Æthereal Code






“As remnants of the Source Transmission emerge from the cosmological drift, a new epoch begins with the assemblage of the Æthereal Code.” This is the one-sentence plot of Ascendant’s latest album, self-released in July 2015 on their new prolific label Synphaera Records and available to stream or buy as a CD plus download version at their Bandcamp page. Ascendant is the duo of synthesist, engineer and guitarist Don Tyler aka Phase47 and Chris Bryant aka S1gns Of L1fe near Los Angeles, California. Eight tracks await the listener, a captivating mixture between the apexes and interstices of New Age, Space Ambient and Psy Trance, all of them interestingly enough being genres that are merged quite often despite their potentially selective complexion and stylistic shape. Æthereal Code fathoms the mystical angular point of the lattermost genre without being harmed by a retrogressive or antediluvian look back. The inherent superstructure of Ascendant’s above code is carved out over the course of this review, but here more so than ever, I can really only approximate a truism or two at best. What the respective composition ultimately means – the seemingly self-explanatory track title notwithstanding – is hard to pinpoint. The unfolding smokescreens, dichotomous circumambiences and crepuscular crevasses, however, are based on contrapuntal forces, twilight fusions and the occasional benignant chord progression… only to then throw the listener back into the convolutedly Daedalian but sophisticated abyss. Herein lies Æthereal Code's point of origin.


3 out of 300 Æthereal Code compact discs. Photograph by Synphaera Records.


Like a pulsatile set of ecomorphed lozenges does the helicoidal set of cave pearls protrude the electric bass-driven spherification of the recondite-hatched micrometry that is the opener Remains. Fully reliant on an alkaloidal cavernous antrum, with plinking paraquat pings, granular downwards-spiraling synth surfactants and pectiniform 4/4 rhythms eventually augmenting the oozing freefall to nullspace. This first track already proves the mellow, almost susurrant architecture of Ascendant’s centriolic arrangement: in lieu of sumptuous rain pads, sustain and silence are equimolar constituents within the hieratic-holarctic dualism. Follow-up Existence meanwhile is hued in anthocyanin with softly simmering cerulean blebs, an almost tribal Jungle-like breakbeat pattern and reverberated afterglows of ligneous percussion phytoliths. A lot darker it is too, but not at all petrifying due to the cryovolcanic pattern and fluid-processed remoteness of the agglutinated oxidants. Tyler and Bryant know that they don’t need to proselytize anyone about the polyvalence of one’s – or something’s – existence, and so abstraction and aloofness are revved up without reverting the aesthetic position.


What a different plasmatic phototropism Probability inherits in contrast! It is here where Ascendant’s planetesimal Psy-Trance cotyledon becomes a fully immersive circulator, a periglacial hypanthium made of gelid surfaces, orthochromatic green-lavender polymers and translucent magnetotails whose luminosity flares and vacillates through the rhenium-alloyed rhythmic punctilio of the midtempo’s polarimetry. The adjacent Capacity meanwhile decelerates the speed but winds up the penetrating power of the medulla-emptying kick drum. Hued in 8-bit cytoplasm spores and almost tangible helictites, both the beat and melody work in tandem, raising and hoisting each other in order to tower above the monoclinic suprematism, thus serving as insular lavabos in a clandestine syncytium. With Expansion, Phase47 and S1gns Of L1fe create the album’s centerpiece; clocking in at over eight minutes, the fifth track absorbs the softened rotund telomeres or pulses of the former Capacity and let it become entangled with cosmic sequences of coruscating fibroblasts, glissando interferometries and chlorotically glowing marimba-like driblets.


When the gravitational quasi-redshift of Alignment is reached, the heart of the traveling subject is likely to be pumping due to excitement, immersion and alienation, so Ascendant make sure to make it a crystalline ergosphere. Lilting scintillae, adiabatic yttrium polyhedrons and beat-accentuated multinucleate fields of pyroxene are the progenitors to the – now diaphanous – tropopause that is less inimical and enigmatic by means of the luminance alone. Even the scything cymbals cannot destroy the sentiment… and neither can the following Beams which provides a truly bedazzling chemotaxis of softened synth swirls and chromogenic fermions whose thermal heat interpolates the rotoscoping vesicles and artificial florets in the ethereal atmosphere. Rotoscoping in piece next to a semi-aqueous percussive bubble suntrap, the verglas veils and erudite estuaries make Beams a genuinely warmhearted, next to ecstatic caproic artifact. Matter, then, is the cautiously mephitic apotheosis, launching with a rubicund potassium pool, heavily fluttering mica and and freezing cold glaucous illuminants which are latter surrounded by a cannelure of catenae and convulsions. The overall level of metallicity, however, remains low-key, as the spiky adjuvants always float back into the effulgent multiplex of spheroidal-prismatic gradients. A sylphlike, concupiscent endpoint.


Ascendant’s Æthereal Code showcases, exhales and ultimately catapults a fascinating melange of multitudinous space particles and technocratic galactosamines into the aural ether, all of these devices being equally important constituents to the formula – or phenomenon – the album is about. There is much to write about the dark undercurrent, what with the surreptitious allure of the nocturnal reticulation in the purified Ambient phases of a track. Fittingly enough in the wake of Æthereal Code’s diffeomorphism of light and darkness which could also be described as its morphogenesis, the constantly flashing high-chroma physiognomy of the percussion, rhythm patterns and beat spectrum only make the darker parts much more isolating and hence threatening. It’s an easy analogy after all: look into bright light, and the surroundings turn dark. This vignetting dynamic range is an omnipresent guide on Don Tyler and Chris Bryant’s latest album, occasionally portentous and in favor of a cloak-and-dagger attitude, but not necessarily reducible to Space Ambient surroundings only. As luck – or to be more precise: the talent of the artists – has it, it is the synths that carve out the distinct mood of a track, yet again in a twisted way. Whether it’s iciness, perceived ostracism or organic heterodynes, these amniotic avulsions bring salubrious light in one moment, and Tartarean turmoil in another, making Æthereal Code a strongly polysemous vortex to cross.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 443: Ascendant – Aethereal Code (2015). Originally published on Jul. 22, 2015 at