Working with an organic range of source material; field recordings, minimal electronics, voice, guitar, and other instruments; Greek-born Maria Papadomanolaki constructs quite interesting ambient works on her first full-length. The pieces are always morphing, drifting, and wafting, giving way to new approaches all the time.
A worthy introduction, “Solitary, Vacant” is calming and elongated but glitch-y around the edges, all while teasing out ethereal vocals and distant acoustic guitar. The softly textured “Above the Rooftops” is defined by a prickly pulse, whereas the following “Time to Be (Out of Time)” strikes away from these more standard ambient motifs to try several different things: while the field recording of a clanging bell is familiar enough, from there the track encompasses incidental guitar, a windy tug, and an unexpected drone foretelling a sudden flurry of scattered beats, all before retreating back to the bucolic peace of its beginning. The inclusion of programmed beats is somewhat questionable, but overall the piece works.
“Rewind” combines Flying Saucer Attack-style distortion-and-acoustic-guitar gentleness with seagulls, sirens, and half-buried conversation. More alien textures materialise later, and they’re more appealing and transporting than those we can immediately identify. The slowly expansive “View From a Hill” is aimless in a good way, while “When” pools with chill depths until it hits upon a run of slurping friction and then lullaby-worthy melodies. “Story of a City” recalls a lunar landing scored by Tangerine Dream before thrilling hand drums enter for the final minute, another surprising twist. More in line with expectations is the closing “Infinite Window”, which intertwines resonating guitar with a downbeat piano melody amid surrounding warmth.
Papadomanolaki clearly has no shortage of ideas, and she generally executes them quite well. But some of this albums best moments feel rushed or fleeting, as if she moves on to the next idea before fully exploring the one at hand. Then again, that approach leaves us wanting more of those there-and-gone textures, and backtracking to revisit them.