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Atmosphere

Album Review

Atmosphere by Lyn Raja

Author: Cocaine for Toothaches

 

 

Jules Verne in reverse

We’re not off to Iceland for this one, spelunking into an icy, extinct volcano. Nor are we about to encounter direct time-travel to the prehistoric, meeting Cenozoic creatures on our escapades, only to return to the surface out of a different volcano. Alas, no—we begin in the depths, and are about to travel into the far reaches of the cosmos. Time will become immaterial; we will have no bearing as to what is future, past, present, nor will that carry any weight. All burdens will be lifted, all elements will swirl together formless to create an invisible singularity, which is at once infinite and nothingness.

Lyn Rajah’s ambient instrumental work Atmosphere will guide us through this journey.

Fire up the Nautilus
(yes I know that’s a different Jules Verne book)

We start in the ocean. With the track “Ocean.” And right away a theme sets in that we will see
multiple times: a sparse drum-machine percussion track that only sticks around for a few measures, although sometimes will make quick cameos later. Percussionus Interruptus. In this case it’s a super-clean kick that only punctuates, no real backbeat is outlined. Waves crash. But also there is abyssal serenity. A glass piano outlines a three-chord progression, but the chords are changed up with the addition of an acoustic piano sound and then an electric piano. Be careful not to get the bends as we rise up through the strata of the deep blue.

Awakening” is also sparse in layering. A synth plays that dances with echoes, and mimics the swells a guitarist got by manipulating the volume knob while striking notes, before that all became automated. A breathy drone sounds, although it does cycle through notes.

In “Orbit” that perfectly clean subkick is back, laying out a rhythm of sorts. For a bit. Another sighting of the species P. Interruptus. Then it’s cloud-like synths that guide you through the skies, towards no place in particular. Just soaring, gliding. There are chord changes, but they also go to no particular
place. Structure isn’t what’s important here, it’s lift. Lyn is taking us through the clouds just above the surface of the planet.

(*aside: I’ve ridden this ride at a particular amusement park, and it was a highlight of that trip.)

We’re about to reach escape velocity and leave this atmosphere behind. The chords played are soft and without attack. We are losing form as we prepare to lose gravity. It almost feels like the spaghettification when circling the event horizon of a black hole. All the things, including our own perceptions, start to stretch and lose definition as we transform into something else entirely. Or into nothing, it’s not quite clear what lies ahead. 

Yet just when we think it’s over, that our existential quest is at an end—a drum beat, an actual beat, a full drum beat starts the next track “Elements.” That gets tapered out bit by bit, however, and it’s gone before the first minute. Celestine bells carry the very sparse soundscape from there. There’s some noise, background radiation, reminiscient of 70’s sci-fi space noise behind it, but that’s it man. We went from gliding through the tops of clouds in “Orbit” to the reaches of the gravitational edge here in “Elements.” As we break the last filaments of Sol’s gravitational imprisonment, the track ends abruptly.

 

Now we drift.
             Into the void.
                          Into the infinity of space.

So why not have a jaunty para-melody of manipulated steel drum? Well, actually, I found the steel drum part on “Cosmos” to be out-of-place loud here. Kind of jarringly-so, in the context of everything else. It seems to be loud enough to clip sound threshold levels, and I’m not sure that was intentional. Everything else in her soundscapes had been well-crafted and well-thought-out to this point in our adventure. It’s the only aspect that I’ve to be distracting so far.

Destination Found.” Shimmering, quavering synth sets the background. Chording organ, subdued in tone, plays wandering chords. A vowel/formant instrument seems to imitate our navigational
computer speaking to us, letting us finally know where we are and where we’re going. Stab piano comes on-stage a time or two to punctuate the dark stillness.

Fuel-saving mode. In “Drifting”, a gated stuttering synth starts, followed by the rumble of a saw-
bass, also gated but only subtly so (and just like percussion, quickly fades). Liquid piano accompanies the stuttering synth in counter-melodies and counter-harmonies. (Saw-bass returns, as if it had forgotten something real quick and leaves again. This happens a couple of times.)

The album ends with “Feelings.” A motif in C major, with single harmony, played on a bell/vibes
patch with a nice, slow vibrato. It sounds as if it’s being played without quantization in tempo rubato. No other accompaniment detected. A nice touch here is that the high-end of the tone is
rolled back enough to let the bell have a smooth, rather than harsh, sound.

 
Around the universe in 80 parsecs
(a parsec is a unit of distance, idiot, and 80 would not span the universe.)
(and yes I know that’s a bad play on a different different Jules Verne book.)

Lyn Rajah’s Atmosphere is not about layering, as some ambient pieces might be. This is a very
sparsely-arranged composition. So the details and the story are not in the layering of different sounds but in the sounds themselves. There is nuance in each instrument, and although very subtle, it is perceptible precisely because of how sparse the arrangements are. This is a journey of the mind, starting from the depths of the leviathan’s home and having the lens zoom out continuously to eventually encompass the universe. The sound is good on this project, and apart from the one aforementioned instance the movements of the opus are set up well.

So if you’re up for a meditative, almost out-of-body celestial journey, then this album is for you. It clocks in at 25 minutes so it won’t even take up your whole day, maybe just perfect for your commute to/from work.

‘Atmosphere’ Released on January 20th, 2023 and can be purchased HERE

Follow & Support Lyn Rajah at the following Links:

YouTube 
Deezer
Bandcamp
Spotify
Apple

About the author: Coke has been around music a long, long time. As a child in a family of musicians and in-and-around a family-owned studio in the 1980’s, he has seen the ups and downs of the music scene and lifestyle. He plays/has played several instruments including piano/keyboards, guitar, bass guitar, and even dabbled on low brass and drums for a bit, as well as being a bang-average vocalist. Coke studied (and won departmental awards in) composition, theory, and classical guitar performance during undergraduate work, as well as taught private guitar lessons for children and adults. He spent ten years (up until the pandemic) as a superstar guitarist/bassist/musical director in the CCM world, before crashing down to earth, humbly surrendering all that non-existent fame and fortune for the quiet life. He now endeavors on synthwave-adjacent music, working as a shipping boss, and living with his wife and (some of) his six grown children in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, USA.

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