Last Days :: Sea (n5MD, CD)

1385 image 1(09.27.06) Within the past ten years, the US has become a real hub of electronica.  Quality labels and talented artists have made America a home for computer music. One label that has been a forerunner in producing great electronic music in the States is n5MD. The imprint was born with technology and music  in mind. The label’s name is emblematic of this. n5MD did not start off with CD’s or vinyl, but with a totally new medium: the minidisc. The label’s name, n5MD, stands for No Fives, Mini Discs. This compact, futuristic format was what the label chose to put out its first release on, the MD1 Compilation. The compilation, in its pocket size shape, was a merging of micro-media and  sound with artists like Arovane and Quench involved. Soon n5MD had set  itself up as one of the top labels of US electronic music. The label skipped from format to format, producing music on vinyl, CD and minidisc but always  releasing digital music of deep emotion and feeling. Yet, the minidisc, sadly, died – thankfully n5MD did not go the same way as the latter half of its name. The label sought out new talent, bringing names like ML and Proem to a larger audience. n5MD gave the electronic music community a solid stream of superb IDM but encouraged experimentation, letting its artists test the waters with new, and old, equipment. It is with this in mind that n5MD offer up their latest CD release, Sea by Last Days (a.k.a. Graham Richardson).

Sea is a meshing of the electric and the acoustic. Richardson employs strings, gentle chords and lulling beats to create harmonious soundscapes that are light but deep. The album opens with “Leaving Home,” a piece that drones into life on ripples of sound. The track hazily develops, stretching and yawning into being before quickly ending. This opener is a taster of what this relaxing and ambient album will be like. Richardson follows down the road he has laid with “Leaving Home” with “The Safest Place,” a string centered track with soothing chords and keys. A terrifically beautiful work, demonstrating how the contrasting mediums of electronic and acoustic can come together in perfect harmony. “Two Steps Back” is a much more computer generated work, but maintains the abstract, overwashing ambience of Sea. This track is a gentle pulling and tugging at computer sounds, a heaving to and fro of softly contorted melodies with touching keys once more playing an important role. Down the line, “Arriving at Jan Mayen” reflects and refracts “Two Steps Back,” another resonating, haunting, echoing piece. But in this work, Last Days illustrates the eerie estrangement which electronic music is capable of; the dissociating sound that computers can create. Warmth returns to the record with “Mountians” and its opening of soft luscious keys as peaceful xylophonic drips slip through a net of sound. The album maintains a laid back, relaxing sound throughout; be that it sounds more electronic or acoustic the melodies remain dreamy and atmospheric. “I Remember When You were Good” is a piano-centered track of warm keys that echo and resonate behind a curtain of sound. “The Norwegian Sea” opens with a lulling bass, an overture that sluggishly develops as low clicks simmer through subtle strings to create a hazy lush soundscape; a wonderfully isolated track. “Fear” moves the listener towards the final furlong of this debut release. Another acoustic composition, this time introduced by soft guitar strings. Low and gentle, light beats swim and sail through the track to create an upbeat, yet darkly sombre, work. This warm loving track ambles along, edging beautifully to its climax before fading away to a faint glow and receding back behind the speakers.

Sea is an excellent debut piece by a talented young artist. The album’s name, Sea, mirrors the style Richardson employs. A dreamlike, gentle, yet undeniably powerful, sound forever moving and reforming. Richardson utilises both the electronic and acoustic, blending them seamlessly into a rich audio scenario. Sea is an album full of emotion, full of beauty, full of darkness. Sea is an album that is as stark as it is rich, it is  Richardson’s manipulation of this disparity that makes his debut LP such an intoxicated suspension of sound.

Sea is out now on n5MD.

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