Artist: Gears in the Rain
Title: Right on the Edge
Released: Monday, May 21, 2012
Label: Secret Station Records
Genre: leftfield, ambient, abstract
Secret Station has an amazing knack for finding some of the most unique electronic music. Seriously, the depth and variety from the label’s catalog is impressive, even amongst artists who share the same genres. And this album, a new project by Mental Health Consumer’s Brian Ruskin, is no exception.
Right away, things are off to a good start. With some dark growling post-electro washes, we move into an amazingly colorful abstract piece. It floats between space-styled ambience and fresh, unexplored melodies and affects from all over the spectrum. This first track is wildly different from anything else I’ve heard and I honestly cannot really compare this to anything. It’s new and kind of defies classification.
Seamlessly, we move into “Enveloped.” This track softly soars with swooshes and ebbs of melodic engines but we quickly find ourselves playing with textured high frequency bleeps. Again, this track is a tough one to describe. It’s adventurous and takes me somewhere I’ve not seen before. It has mechanical moments but still flaunts dreamlike qualities. It’s an interesting mix.
Things get melodic in the third track, “Toward Damascus.” Acoustic guitar, birds, reversed bells and a host of other superb organic sounds and textures make this piece so damn good. I wish it was a little longer, but alas, it’s still awesome. We morph effortlessly into “Slidewalk,” with a tiny bit of acid, textured voices and mellow / hazy electric guitars. There’s a complicated melody going on here, something I’ve not heard attempted in electronic music in quite a while. Everything is woven together like a large tapestry: every thread is different but, it fits, like it belongs together.
“Backlit Wallcloud” captures the wild structure of a thunderhead. This track is rich with textured electro synth, reformatted into a shimmering yet darkly sinister fashion. It feels like an oncoming storm. A FAX-ish sounding track, “Midnight Bell Wakes Everyone,” slinks in next. It’s gentle yet powerful, using bits of ’94-styled ambience but mixing it with more modern synth styling and layering. We then slide into some field recordings of birds, thunder and footsteps with some stormy sounding synth as we enter the next track. It really reminds me of when my brother and I would trek around the neighborhood with a cassette tape, recording the environment around us to use as source material for songs.
The final four tracks are remixes by Jirka Blazek there’s a nice, healthy dose of textured guitars on some of these, giving it more ethereal feel. The soundscape and field recordings are still present in the remix of ‘The Storm We’ve Been Waiting For,” but the ambient effects are given more of the spotlight, and some light guitar has been added in. The new mixture makes a good companion piece for the original.
Final thoughts: My God, this is the kind of album my brother and I tried so hard to make a reality when we improvised in the studio back during our Spencerport sessions. We made some decent stuff, but this album here was kind of the piece we strived to create. Aside from this reason, this album shines as a great example of modern abstract electronica. It blends organic and synthetic elements rather well and it scurries into many new directions that I haven’t seen too many modern pieces of this type travel into yet. It does hint at some mid-90s influences here and there but otherwise this album dwells in uncharted territory, which is what makes this piece, as a whole, kind of exciting despite being more on the mellow side.
If you enjoyed Buenos Aires’s “The Lake Effect,” with its own sort of abstract / ambient adventurism, you will probably find this enjoyable as well. Long standing fans of the SSR catalog will not be disappointed. If there’s one thing Secret Station is good at, it’s finding artists who aren’t afraid to sail off on new sound waves to bring us brilliant work that sounds like nothing else out there.
4.8 out of 5.