Daniel Smith
In Violet






Daniel Smith is a guitarist and vocalist, and usually busy being the nucleus of the London-based Alternative Metal band Quad Damage, which, I herewith suspect, will never be featured on AmbientExotica, I’m afraid. The guitarist’s first solo album, however, deserves both a spot and an in-depth review… these things come in pairs after all. In Violet is a shimmering work of remoteness, contemplation and magenta murkiness, spawning eight beatless movements, one of them being a collaboration with a drummer, but still eminently keen on the Ambient side of life. Self-released and available to download and stream at SoundCloud and Bandcamp, In Violet harbors moments of futuristic New Age, showcases the occasional Glitch excursion via cautiously crackling static noise rivulets and moves ever-forward with its nutritious Drone epicenter. Guitar-based Drone albums are commonplace and remain a competitive form of expression, with lots of artifacts to choose from. Thankfully, In Violet is worth the in-depth inspection due to its aesthetic amalgamation of sustained sounds and prolonged periods of silence. Cautious tones in major merge with low frequency foundations. The intriguing result of this solo debut depicted below.


A dubious atmosphere with glimmers of hope: the opener Fractals is based on abysmally deep backing chords on whose viscose fibers syringa afterglows are retrojected. The pulsating hexangular structure allows for a semi-dolorous interplay between sound, sustain and silence. Uplifting synth-oid bleep helixes encounter withdrawn reverberated plasticizers. Within less than three minutes, Daniel Smith’s Ambient gateway already encapsulates the endemic dichotomy; and this is only the beginning for various iterations of this serration. The follow-up Computer Vision is the first monolithic pillar, takes the electro-acoustic pericarps and lets them flow into a cyber New Age peritoneum. Fluttering modem sounds rush by with the speed of thousands of bauds, stacked mauve chords are almost tangible due to their mucoid shade. With all these absconded Space-Age artifacts in place, Smith shies away from creating a pompous immersion layer. Instead, the neon-colored view is more of a narrow vestibule rather than a decorticated futuristic mirage. While Luminescence turns out to be an asbestus-coated belling-bellicose interlude supercharged with an argentine metalization amid the agglutinated mellow photometry, the long-winded Hardware appears in a demo version here. A collaboration with London’s drummer SRLupin, the classic drum kit finds its way into the rhizomatic reticulation of Smith’s languorous licks, adding a cohesive cannelure to those dreamy catenae and analogue solar superfluids.


The title track In Violet is a striking Ambient apotheosis, even though it is placed at the album’s apex. Crystalline sine tones evoke the feeling of being entrapped in an arcane antrum, glacial globs glow glamorously in the background. Everything feels lactational and utterly soothing. The plasticity of this reduced piece makes it a show-stopper, for the meandering crackles and magnanimous moments of quiescence evoke a stasis of emptiness, the latter of which is as important a part as the actual vanillarific guitar chords. The granuloma of the adjacent Dying Rock is not entirely different, though its recondite bass billows make it more akin to the opener Fractals. However, the void of nothingness remains in close proximity, amending the dark matter sphere of the low frequency undercurrent. The moments of silence and contemplation not only swallow the sustain of the sound sources, they are also contrastive backdrops for their decay, allowing the listening subject to absorb the thermal heat and illumined surfaces before the inner eye. Rebirth then succumbs to strong melody patterns and scything high-rise epitheliums that are almost pressingly omnipresent, wafting in the frontmost alcove like an adamantly oneiric heterodox when compared to the intrinsic braiding, whereas the finale Sunlight multiplexes a somnolent but willfully austere ecclesiasticism via murky baritone guitar chords. Polyrhythmic protrusions, aerose piths, sylvan-synthetic cataracts: In Violet closes in a beguilingly cauterized state.


Given the suspicious flood of tags that are attached to Daniel Smith’s In Violet, one might confuse them with a lack of cohesion; the attestation of marauding and despoiling aimlessly amid the various genres is close at hand. However, while this floyd of various triggers and terms is indeed a tad too sophisticated and arbitrary, the actual result, In Violet itself, is a contingent sparkler that worships the – occasionally threatening – silence as frequently as it is keen on keeping the droning guitar-based diorama attached to the hollow moulds. The impression of being placed in a cocoon is probably one of the pictures that aptly describe In Violet, for that very cocoon serves as both a sanctuary and a narrow space… the cascades of nothingness notwithstanding. The tone sequences are never threatening or mean-spirited per se, which is why Daniel Smith’s drones are so soothing and even mellifluous. What they lack in eclecticism, they gain in textural oomph, in zoetropic patterns and polished surfaces. Shuttling between Ambient, Drone and heterodyned ghosting images of New Age, In Violet is successful in delineating its various viscoelastic vertebrae, sine sinews and guitar genes. The color-based morphogenesis is astutely captured and transformed into music: the music is violet after all.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 384: Daniel Smith – In Violet (2014). Originally published on Oct. 22, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.