Lav & Purl :: A State of Becoming (A Strangely Isolated Place)

Through A State of Becoming, Lav & Purl are trying to express the interconnectedness of all things, a strong concept reflected in its thematic, melodic and compositional consistency. One can easily get lost in the album.

With the sheer volume of of new music vying for our weekly—if not daily—attention, it feels like the age of religiously collecting the releases of one particular record label has become something of a luxurious rarity. There’s one label that unfailingly rewards such loyalty, however, thanks to its wallet-sparingly moderate but exceptionally curated output: A Strangely Isolated Place.

The exquisitely crafted vinyl releases on this boutique imprint are fast becoming a comprehensive index to the entire ambient genre. Following on from 36’s similarly essential conceptual and minimalist The Infinity Room comes Lav & Purl’s A State of Becoming, this one a more traditional ambient work in almost every sense.

It’s the debut long player from Christopher Landin (Lav) and Ludvig Cimbrellius (Purl, Eternell, Alveol and a host of other names) is another of those long-distance collaborations, one that came to fruition after Landin sent Cimbrellius a series of field recordings made in remote and desolate locations found while he was travelling through Greece. Cimbrellius fell in love with their simplicity and was also travelling, first through France and then Sweden where he recorded improvised piano sessions for each, finally putting all the additional pieces together over time and in various other locations.

A collaboration like this doesn’t sound like it should really work, but the two clearly shared so much common ground that this considered and thematically structured album succeeds on many, many levels.

For a start, if it weren’t for the fact that Landin’s field recordings were the genesis of A State of Becoming, it might almost have worked as an album without them. But without the twittering of birds, flowing water and hooting of wildlife that renders the opening track “Remembering,” for example, in the kind of vivid, verdant detail of a Claude Monet landscape, the hazy synth pads, intricately crafted beats and subtle bass kicks could have come right off Bola’s debut album Soup. But it’s precisely because of those fields recordings that the piece so much life, depth and color.

The album contains a mere six tracks, but only one is less than eight minutes long. Cimbrellius’ improvised, lilting piano lends the music that sense of movement that perfectly reflects the travelling undergone by Lav & Purl when making it. The looping melodic synth phrases in, say, the twelve-minute title track are given counterpoint by these passages, and so A State of Becoming avoids any feeling of repetition that sometimes dogs traditional ambient music.

Through A State of Becoming, Lav & Purl are trying to express the interconnectedness of all things, a strong concept reflected in its thematic, melodic and compositional consistency. One can easily get lost in the album, and by the time the all-encompassing ocean wave swell and transcendent, melodic ambient pads of “Absorbed in Serenity” wash over you, it’s possible to simply become lost in its widescreen open spaces.

“All Is Breath” has a breathy, drifting Global Communication vibe à la 76:14, but channeled through the slosh and gurgle of a river lock, all underpinned by hefty, dubby bass, while organ-like tones, dripping water and a soft breeze infuse the tense clicks and cuts of “Recollection.” “Beyond Suffering” is probably the most unusual piece here, seemingly Lav & Purl’s take on dub techno, with the droning of bee swarms replacing the genre’s more traditional hiss, and the pastoral sound of birdsong and rustling leaves replaces the more traditional sounds of the city with watercolor landscapes.

It is in large part thanks to Landin’s field recordings and Cimbrellius’ choice not to mute or obscure them but place them at the very center stage that renders each track subtly and brilliantly different whilst further strengthening that pervading sense of travelling and connectedness.

A State of Becoming is a work of art even down to Noah MacDonald’s absolutely stunning sleeve illustrations, an all time high for A Strangely Isolated place, perfectly complimented by the choice of dusky pink colored vinyl. The album is available to download now, but sadly the double-vinyl edition has been beset by pressing problems. Sold out in the US, physical copies will still available in Europe by the end of March.

A State of Becoming is available on A Strangely Isolated Place.

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