Segue – The Here And Now (SEM, 2014)

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How could I not be excited by the prospect of this release? Pacifica was an effortless tropical sojourn and Blue was the perfect minimalistic Autumnal album for those dark, crisp evenings. I normally give new albums a little play of their first track just to make absolutely sure it’s something I’m interested in and after 30 seconds of the opener I had to shut it off, because I knew it would be excellent and I knew I’d need some serious alone time to give this album what it deserves.

And so the beautiful circular guitar work of “Turning Patterns” introduces us to yet another direction in Segue’s variable sound; the goosebumps are already breaking out in the rich reverb of the string scratches and the gentle instrumentation, the repetitive but sumptuous lines expanded out incrementally with the light beats of a drum machine and cool synth drones as the track progresses. It’s a bleary haze of ramping up textures and slowly turning music that’s every bit as crisp as it is defocused; like a perfect opportunity missed it evokes the same sensations of quiet regret and clear hindsight wrapped up in this mournful package. The lead out is a funny one that plays a little aural trick, creating a faux beat and fades the guitars as though to segue into followup “All At Once” but ends up fading out. “All At Once” is a very different beast though, and picks up the Dub mantel stronger than the opener in its grooving 808 opener only to have its pace crushed in its core as waves of guitar drone spin a sad light into its heart for a brief time. It gets right back up though and doesnt stay down for long, somehow balancing the two opposing emotions against each other with a careful facade.

“What Could Have Been” strikes up the strongest sound so far with a billowing gust of opening drone that rolls around the soundstage throughout the piece, a slowly orbiting, vaguely gritty centerpiece that the shuffling grooves beat along to. A heart-wrenching interlude at the 2 minute mark abandons the established structure briefly to let the synths shimmer cathartically before spiralling back into their normal routine, a touching moment of radiant light in the centre of the dark bass thrums and repetitive drum lines that once again shines the depressing light of hindsight into proceedings. Things do take a surprisingly optimistic turn and it feels like we’ve suddenly found ourselves in a Constellation Tatsu release in mid-album beauty “Sometimes”, with its vaguely Neo-Psychedelic rushes of 70’s synth and skittering, rolling piano lines in its opening leg. The Dub hasn’t been forgot though, of course, and we are made firmly sure of this as this jovial uprising is quickly quenched with swirling drones that drown out the brilliantly bright introductory notes and replace them with the recurring tumbling grooves we’ve seen throughout. It’s a refreshing switch but it’s a bit black & white, even though the tapping percussion perfectly complements the pulsating drone.

The longest track of the album is upon us in the blindingly good “Settle Down”, taking all the established riffs and themes of the album so far and smearing them out into something almost monochromatic; thin wavers of glittery drone seep through slow and reverbed electronica, Dub lines that have been stretched and distorted into shape and forced to comply. Intrusions of fresher music do make their way into the tired mix though, young souls that are more adept at a slightly faster pace and crisper lines than their predecessors, tapping and pulsing along to the rhythms to their tune. But they work side by side, never one overwhelming or overpowering the other; a certain mutual respect exists with a placid middle ground filled with echoic choral vocals, although there is a distinct cruise towards reductionism towards the end as things simplify and the guitar makes its final glittery voice heard.

“Flood” is almost an unwelcome sight after the 10 minute bliss out of “Settle Down”, with its crooning initial guitar lines, the stuttering clatter of miscellaneous downtempo electronica and endless streams of dripping water. It’s like it’s being played at the bottom of a well. That being said it does evolve into a pretty chilled out track overall as the dubbier aspects begin to take over a little bit and keep things rolling with subtle beats and piercing intrusions of thin drone through the waters. The running water eventually fades out and we move into my favourite track of the album, and sadly the closer, “Northern”. As the second longest track it’s given a bit more leeway than the others and allowed to take its time, building slow beats from thick guitar thrums from the stable drone background, a layer cake of increasingly brief notes. But everything is languid and expansive in this track, nothing’s short or fast paced, it’s all calm and composed and chilled. It’s got some great grooves on it though, despite its appearance, and it’s something you can really get your teeth into; it’s got a luxurious backfield that has a sort of expansive, almost limitless, optimism, coupled with a more energetic and empowered foreground set of clipped beats that keeps that dream alive.

That’s what I love about this release, it manages to effortlessly combine tight Dub beats and interesting grooves and put them into this beautifully evocative Drone and Ambient framework. It’s refreshingly lightweight, there’s absolutely nothing oppressive in the sound at all and whilst there is a hint of repetitiveness to most, if not all, of the tracks that some people may not entirely enjoy, it’s a very progressive sound that feels as eager to break free and embrace some chaos as we are, shifting slowly from a more wistful first half into an album that is more inclined to break out of its shell and become entirely more proactive and optimistic in its warm latter half. A really excellent album all round.

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