Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: Last Days : "Sea" (n5md)

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Last Days : "Sea" (n5md)

There is a staggering amount of quality artists coming out of the UK at the moment, especially in the underground electronica and ambient scenes. Groups such as Epic45, July Skies, Yellow6 and D_rRadio all seem to be on the same wavelength and have being creating tranquil soundscapes for a good few years now. These bands combine elements of post-rock, shoegaze and down-tempo electronica and have the ability to mesmerise with the slightest chord change or with innovative drum patterns.

Now add Edinburgh based musician Graham Richardson, aka Last Days, to this list. Here is another artist who creates dream-like pieces that don't strike you immediately, but instead intentionally creep up on you before absorbing into your consciousness.

Signed to the pioneering n5md label (Bitcrush, Loess, Preom etc), Last Days debut "Sea", is a triumphant release that brings to mind the work of Pan American, The Dead Texan and Port-Royal.

Of course, with easy access to technology these days, ambient albums are 'ten an penny', and it does take something unique to truly stand out. Much like Helios' "Eingya" album, Last Days uses many instruments (guitar; glockenspiel; accordian ; percussion) and mixes it with human aspects of sound to create tracks full of blissful ambient haze.

There is also a loose narrative for the album, which deals with "the fascination with remote and isolated places". Each track charts the progress of a character that is disillusioned with life at home, and chooses to escape to another land on a small boat.

After a short album opener, things get underway with "The Safest Place". This is a very apt name for the song, as warmly strummed acoustic guitars are introduced and mixed with melancholic strings, before a gorgeous piano melody takes the lead. An almost classical piece, it conveys the hope one would get when setting of to a new place.

"Two Steps Back" follows, with a slow building tempo and pulsing bassline, the character is well and truly at "Sea" here , as apprehension and uncertainty sets in.

Things take a turn for the worse on our character's journey, if "Arriving At Jan Mayen" is anything to go by. This sparse song is a very unsettling experience featuring drones and weird chanting, quite similar to Aphex Twin's darker ambient moments

The beautiful tones of the glockenspiel help to restore some light during, next track, "Mountains". It is in such tracks, that Last Days truly excels. He has a knack of producing slow burning melodies that help lull you into a state of calm.

The stand-out track, though, of this release is "Your Birds". Amazingly, this was a last minute inclusion on the album. The first real hint of substantial percussion elements can be heard here, and they are reminiscent of Sigur Ros' "Glossoli". The song contains a gradual, but over-powering melody that makes you want to listen to it time after time.

"I Remember When You Were Good" returns to the same feel, as opener "The Safest Place", as the hypnotic piano line, portrays Last Days' subtle skills and instrumentation. " Fear", uses more instruments than most of the other tracks, as our character is coming towards the end of his journey. Again. it is full of slow changes and melodic structures that soon leads to a triumphant finale, as the character's fear is soon over-powered by a sense of hope in what lies ahead.

The journey comes to an end during "All The Lighthouses", as the character tries to make sense of his approaching new surroundings. Contemplative piano notes clash with lonely wind sounds, as the character begins a future of uncertainty in his new surroundings.

Last Days' "Sea" is a challenging release that offers something new on each listen. Its strengths lie in its subtleties and variations from piano led pieces throught to the ambient rock of "Your Birds". The album is intended to be listened as a whole, rather in seperate tracks. After a few listens, though, the subtle chord changes, static noises, muffled beats and strummed guitars soon start to become familiar, making this a very warm release.

"Sea" is an album, that requires you absorb it slowly, keeping with its gradual and tranquil tempo, while taking in its blissful majesty. It will be released by n5md on September 12th. You can stream some tracks here, while you can order a copy here. Further reading can be located here. Futhermore, Last Days has his own music blog, find out what inspires him here.

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