Moss Garden :: In the Silence of the Subconscious (Carpe Sonum)

‘One of the things I’ve been concerned with quite a lot is to deliberately dismantle or shift contexts around so that something comes from an area where you didn’t expect it, or something appears and it has a certain mysteriousness to it. There are ingredients mixed together that you have never heard together before, and that produces a strangeness.’ (Eno, 1981)

Having ranged far and wide over sub-genres over the ’90s-’00s, peddling IDM (Metamatics), soft techno (Norken) and glitch-ambient (Nacht Plank), Lee Norris  drew in his horns and went off for a long lie-down in the mid ’00s. After a half-decade hiatus he returned reborn—his Inner Ambient self ready for re-actualization, since then there have been a number of collaborative projects—with Mick Chillage in Autumn of Communion (n.b 2 on Anodize), Wil Bolton as The Ashes of Piemonte, Matt Hillier (aka Ishq) as Ishqamatics, a certain Sir Cliff as The Angling Loser, Craig Murphy as Ashtoreth’s Gate, and Porya Hatam. Then there was Moss Garden, with Macedonian Dimitar Dodovski, whose debut, Understanding Holy Ghosts (Kaico) early last year was prefaced by a timeless tract of ambient drift that announced it as Norris’s most distinctive, if not best, projects. Here we have a welcome follow-up, In the Silence of the Subconscious courtesy of Carpe Sonum, an enterprise originally launched by the long-established EAR/Rational Music , US distributor of FAX, as a plan to honor Pete Namlook (cf. tribute album), now established as a label (see sampler here).

Moss Garden, named after a proto-ambient Nipponese vignette from Bowie/Eno’s Heroes, is more than mere fanboy appropriation, but rather emblematic of the stylistic tenor of the project—gauzy veils and sonic tints wafting orientalist-exotically over humid backdrops. A contemplative state is induced through sculpting sonic tableaux with a rich, multi-layered synthetic and natural palette—trails of cosmic microsound and fluid pulsations in their rough guide to inner travelling. The opening “Floating in Memories” sets out with a two-chord syncopation of Satie-esque cadence (piano updated to pads), a tidal flow rippling with synth spray and held-back melody, ambiguously mood-configured. “The Tender Genes” comes slowly into diaphanous bloom, initially more obviously blithe spirited, but again subject to dub-stained clouding late in the day, a mood-swing mien sustained by “Turino in Cloud.” “Strange Terrain” skirts eponymous territories cratered with Dub Techno stabs, elements both twinkling and crepuscular swirled with a suggestive crackle and dust of saturation, seguing to “Shadowland,” whose downtempo inclination is given fuller voice by syncopated bass-prods. “Daily Catachresis” beckons towards more conventional micro-orchestral endings, but offers no ascent from the ambiguous ocean of sound, nor does “A Call to Prayers,” a closer for which closure would be a misnomer for something this occluded.

Overall, the pair focus on the orchestration of a zone of complex serenity that eschews excess fluffy or twee tendencies—love, peace, harmony, and the worst wispy intimations of New Age well sublimated. What makes In the Silence of the Subconscious stand out in an increasingly swamped sub-genre is the music’s shifting ambivalence—a certain ‘strangeness’ unfixable by those jaded ‘dark’/’light’ epithets, for pristine ambient spring hark-backs no sooner peek through than they’re tinged with hazier shades, promptings of a grainier nature—post-digital flecks, metallic slivers, blurred and unresolved turns pointing to the mercurial and mysterious innerzone of titular allusion.

In the Silence of the Subconscious is available on Carpe Sonum.

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