Closer – In Search Of Life (2014)

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The new self-released album from Liam Daly’s Closer project with In Search Of Life. 

It’s been some time since I heard an album take to that beautiful crossover realm of Ambient and Post-Rock; Jasper Tx’s final album An Index Of Failure was probably the last one to really capture me and to say that this album is perhaps up there with it in quality is an enormous compliment. The opener “Interception” actually has something more akin to a Hammock sound all things considered (and the album as a whole), and moves forward at a crushingly slow place across its luxurious 9 minute span. Slow, reverbed piano forges the centerpiece of the track, rolling round and around as delicate drones and flutters of light guitar ripple and crest in its wake. It has a lightweight and easygoing, pleasant air to it that’s just a pleasure to listen to, counterbalanced and juxtaposed against the dark opening of “We Are Silently Roaring Through Space”. The comparatively noisy ambience of the opener has been torn away and we’re left with a dark void, a hole in the heart of the track as the pianos toll distantly and lifelessly, muffled in the expansive vacuum of space. The distant lights of stars and galaxies become smeared as liquid currents of rushing guitar drones and white noise washes fill the hole that seem to go on forever, but it isn’t all empty and hopeless for the second half becomes more empowered in its stuttering lo-fi riffs. Eventually its cavernous sound dies away mournfully and we’re left with a brief moment at its end to sit in silence and contemplate the Universe.

“Someone’s Soul Is Drifting” wafts in on heartwrenching currents of piercing drone, slipstreaming effortlessly into a space filled with carefully placed piano strokes and the light notes of drifting, distant, supplementary violin and faint guitar. It’s absolutely more harmonious and beautiful that its predecessor but in a mournful way, one that hints at loss and the hope in some kind of life after death, an ode to something lost. The piano is always an extremely expressive instrument and I often think of it having quite a resigned and wistful sound, and the sudden clarity and lack of obfuscation draws attention to that aspect of its sound even more so, especially in the sparse closing seconds. Followup “The Sense Of Being Stared At” I suppose continues to reinforce this idea of hope in an afterlife as the sheltered and distant piano returns with the expansive serenading guitar. It’s an extremely melancholic track despite this, wallowing in loss and the inability to interact with those passed once more, of being continuously reminded of their absence.

“Who’s Riding The Airwaves Tonight” arrives on enigmatic reversed tones, the guitar and piano being rolled back into their respective instruments and repeated one after the other, cycling with the same casual regularity of the radio waves of its namesake. There honestly is extremely little I can say about this track; it proceeds at an easygoing and unconcerned pace, slowly allowing fresh snippets of texture into the soundscape and breaking out of its lowkey beginnings to something entirely more ambitious; the piano riffs delicate and repetitive, the lush guitar introduced to fluff out the empty backfield and ensure our continued hypnotic state. It peters out into an enigmatic darkness as we bookend the album with closer “Return Signal”, opening to rushes of white noise and encrypted static. It’s the most unusual track of the album in that regard, and it’s kind of disappointing Liam left it so late to swing a slight curveball into the mix as it buzzes energetically. The slow guitar picks and rich, distal piano project a certain hopefulness across the air, the guitar especially, louder and clearer than ever before. “We hear you, everything’s fine” you can hear it say as it all falls away to that basal noise, the chaotic language of the Universe.

Listening to In Search For Life can be quite a struggle at times; there’s a strongly emotional component of this album that is extremely resonant with me. Its title raises the question; is this the search for extraterrestrial life, of scientific endeavour, or is it the search for life here on Earth, the effort to regain some sense of humanity back into oneself after loss and death. Its broad vistas of sound leave lots of space for interpretation as well as personal reflection, even if they can be a bit cumbersome and poorly progressive at times. It’s certainly not an instrumental powerhouse, nor an overly unique project, but it does tug on the old heartstrings with excellent frequency.

 

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