Billow Observatory: lll: Chroma/Contour LP

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III: Chroma/Contour is the third album from Billow Observatory, the collaborative project of Danish producer Jonas Munk (Manual, Ulrich Schnauss collaborator, and more) and Michigan native Jason Kolb (Auburn Lull). The album's nine tracks eschew the pulse and rhythm that defined the duo's previous effort -- II: Plains/Patterns (VISTA 002CD/LP, 2017) -- in favor of sparse melodic possibilities and a more abstract palette of sounds. Chroma/Contour suggests looking both 20 years forward and twenty years back, while forgetting the present altogether. Much of the album plays out as a study in minimalism: the texture and color of each sound is being explored in miniscule detail, with enough space in the sound field to allow each sonic constituent to breathe fully. There's a conceptual dimension to several tracks on the album, with guitars, analog synths and voices being mangled by samplers, computer software, and a broken dictaphone into pure abstraction. But simultaneously there's a melodic undercurrent, revealing a deeply emotional aspect of the music. Tracks such as "Color In The Six", "Iris", and "Soft Logic" convey a melancholic sense of awe, a profoundly calming glimpse of the sublime. As with the best ambient music, the power of these nine pieces lies in their open-endedness and suggestive potential. Rather than imposing on the listener and presenting a flawless, fully-formed aural landscape, the music creates an evocative space for the listener to explore and expand in. RIYL: Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works, Stars Of The Lid, Slowdive's Pygmalion (1995), Brian Eno.

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