title promises progression, a flow of activity, an atmosphere of departure. And indeed, this implied spirit of optimism is evoked via arpeggiated syringa patterns whose Detroit-y gestalt revs up the intensity of the piece, making it feel more of a flyover than a picturesque standstill. Synth choirs soon appear, an entanglement of sound, sustain and silence takes place; prismatic pads whirl in helicoidal patterns and gyrate around arcane aortas. And so the movement continues as Former Selves presents an array of different surfaces, colors and fibers, never looking back, always surprising the listener with a varied but cohesive cannelure; some of its ingredients are galactic, others eminently peaceful, with a seraphic endpoint that is not as cinematic or gloriously pompous as the prospect of the title suggests. This works to the piece’s advantage and begs for the question whether paradise is reached in the end, if it was there all along, or lost for eternity. The comparatively sudden stop only nurtures this train of thought further.


The final piece is delivered by Panabrite whose addition to the tape is outstandingly benthic and aqueous. Resembling a dripstone cavern with lots of, well, driblets and blebs, the artist from Seattle shuttles between field recording-based New Age classicism and virtual vestibules to 16-bit memorabilia. Here on Digest Of Botanicals, one could even subtract 8 bits, at least at the beginning where a curious effect takes place: the three-dimensional state of the vesiculating aquascape serves as the background for a stylophone-resembling helix of whirling vortexes which are at first hopelessly emaciated before they grow feistier. Panabrite’s composition therefore represents a horticultural endeavor where the seeds have been sewn and are now beginning to prosper within the time-related boundaries of 18+ minutes. The formerly thin and calcined appearance suddenly becomes aglow, spawning cyan ribbons and magenta blotches once they are grafted onto each other. As the translucent piece progresses, echoey clangs and cyberbirds appear, interpolating the antrum further. Even heavily reverberated wind chimes appear, providing an Wat Phra Keo superstructure while still retaining the playful quirkiness upfront. Digest Of Botanicals works so well due to the incompatibility of its juxtaposed forces: graceful field recordings and sumptuous chimes go well together alright, but the unapologetically euphonious quality of the synth patterns nearly scythes through the sanctuary. During the final stage, these synths then become altered, the frequency twisted, their shapes warped. Indeed, that’s what Panabrite’s music is (also) about: uniting the antediluvian New Age with the cyber New Age.


Oceanic Triangulation is a great two-tape release, annihilating all the dangers that come with compilation releases and various kinds of artifacts which suggest the use of the “various artists” marker. Here, however, the stylistic realization is flawless, with the right tracks attached to each tape. Hakobune’s Kakugawa is the most organic offering of this journey, simply because this is – I presume – a track made of processed guitars, or maybe even one single guitar whose spawned tone sequences are melting amid their own phantom frequencies. Oliwa’s After Night, Before Sunrise then genuflects before a two-part movement, but the second, more raucous and rough part turns out to be an alteration of the first mellow one, consequentially amending to the oxymoronic nature of its hazy clarity. The second tape then carves out the concept of mysteries and movements further; nowhere is this more apparent than on Former Selves’ Triangulate Upon Paradise whose several segues and vignettes aren’t that stereotypically paradisiac as one’s Hollywood-pestered mind might expect. Panabrite’s Digest Of Botanicals rounds the polygonal structure off with a real field recording and wonderfully apocryphal synth dots. These tracks do share that particular something, all of them house a certain sentiment. It seems to be the duality of joy and seriousness, and while these words are way too clumsy and bland to fully capture the effect or explicate the essence, let alone the artistic visions, rest assured that Oceanic Triangulation is a well-balanced tape that meanders between the moods by means of clandestine notions and technicolor thiazides.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 374: Various Artists – Oceanic Triangulation (2014). Originally published on Sep. 10, 2014 at