A Calcined Chromophore Called Muara
Years in the making, distilled and deciphered, rinse-and-repeated ad infinitum but now at the end of the artistic process, I am glad and proud to finally review Monadh aka Jake Muir's full-length debut Muara (Javanese for estuary, thank you liner notes). The Seattleite's biocentrism comprises seven tracks and is released on Further Records in order to make it a fully local affair. A limited edition of 300 vinyl copies (100 of them ice-blue) as well as an unlimited amount of download versions can be purchased and streamed at the label's Bandcamp page as always. And likewise, I will dissect three of Muara's endemic, inherently eloquent pillars of aestheticism that enable, fuel and drive the tracks.
Before I delineate these qualities in a moment, there is one phenomenon which alloys Muara's complete reason of existence. I would like to call it porose densitometry, referring to the simultaneous — occasionally subsequent — reticulation of fittingly dense layers of synth-oid (possibly guitar-based) drone intertwinements with comparably punctilio-oriented dots and droplets that crackle, ooze and gyre in-between the soundscapes, making Muara so much more than just the half-frozen shrine of its front artwork. Think of pairings such as chlorotic profusion, a superset of polyfoil halides or a septangular quilting deep within floral panes. Ambient is still the agenda du jour, with a pre-millennial analogue vintage vibe to fathom. Here, then, are three visions of Jake Muir's mind to expect and embrace amidst the tracks.
You wouldn't expect it if you take even the tiniest glimpse at Muara's strangely intimidating but simultaneously alluring front artwork, but its cold, hardened tone sequences are always merging with warmer contrapuntal devices and vestiges thereof. Jake Muir makes sure that the antagonistic forces merge, mesh and depart in comparatively milquetoast ways. Take the opener Ammophilia: it is an elasticized viridian ice floe with silkened legato flumes, mellow magnetotails and coruscating chime coils. Despite the sub-zero locale, Ammophilia opens up in the latter half, and wondrously so: microcosmic acoustic guitar remainders evoke Mediterranean times, and as the amount of layers increase, an adiabatic cocoon is erected where alluvial heat is all of a sudden quasi-tangible and fittingly enclosed.
Two other tracks come to mind regarding this particularity which I call supraglacial shelters (yes, it's another buzzword/catch phrase, but a truly heartfelt one): the adjacent Calanque is a celestial synth work whose titration process and sound-based architecture can be compared to that of a porose pearl… if that makes any sense. The density is actually granular throughout the runtime of over seven minutes; while the prolonged choir-like cloudlets waft through the ether, the emphasis on sound, sustain and silence grows larger as aerose cymbal streamlets reciprocate between cavernous magnetotails and benign afterglows. Calanque is a palace of the mind, solid and impressive, yet submissive and home to a bokeh of distant benthic field recordings and harp-like helixes.
In addition, Convection, the apotheosis and longest track of almost eight minutes kisses the listener goodbye in the same fashion. An ice floe made of hoarfrost planes and juxtaposed lilac-colored horizons, the innergy of the finale comprises of a second phase where miniscule protrusions and rem(a)inders of acoustic guitars waft like silk curtains. Despite the drop in temperature, this endpoint is by no means an endgame, but a gunmetal transfiguration of the orthonormal chromodynamics that form Muara's eclectic diffusion; panta rhei is its forte.
While warmth and relaxing temperatures are ubiquitous, they turn into lavabo-compatible heat from time to time, letting Muara turn into a deliciously soporific thiazide: the second track Boira invokes the color vermillion as a rubicund lariat oscillates amidst lava-evoking fields of hisses and steam. Resemblant of a stokehold or array of adaxial ventiducts, Boira enshrines its mildly apocalyptic pericarp amidst softly pulsating cloak-and-dagger bursts. The perceived heat is a counterpoint within Muara's endemic realm.
Meanwhile, Ria continues and emphasizes the diffeomorphism of sub-zero temperatures and calorific heat: lakes of red quercetin are altered by arcane ignis fatuus apparitions and a steelified harbor atmosphere. Despite the iridescence of these yttrium-embroidered injections, Ria remains akin to a beehive, a technocratic network of heating pipes and apocryphal tendrils that keeps its organic epicenter running on all cylinders against all odds.
Sinking Stream is another highlight and certainly the most glaringly loop-based but at the same time eloquently paradisiac Hayao Miyazaki-like epiphany of the whole album. A three-note fuchsia flare flickers fluently amidst an increasingly semi-liquedous fusillade of clicks. However, despite the the cloak-and-dagger atmosphere, the luminosity of the main loop emanates puissance and vigor, making Sinking Stream the friendly epiphany that it ultimately is, its short runtime of two minutes notwithstanding. So wherever you look: frozen wastelands are very far away once Jake Muir is involved.
Stratiform Field Recordings
There are things on Muara, however, that are far away, residing in the distance while adding plasticity and three-if-not-multi-dimensional panoramas. It's the field recordings. Jake Muir is a skilled and dedicated observer of nature and always carries an efficient microphone with him when he is out and about. These expeditions ennoble the already fluvio-lacustrine tracks further, even though they are not in the epicenter, but part of the circumambience. Calanque, for example, comprises of a multiplex of water splashes, whereas Boira might inherit a large portion of its steamy nature from charcoal experiments not unlike Chris Herbert's setups that graced his 2014 masterpiece Constants.
Another track comes to mind where the field recording nurtures — and even (em)powers — unexpected scents of spring: Ilitera is supercharged with iridescence and coruscation, there is crystalline fragility in this cavernous location aplenty. The helictites of the mind are enamored by clicking particles, the field recording of soothing wind injects a viridian tint in an otherwise glaucous gamelan-oriented enigma. The recurring yttrium gong and its sustained afterglow are surprisingly mellow, allowing enough room for the parallax peritoneum of particles. Jake Muir ventures into New Age territory, but neglects the artificial, sumptously layered synth omnipresence in favor of a much more balanced, lactic nebula.
”This deep into the 21st century, it's not easy to create ambient music that sounds vital and untainted by hackneyed tropes,” the liner notes state, and luck has everyone covered: the artist, the label, the listener. Monadh's Muara is loaded with aureate aureoles and cerulean cannelures that make up all of its above-mentioned seraphic superstructures. Years in the making and refined over a long period, Jake Muir's debut is as skillful an album as a gemstone in terms of the production values, sound-based compounds and legato-prone rivers, winds and plateaus.
Muara offers a contingent, continuous listening experience, it covers the depths of Detroit without linking this amethystine bokeh to a single four-to-the-floor physiognomy. It stands in the tradition of the ”Big A” genre called Ambient, but despite the absorbable nods towards New Age, there is decidedly not a single cliched demotic message in sight. The humane core is rather evoked on a subatomic level where each gluon or positron is carefully crafted by the artist in order to fit in the enlightening surroundings. Monadh's take on the genre is fittingly retrogressive in that the artist allows the droning layers the much needed space; the intersected molecules get their fair share of attention as well, all without a protrusive eruption or acidic shock-and-awe burst akin to 90's IDM. Sound-based colors, aural patterns, waveform pits, euphonious elation: Muara, as they say, has you covered.
Further listening and reading:
- You can purchase and stream Muara at Further Records' Bandcamp page.
- Artist and label on Twitter: @_monadh @furtherrecords
Ambient Review 470: Monadh – Muara (2016). Originally published on Sep. 8, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.