Formlessness EP 






The ice-blue gradient of the front artwork coupled with the porose structure of the in-your-face attitude may not even reveal half of its qualities, but that’s of no importance once the first sounds of the Formlessness EP reach the listener. The works of Northern Ireland’s Lee Gorman aka Ambientsketchbook are varied and few and far between the styles, ranging from warm natural habitats over soothing Glitch-infested icicles to, well, New Age-inspired synth-heavy interim states of celestial wideness. This is exactly what the Formlessness EP evokes. Released in October 2014 and available to purchase and fully stream at Bandcamp, Gorman leaves the micro cracks and jagged physiognomy of his Drone and Shoegaze pieces behind and enters the world of sustained synth washes. Aquatic, auroral, aerial, adrift: the four tracks resemble the aesthetics of New Age veterans such as Alpha Wave Movement and Thom Brennan, but radiates a lightness and warped state that avoids graver moments. At least that is the basic premise of the first long-form piece. As the EP progresses, the levels of euphoria decrease ever so slightly, making room for both gravity and gravitas. The track titles themselves become darker as well. How then is the promised formlessness realized in such surroundings? I’ll dive a bit deeper in order to find out.


The eponymous long-form piece Formlessness is the gateway to Ambientsketchbook’s viridian vestibule that leads to tangible undulations. The aquatic viscoelasticity is completely unexpected even to those listeners who know Lee Gorman’s music by heart, and the reason for this awesome eye-opening and most definitely sustained moment is based on the simultaneity of dualistic notions. While the nutritious synth superfluids emanate the positive kind of New Age mannerism in lieu of a dubiously clandestine-recondite arcaneness, it is the toned down vuvuzela-oid Rave hydrazine that works surprisingly well within this potassium flowerage. This is no cesspool Gorman has created; it is a void that encapsulates equanimity. The formula of this aural titration process is further augmented by whale-like wisps of cosmic caproic acid which boost the perception of wideness. Flowing and flying at the same time, Formlessness is an epiphany, wonderfully streamlined without any cracks, jitters and stalagmites to pierce through the elysian ether. It exudes that certain kind of cyber ambience, of plasticizers retrojected onto nutrimental flumes. And with over 14 and a half minutes, this state can be celebrated ad infinitum, figuratively speaking. There is something that should be mentioned though: while the serration of textures, patterns and tone sequences works fantastically well in my opinion, there is a certain – and at least to me infinitesimally tiny – chintziness embroidered in this longitudinal thiazide, be it the swooshing ornamentation or the warped glissando of the benthic synths. One has heard these showstopper effects before, which is why I have mentioned the New Age style. But since Formlessness is so verdured and aglow with aerose aurorae, its aural photometry is running on all cylinders and likely to be perceived as cajoling by a lot of listeners.


The remainders of the EP are no less stellar, but obviously quite a bit shorter and possible slaves to the sumptuously layered centerpiece… aka the opener. Yes, it’s perplexing. In other news, the second track Stillness shares many a sentiment with Formlessness, be it the seraphic hue or cautiously reverberated liquidity that opens up the room once more. Stillness, however, is rather fond of a petrifying cocoon, of a very slow drift. The array of New Agism grows out of proportion here: enigmatically cherubic low-frequency synth choir cataracts float in the distance, functioning as the legato bokeh to the sizzling punctilio of moist vesicles and molecular blebs. A soft pressure chamber effect is realized by means of the droning darkness, but at the same time lessened by the elasticized lanthanides whose argentine chromaticity cuts through the fibrillar mélange. It is only when the song fades out that hymnic heat is unleashed, but this train of thought is but a mere appendix.


The adjacent Inertia grasps what little is left of this thermal bliss and injects it into a surprisingly remote and contemplative arrangement. Thickly wadded aureoles, camouflaged syringa rudiments, aggrandized doses of nullity and wobbling galaxy blobs interconnect in what is the archetypical granuloma of a planned moss-covered counterfeit of late 70’s Ambient. Since the frequency ranges are well-balanced, a certain plasticity is able to build within these celestial helixes. The calorific heat could serve as a great closure, but this capacity is actually reserved for the cryptic Coma, an oxymoronically transitory endpoint. The blackness increases, the glacial synth plateaus are emitting deep blue color ranges; synthetic exhalations multiplex vastness and mysteries. That this is no Lovecraftian tomb is a given, and once the track reaches its apex, mauve-tinted molybdenum zoetropes whirl peacefully. The final synth is almost bedazzling due to its silvery attributes. Awash with light amidst great darkness, Coma ends the album on a positive, nearly solacing mood.


There is not much to overanalayze when it comes to the title of Ambientsketchbook’s EP, and yes, that’s what I’m telling you now in the final paragraph. The reason for this is obviously the very transparent approach and concept, as both in tandem delineate the elemental forces and spirits within the endemic realm. The four tracks themselves, however, are worthy of any attention they can get, since Lee Gorman balances out weight, warmth and ethereality in different ways. The eponymous opener is the obvious sparkler of this EP, enormously aquatic yet sylvan, comprising of a synthetic surrealism that truly pinpoints the shapeless floyd. It is a rather cool long-form piece, its cold temperature being based on viscid runlets, flumes and airflows. It is also the least retrogressive piece of the EP. Retrogression itself is the intrinsic forte and reigning power on this work, and if it were the only artifact of Ambientsketchbook, chances are I would appoint the New Age label to his music, for better or worse. It is definitely a fitting categorization for this EP, no matter one’s stance in terms of genre conventions or convolutions. The remaining three tracks are, er, less formless rather than ablaze with synth choirs, stokehold vortices and cosmic scintillae. The title track truly outshadows these instances, but these have the advantage of presenting conflictive forces and unexpected progressions such as the increasingly mellow aura in Coma or the first fragile signs of warmth in Stillness that only appear at the very end when their aura is immediately annihilated. Formlessness EP is, at the end of the day, a wonderfully synth-driven, languorously legatofied antrum. 


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 390: Ambientsketchbook – Formlessness EP (2014). Originally published on Nov. 12, 2014 at