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Maps for The Lost – Journeys and Escape with Fragile X and See Blue Audio: Wanderings 6/26

I’ve been wandering over to have a look / listen to See Blue Audio’s releases for a while now over the last couple of years or so.

Founded by Matthew Duffield it’s a record label based in Barcelona in Spain, which on its Bandcamp page describes its output as “Ambient / electronic beatless / cinematic downtempo / eclectic / introspective… Shade rather than light…”

What their output, for myself, brings to mind at times is the kind of work that Mo’Wax might possibly be releasing if it was still an active record label. Or perhaps balearic chill out music subtly refracted through a glass darkly. Another reference point at times might be 1980s Japanese ambient music such as that included on the Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 compilation album released by Light In The Attic Records. Interconnected with which, if Emerald Web’s late 1970s / 1980s synthesised new age orientated music had tumbled through a time warp and arrived back home infused with later decades’ music technology then it might have sounded like some of the See Blue Audio releases.

Maps for the Lost by Fragile X was, I think, the label’s ninth release and is a five track EP/mini album:

“Over the five tracks of Maps for the Lost, the listener is taken on an audio journey where the music flows together using field recordings, spoken word samples, beatless soundscapes and sound design techniques. This goes far beyond being a sequence of tracks as this feeling of transportation is an inherent narrative throughout the music…” (Quoted from the Maps for the Lost Bandcamp page.)

That audio journey begins with “Departure from Nowhere” which opens with field recordings of passing traffic that segue into vast sounding darkly hued tones and pattering, passing noises  and creates a sense of entering into some unknown space or world, while second track “Wayfarer” utilises melodic glitches to atmospheric effect and creates a drifting soundscape which contains both a contrasting new age-like ambience and a hinted at unsettling atmosphere:

“Drifting in the audio void. Somewhere between chaos and calm.” (Quoted from the Fragile X Bandcamp page.)

There’s a subtle hauntological intertwined with otherly pastoral atmosphere and aesthetic to Maps for the Lost (and also some of See Blue Audio’s other releases), which is reflected in the release’s title / title track and the title of the fourth track “Passing the Ley Lines” and also in those two tracks’ videos, which are credited to J. Gorecki (aka Fragile X).

In the video for the “Maps for the Lost” title track the viewer is taken on a journey that begins by passing away from the coastline and then over a golden tinged sea and coastline at sunset, before darkened clouds rapidly unfurl and a both ominous and uplifting bass imposes itself on the audio as lightning repeatedly strikes onscreen… the silhouettes of a row of trees appears and are reflected in water at night time as via time lapse filming the stars twirl behind them… we are given a view through tree branches and over a hill formation of the cosmos above (the Milky Way?), with thousands of stars tumbling through the night sky akin to a form of cosmic snowfall, while comets streak briefly… eventually the journey comes to an end as the dawn breaks over forest, plants and the sea.

The video for “Passing the Ley Lines” begins with a wide-open inland waterway and field landscape before natural beauty and man-made infrastructure meld as a pylon strewn field appears with a huge plume of black smoke billowing out over it, the source of which is unclear (although it may be connected to some form of possibly industrial complex off in the distance)… close ups of plants change colour to unnatural hues as time passes… densely forested land passes below… the sun rises over silhouetted trees and cables as unidentified brief streaks of light travel through the air… bucolic landscape and water views appear before the Earth comes into view, a vibrantly hued jewel in the black backdrop of space… and then the sun rises over buildings and telegraph cables before the track, and again a form of journeying, ends.

Both of the tracks “Maps for the Lost” and “Passing the Ley Lines” feature gently arpeggiated electronica which mixes the aesthetics and at times euphoria of dance music with the wash and escape of ambient electronica and create an uplifting sense of space, freedom and renewal.

Maps for the Lost ends with “Full Circle (True North)”, which incorporates field recordings of running water, a simple Eno-esque piano refrain and spoken word samples of somebody describing some kind of otherworldly phenomena or aura that they are enveloped by and it creates an affecting elegiac ending to the release and the journey it takes the listener on.



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