[AMBIENT] I'd put Metal's Aaron Shepherd at no more than 30 years old—which places him pretty firmly in the post-Jacques-Yves Cousteau generation. Given that alone, I love to death the fact that Metal's three releases—The Silent World, its precursor EP, World Ocean, and 2005's Sounds of Our Seas—are at least implicitly devoted to the cultural icon. And The Silent World, more explicitly, shares its title with Cousteau's landmark film of the same name.
It's more than World's liner-note dedication to Cousteau, its song titles (which include notions of clouds, islands and mountains), or even its impressive sonic patchwork of old Cousteau interviews and monologues. It's the fact that on The Silent World, Shepherd and Metal's other half in guitar droning, Eric Lee, mimic the way things move underwater. All these aspects taken together equal a mission, and homage, accomplished.
Of course, this underwater quality could be used to describe a lot of ambient music: It drifts. It's in constant motion without necessarily going anywhere. But The Silent World—and this Artistery house band's music in general—is more sparse than the heavily looped sounds of local ambient contemporaries like Valet and White Rainbow. And it's less affected than the deeply textured music of Ghosting, though just as soporific. Guitar tones here nearly freeze in time, moving in suspended pulses. Sonic layers occur only in twos, maybe threes. Melodies of bent and delayed guitar lines, gently reverberating piano or ambiguous winds dance in shy turns around the nine glacially shifting minutes of "Mountain Pressing upon Mountain." "Cloud Formations," on the other hand, is little more than a somewhat disappointing synth organ drawn out to bloody oblivion.
But "Cloud Formations" is saved by its lead-in, which—like that of most of the disc's five tracks—is a Cousteau sample. The album's use of samples is entertaining if not immediately poignant, and the effort put into selecting them is apparent: The sampled line on the title track—"He's a little drunk already, he's letting the lobsters go...I realize he's lost his head from nitrogen narcosis. He's really drunk"—obviously didn't just float to the surface of the oceanographer's massive recorded legacy. In a somewhat didactic move (Cousteau became a pioneer of the environmental movement), his voice is later mingled on "Swan Island" with the unmistakable rapid "pssts" and mechanical cycling of rail locomotives and the mournful violin of Shannon Steele. Point taken.
The Silent World