Ambient Song Of The Month: April 2012
Everything Seeks Balance
Got 44 minutes to spare? As an Ambient fan, you sure do. John Strate-Hootman aka Vir Unis is a prolific producer of synth-focused ethereal music that is intertwined with field recordings. His mystical and terrifically relaxing piece Everything Seeks Balance is the gateway to an organic, cave-like world where the synths are vividly spiraling and water droplets amplify the arcane atmosphere. Best of all, at least to my ears, is the soothing warmth; neither is the song cold nor is it overloaded with too many layers, but produced straight to the point. The song is also refreshingly coherent. Usually, coherence in a long piece is highly dangerous, because the lack of variety – a possible music-related antonym to coherence – means that the runtime feels stretched and potentially unbearable. Even though the runtime is about 44 minutes, as explicated above, this kind of coherence in Everything Seeks Balance is not boring or tiresome, as I will describe below.
As most other Ambient songs, Everything Seeks Balance fades in slowly, and the first thing the listener grasps are brightly illuminated synth washes and softly clicking hi hats, percussive droplets and punches. The synths are sometimes complimented by a higher, coruscating note which brings a feeling of pristine clarity and Zen power to the mix; gurgling water and electronic chirpings round off the aural vista of relaxation. Even though my description might be off-putting to some readers and may let them think they are reading about a lackluster yoga record, the setting is fully immersed in itself. It is after almost 7 and a half minutes that electronic percussion is added, but it is completely laid back and is used as a loosening device against the oscillating darker drones that get a bit deeper and more serious while the percussion is played. After 14 minutes, the percussion fades out and leaves a quickly trembling, frosty but also ecstatic synth string that plays all by itself with only occasional water sounds in the front of the mix. Once the trembling effect is reduced, the monotony of the synth string is perfect, and field recordings of real birds enter the scene. Very gentle static noises are added, and the mood shifts into foggy realms with a new percussive section and darker drones that almost swallow the joyfulness of the birds. The exotic percussion is tremendously placid, and its short reverberations make the wideness of the track apparent. Wind rushes by, and the synth layers change once again, offering a brighter deepness. After almost 30 minutes, an unexpected eeriness is added and realized with piercingly high galactic strings that are a revelation for Ambient fans; if you are a fan of the Ambient supergroup FFWD and their self-titled album of 1994, this section will simply blow you away as Vir Unis invokes exactly the style of the band. Utterly gorgeous, quite haunting and yet beautiful. The last 9 minutes consist of true, darkly rumbling drone sounds and incessant water echoes that offer another kind of a strangely ambiguous place of dangerous shelter.
Even if you see through the trick of Everything Seeks Balance, this is a mighty example of an organically floating Ambient track that offers a carefully designed variety. The trick, of course, is the presentation of various aural vignettes that are glued together in order to build a long, almost 44-minute long track. However, these vignettes or intersections are skillfully meandering, fade in and out with great care and are held together thematically by the sounds of water, which is fittingly worked into the cover art. Strate-Hootman delivers a fascinatingly soothing, occasionally dark and mysterious, but also brightly-lit Ambient track with only two embedded percussive sections. This song is for fans of the aforementioned one-time super project FFWD as well as for lovers of the synth-focused colder vistas of Thom Brennan or the warmer scintillas of Tetsu Inoue. Vir Unis delivers a masterful encapsulation of the listener in synth-wadded flows cherubic dimensions. Not to be missed!
Ambient Song Of The Month Review for April 2012: Vir Unis – Everything Seeks Balance (2004). Originally published on Apr. 2, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.