Spatial Awareness






Hunter P. Thompson aka Opaline is back with an expansive two-track perianth of thermal-benthic prowess called Spatial Awareness. After the diversified Projector Mapping (Phinery Tapes, 2014) which, in hindsight, is more of an intendedly monographic show than a stringently focused amalgamation, Spatial Awareness celebrates the return to the dualistic world of New Age, to both the retrogressive indigenous meaning of quiescently flowing estuaries and the oppositely cyberspace-oriented cryovolcanic burst of stacked synths. Released in March 2015 on the Brooklyn, New York-based Psychic Troubles Tapes label, but already recorded back in the darker months of 2014, the tape can be purchased on the label’s Bandcamp page as usual. Opaline’s emeralds have a duration of over 15 minutes each, and what can be attested right from the get-go is their graceful Ambient core. While being polyrhythmic thanks to the chopped nature of the bubbling synths, there is no 4/4 beat attached as is the case with the artist’s aeriform Flight Patterns (Twin Springs Tapes, 2013). Besides the tape being titled Spatial Awareness, the perceived wideness is carefully narrowed just enough to let the listener feel beloved and cocooned amidst the centrifugal blips, fluid-processed rhizomes and longitudinal anhydrides. What follows is a more meticulous look at the two principal soundscapes and their polyvalent idiosyncrasies.


Rubicund upswells and downfalls of translucent synth flumes, isothermal glints gyring around the orthogonal tropopause, and the sudden realization that this is not a portentously pre-apocalyptic peritoneum but a mesozoic New Age sparkler that has photodissociated every evil spirit eons ago, way before the listener’s entrance: Awaiting Levitation is the place to be, a designedly non-nomological viewpoint onto the synth-driven fluid-processed subcellular perihelics of the genre. Opaline nourishes the mucoid warmth with a celestial fusillade of arpeggiated punctilio fermions which jitter and flutter gracefully above the ultramafic spectral unfolding. It is hard to pinpoint the definite center of attention, whether it is the euphoric glucan glitters or the softly simmering fluvial chromodynamics which rise and prosper in the right moments in order to emphasize and augment the ecstatic leeway that every texture and surface seems to enjoy. The last third of the track offers a delightful – and very cautious – alteration by shifting the frequencies ever so slightly into the Space-Age; the carbonaceous arpeggio ventricles become more metallic, their afterglow more virtual in lack of a better term, but this careful mutation never hurts the paradisiac tropopause in the slightest. Since the track address the waiting period of the titular levitation, I can only wonder about the actual lift-off.


Side B is reserved for Clearing Beam, a song with a similar physiognomy and of equal proportions. A steamy fade-in phase makes the traveler aware of a soggy-humid wetland biotope, only to then counter these thoughts when the partaking particles are fully embroidered and embedded. Now resembling more of a solarvolcanic open-air chamber of chromophores thanks to the static noise-oriented but eminently graceful static winds, gust-filled estuaries and orthochromatic metallics, it turns out that the eponymous beam truly functions as a clearing agent amidst the vesicular polyphony. Sounding like a decidedly organic dust buster or a halide-filled stokehold cellar, said beam is in the epicenter, functioning as the plasticizer to anneal and calcine all unnecessary scrimshaw artifacts. The clearing process itself – or what I think to be the clearing process – is eruditely envisioned and masterfully realized: the droning beam is a multiplex of sinews, strata and sprinkles which wobble, twinkle and retroject in harmony, giving the track an almost tangible brazen-argentine hue. In lieu of harshness, however, the static noise seems to be of an analogue nature, encapsulating albumin, emitting glaucous pericarps, processing granular aureoles along the way. If it weren’t for the beguiling prism in the background that amplifies the euphony with its somnolent-sumptuous complexion, chances are that this would have been a much colder hoarfrost location. A faint hint is once again given in the last third when the beam decreases, revealing its bit-crushed core… and even in this state, it is mercilessly ethereal and amicable, making Clearing Beam a great closure.


Spatial Awareness, as it turns out, caters to Opaline’s New Age fans. This assertion seems fuzzy and superfluous at best, especially so since there is no style or subgenre Portland’s synth wizard has previously considered that strays away overly much from the presented material. There are differences and amendments to be found in this tape though, as Hunter P. Thompson revisits the spectral-pulsatile world of New Age, the one that is neither willfully moss-covered nor overly futuristic. The titration process is exactly right, properly balanced and carefully maintained, the principal differences between the synthetic materials can be notified throughout the tape, be it the agglutination of metallic and organic materials in both tracks, the unison of arpeggiated melodies with more streamlined fluids which always serve as tributaries rather than rapids, or the infinitesimal shift of a damp photometry into verglas thermodynamics. I shouldn’t exaggerate the differences and avulsions – yep, I reveal this right now in the final paragraph – and ought to be more in favor of the amniotic compatibility. But this is exactly the point: while the intrinsic ingredients don’t sit on the opposite sides of the spectrum to begin with, they still feel simultaneously antagonistic and liaised enough to create that kind of awe that is prominently given away in the tape’s title. Excitement ensues, languor lures, colors caulk the recondite reticulation, Opaline’s orogeny oscillates.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 423: Opaline – Spatial Awareness (2015). Originally published on Mar. 25, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.