Best Albums of 2019: Past Inside The Present

JAMES BERNARD
Fragments (Past Inside The Present)
ZAKE
To Those Who Dwelt in a Land of Deep Darkness (Past Inside The Present)

New American label Past Inside The Present has put out a large quantity of ambient in many hues during its first year, from mod classical to experimental sound collage. There’s much worth exploring, and these two releases are particularly good. 

Fans of the more obscure strains of 90’s ambient dance music might remember James Bernard’s much-revered album Atmospherics (1994) on UK label Rising High Records, a distinctive mix of light, trippy techno and haunting environmental atmospheres. After that he didn’t release much more – just a few albums in the 2000’s – and since 2008 there has been nothing until this year. I’m glad he’s back. Fragments ditches all traces of beats and focuses purely on sculptured, quasi-symphonic soundscapes and ethereal drones. It’s deeply felt and impeccably crafted, reaching its high point on “A Feeling of Warmth in the Cold” which is every bit as visceral and enveloping as it sounds.

To Those Who Dwelt in a Land of Deep Darkness by PITP label co-founder Zake aka Zach Frizell is centred around a 40-minute piece that loops a gentle, layered melodic phrase ad infinitum, with only subtle alterations along the way. That’s been done a million times by others, but this one really has something. It was created as a kind of healing balm for people who have experienced deep loss, and I think therein lies its emotional power. To me it feels like the sun gently breaking through clouds as you start to move on and learn to live with grief. Then at the end comes a short, more active second track that kind of distils the essence of the first. A quietly powerful album with a beautiful stillness at its centre.


Best Albums of 2019 Reviews Index

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