“I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.”
So begins the most diverse ambient release of the year, the first solo full-length from Maciek Szymczuk in some eight years, Clouds. Invoking these most immortal words from one of the nineteenth century’s most enduring poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Szymczuk effectively and immediately sets the stage for what is to come, building an atmosphere that is both classically ethereal and ephemeral in nature, much like the transcendent nature of the album’s own apparent muse. Fusing synth-heavy deep-audio styled ambience in the vein of Bad Sector and an organic approach to dark textures with a world / tribal appeal that will occasionally bring to mind artists such as Ulf Söderberg, Vidna Obmana and Steve Roach, Szymczuk forges a strong foundation for his music that is all too familiar to the genre. It is the contributions from other artists as well as Szymczuk’s own admirable compositional open-mindedness from track to track that helps to give each track its own uniqueness.
From these opening female-fronted lines and the neoclassicism that accompanies them to the heavy industrial tides of “Nimbostratus”, the hypnotic mantra of “Cumulonimbus Capillatus” and the dubby new age style of “Cumulus Lacunosus”, Clouds manages to run a gauntlet of styles while still being brought together under the very concept the title implies. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, after all, that such a theme should bear a vast array of impressions — it only makes sense. With every variety of cloud that dominates the sky comes a new mood, a new atmosphere, a new type of electric in the air. From the light, fluffy and gentle to the ominous, foreboding blackness that sweeps over the horizon, clouds, like the music featured here, can bring most emotions to the surface of any psyche; contentment to dread, melancholy to joy, they influence us in a way that often feels intangible. Yet, as Shelley’s uttered final lines in the opening track imply, they are forever the same, existing in different guises, transforming, but never ceasing to exist.
Unsurprisingly, these qualities are what help the album get away with having such a varied sound that would ultimately be the doom of any other record. Where other ambient releases will traditionally lull the listener to a state of meditation or contemplation, Clouds is vibrant to the point of becoming vision-inducing with tracks that flow well together and yet change so drastically as if to instill new chapters within one’s imagination without ever stirring them from their subtle psuedo-slumber. Tracks such as “Cumulus Humilis” also show an incredible amount of maturity and restraint with a minimal bell and bass composition that is processed just enough to leave me feeling haunted. Lovely female vocal work is done here that sends shivers down my spine — a sensation that is increasingly harder to come by as I age — leaving one with visions of darkened Eastern European landscapes, fogged by the leagues of spirits whom wander those lands after millenia of turmoil — lands that will, with any given following track, be afforded the warmth of the sun or welcomed by the smell of rain. I can’t help but get the impression that this will be an album that will be overlooked by many in the years to come because Szymczuk hasn’t attempted to go with the dark imagery that has become all too fashionable in recent years, but Clouds is a work that may well be upheld as a classic by his peers at some point in the future.
01) Cumulus Congestus (Fresh Showers)
02) Cirrus Uncinus (To Watch the Clouds)
03) Altocumulus Floccus
05) Nimbostratus (Oblok Rozany)
06) Cirrocumulus Undulatus
07) Stratocumulus Duplicatus
08) Cumulus Mediocris (Slonce za Chmura)
09) Cumulonimbus Capillatus (Clouds)
10) Cumulus Lacunosus
11) Stratus Undulatus (Srebrne Chmury)
12) Cirrostratus Fibratus
13) Cumulus Humilis (White Sheep)
14) Cirrus Vertebratus (Sunny Again)