“Post” is a deceptively nondescript word with a range of potential uses. On its own, “post” could mean a signpost, or the European term for the mail. As a verb, it could be the act of placing something where it could be easily seen, whether posting a notice on a condemned building or on an online forum (where it can be used as a noun to describe such an online message). “Post” can also be the prefix for dramatic compound words such as “post-apocalyptic” or “post-human,” not to mention being an integral part of terms such as “post-traumatic stress” and, of course, “post-industrial.”
When approaching the collaborative album from Lambwool (Cyril Laurent) and Nicolas Dick—a work of seven tracks of ambient drone titled Post—I couldn’t help but consider what the artists’ intended use of the title might be. Even after spending a good deal of time with the album, I’m still unsure of the precise meaning. The album’s artwork may provide clues: the front of the 7-inch CD sleeve (common packaging for French label OPN) shows a black-and-white image of a beach with a silhouetted sliver of what might be a human figure just visible at the edge. The back image shows twin metal girders (or posts, if you like) holding up some largely unseen structure. Of course, the album may be an intentionally vague title, intended to be applied in multiple ways; I strongly suspect this is the case.
Such is the open-ended nature of much ambient music. While there are albums that leave little doubt regarding their theme, Post treads the path of the uncertain. The track titles are similarly evocative: “Sea of Wheels,” “Buildings,” “Factories,” etc. To their enduring credit, Dick and Laurent don’t nail down specifics, either in their choice of titles or in the nature of their music. Much of Post sticks to the same formula: processed drones of both keyboard and guitar, shifting and soaring through brash chord changes with dramatic crashes of cymbal. Much of Laurent’s work as Lambwool is in a similarly cinematic vein—soundtrack music for nonexistent films—but on Post, Dick’s treated guitar loops add an earthiness which has been largely absent from Lambwool’s albums such as A Sky Through the Wall and Vanish. “The End of Light,” for example, begins with a delicate high guitar note, which becomes gradually surrounded, then drowned, by a sea of synths. Suddenly, the layered noise cuts out, leaving only the vestiges of guitar and the ghost of a far-off piano. It’s difficult to determine if the light’s end is to be dreaded or embraced—fitting with the gray-scale elemental thread of the album.
Towards the album’s end, there’s a hint of change from the gentle-drift-into-swelling-grandeur template. Initially, “Only Fields” is a beautiful and haunting dirge, gliding on the stricken back of sorrow-soaked strings. The track does predictably billow forth into a bold cloud of noise, but the heartbreaking tinge of the opening moments show Laurent and Dick at their most human. The track’s title hints at something majestic and profoundly sad, and we’re left to our own interpretation. “Air” begins with the looped sounds of breathing, soon accompanied by subdued drone and curls of guitar. As before, the sound eventually unfolds into a stormy crescendo but then dives back into the quiet depths as the track winds down, with only breaths as companion. Once more, the duo skirt deftly along the line of threat and hope: the track could describe the terrifying loss of oxygen, or its life-preserving rediscovery. In the carefully elusive world of Dick and Laurent, both interpretations are equally and impressively accurate.
Clearly, there are reasons for why artists name their works as they do; otherwise, all art would remain untitled. In the case of Post, there’s a variety of possibilities concealed within its titles, and this ambiguity is its greatest strength. Lambwool and Nicolas Dick have created a series of postings with minimal outlines, all component pieces of a tantalizing and partially buried whole. I admire ambient music that can be interpreted in multiple ways, even from listen to listen, and in spite of its predictability, Post excels at this: it inspires more often than it frustrates. Thanks to its liquidity, Post just manages to exceed the limitations of its formulaic nature; I’d love to hear what the duo could do with an expanded palette. Minor structural quibbles aside, Post remains a deftly conceived ambient novel with evocative titles for otherwise empty chapters, and it’s up to us to make the tale complete … if we choose to.
01) Sea of Wheels
02) The End of Light
04) The Wind Machine
06) Only Fields