Based respectively in Michigan and Denmark, electronic duo Jason Kolb and Jonas Munk first introduced their trans-Atlantic Billow Observatory partnership back in 2012, and two years on from their preceding ‘II: Plains/Patterns’ collection, this latest album on Azure Vista ‘III: Chroma/Contour’ offers up their third longplayer in total.
While there was a more or less consistent rhythmic pulse present amongst ‘II: Plains/Patterns’ though, the nine tracks collected here see the duo venturing much further out into minimalist ambience and post-rock influences, with nothing approaching a beat in sight. In this case the emphasis on using a limited number of different musical elements means that Kolb and Munk have the time and space to really draw out each of their respective details.
Opening track ‘Serriform’ provides a good example of this unhurried approach as low murmuring bass tones gradually resolve themselves into slow, blurred out guitar textures over its expansive ten minute running length, the opaque melodic tones suddenly coming into sharp focus as cold glittering IDM arpeggios drift into the foreground, as though the track was suddenly shaking itself out of its slumber.
‘Color In The Six’ meanwhile reaches further out into widescreen post-rock ambience as slowed down guitar elements bleed out into shimmering harmonic trails against a background of icily melancholic pads, before ‘Lidless Path’ suggests a journey across some frigid sea as phased and reversed loops cycle against a background wash of digital detritus, the warm guitar chords that echo and hang in the air providing a palpably human emotional anchor within the sprawling landscape.
Indeed, it’s moments such as these where the duo allow the guitar to fill the emotional foreground that provide some of this album’s most impressive moments, such as ‘Trumbull’s spectacular ascending fusion of burnished guitar chords, aquatic-sounding synthetic murmurs and hypnotically layered reverb. Consistently calming and blissful to the point of feeling therapeutic, ‘III: Chroma/Contour’ frequently resembles a healing soundbath more than anything else.