Nelson Foltz and Tom Lynn :: Departure (Self-Released)

Departure is another of those records that may not leap out and grab the listener on first playback. By the twentieth minute, its seeped into your veins, with a number of brilliant musical touches becoming apparent to help it reach under the skin. Engaging the emotions with the sheer spectacle of ambiance.

Nelson Foltz & Tom Lynn :: Departure

Departure is another of those records that may not leap out and grab the listener on first playback. By the twentieth minute, its seeped into your veins, with a number of brilliant musical touches becoming apparent to help it reach under the skin.

So as the record is a slow burner, the notion that many a moment here is memorable; Departure must be declared a success. One of its best characteristics is that it’s not an entirely ambient piece. There are shades of the progressive in here, even classical and jazzy structures give it a pleasing form of eclectic drift.

This is Nelson Foltz and Tom Lynn’s sixth record as a duo, in a twelve year long ambient series called Still Life. They’ve gathered quite a high profile cast who perform on Departure, and Foltz & Lynn have received praise from high places—even John Hassell has described their work as a “sonic shower.” Juliette Commagere formerly of Tool side-project Puscifer is on the vocal, Gerry Leonard who’s performed with David Bowie on the guitar, Dave Cook who’s played with Taylor Swift on the piano and Michael Leonhart who’s been featured with Steely Dan, the bass. The entire cast is much bigger than this, but you get the picture. This is an accomplished bunch who’ve been around the block.

Perhaps the greatest feat by the two composers was curating all of these performances in post-production, as most of the recordings and dubbing were completed in different locations. What’s interesting is that relatively little is known about Foltz and Lynn, especially in comparison to their pals. We know both are multi-instrumentalists, and that Foltz is a composer, who’s had some involvement in quite high profile projects from the past—Barry White and Aretha Franklin to name but a few—and Lynn is a sound artist. But not much more, and it’s striking that their profiles are so modest for a twelve year old collaboration.

The naturalism of Departure‘s sound is striking—it’s more real sounding than Hassell’s ethereal experimentation’s. Granted a lot of the instrumentation is manipulated here, but the processing is of a subtle nature, and the warm unaffected tones of the brass, bass and pedal steel shine through greatly. It makes for a near ‘classical’ sounding piece. Juliette Commagere is heard like you’ve never heard her before, relatively free and loose, floating above the ambiance. She sings in structured lyrics, and her vocal lines are held with long breaths and sung with a jazzy smoothness.

There’s a strength and beauty surrounding her voice, and our duo of composers know this, placing her very deliberately toward the front of the mix. Commagere carries the first 25 minutes or so, and as the warm ambiance of the instrumentation rises from the background, Departure leaves you in awe of its beauty. Again, this is in stark contrast to Hassell’s cooled, academic approach.

Yes, what Departure has going for it is its ability to move you and engage with your emotions—you’re meant to drop your jaw at its sonic beauty. Despite a press-release or two saying otherwise, this record is a wonderful example of big, powerful and simple sonic landscapes, and they grab your heart more so than your head.

The instrumentation hits enough bittersweet spots to make this a near progressive experience and it’ll depend on your own tastes to completely define the record. Throughout the track, “Before,” Commagere’s spoken-word is looped, alongside strings and percussion. Then she continues to sing over her spoken-word, the mix gradually rising as the riff repeats and repeats. These little diversions—and there’s quite a few—really keep things wondrous throughout Departure‘s 50 or so minutes, and will continue to cause uncertainty about the final style of the record, if indeed there is one.

Often we use ambient records as a tool to chill with, to tune out of our day with. Departure was made with this concept in mind. It’s meant to be a cathartic experience, getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern day life—significantly Foltz and Lynn are based in highly populated and cosmopolitan areas, Brooklyn, New York and Berlin, Germany. However this duo have us tuning into ourselves, giving us brain-work. Departure engages the emotions with the sheer spectacle of ambiance. Definitely worth investigating.

Departure is available on at www.stillsounds.com.

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