[Reviewed by: vitriol]
Faithful to his prolific schedule, Simon Heath has come up with another Sabled Sun release, the latest addition to the Signals series, number IV (for more information about Sabled Sun and the Signals series refer to our previous review). Adherent to the “Signals” format, this one also consists of one long track of drone-infused, meditative space ambient, accompanied by Simon’s beautiful artwork. In each release the earth is portrayed on the cover facing a cluster of stars, but changing perspective each time. Sometimes the earth is looking at the stars, sometimes the stars are looking at it. Given the background story behind the project and this series in particular, I like to think that the proverbial hero, representing all that’s left of humanity and at the same time being a live record, a depository of all that we once were or could have been, looks at the sky full of longing to find something there. The sky looks back, and something takes place between them that resembles a cosmic conversation.
This conversation has gone through various evolutionary phases. “Signals I” started as drone/ dark ambient with a few atmospheric passages here and there. The space ambient element became more prominent and more expansive in “II”, and then there was “Signals III” where the whole venture completely took off; easily one of the best genre recordings out there. The kind of thing you listen to and imagine you’re in a space pod, dreamily gliding among the stars, far away from all things human, and all things earth. Back in the arms of the universal mother. While contemplating the covers of the first three “Signals” releases I notice another small detail: all of them are deep blue. “IV” on the other hand is a kind of azure green, somewhat fuzzed by these innumerable, distant beacons of light. I assume a new phase begins now, a second chapter in our hero’s explorations.
More stars, more light, more proximity – more optimism, perhaps? No. Nothing of the sort. “Signals IV” remains a part of this essentially dark suite, with its deep, absorbing drones vortexing around a core of clear, cold synths. The recording struck me immediately with its heavy, almost stifling oppressiveness. The slow, crawling layers of drones in various tones and pitches overlap one another, occasionally interrupted by unidentified sounds. The first part of the hour-long track remains even, taking us deeper into the cortex of the planetary mind. After the first half another element is introduced, an intermittent trilling sound, one that gives a peculiar rhythm to this otherwise amorphous track. The most abrasive of the drones are dialed down, and it feels as if the landscape is clearing ever so slightly. A touch of the project’s characteristic atmospheric sequences leads to the final segment, where all the sounds escalate and then progressively fade out.
In opposition to the previous three releases that are more extroverted and imagery-specific, I have the impression that whatever happens here happens from within. This is probably the most difficult and most crucially esoteric among the “Signals” so far. It demands not only attention, but dedication and multiple listens. For those of us familiar with the background story, constructing an environment where we can place our experience will prove less of a challenge. The others will need to put in a little extra effort. And if you use the album for a pre-sleep or sleep session, you may find yourself dreaming some rather unpleasant, but very revealing dreams. The effort however is completely justified, as this is yet another excellent sample of intellectual space ambient from one of the best artists in the genre. And let us not forget, this is a scorched planet we’re walking on, where signs of life are virtually non-existent. The only traces of it are up there. Where giant stars slumber eternally in orbit.