(06.14.05) At first, I think I really need to clean the needle on my record
player and then, as the opening track of John Reading’s The Haunted
Sea whispers into the room, I doubt the source of the static
lacing “Elektra’s” quiet ambience. There are ghosts in The Haunted
Sea; that much is clear right from the start. The ghost of
Gustav Holst haunts “Elektra,” the celestial rhythm of The
Planets humming beneath the melody that winds through the
landscape peppered with squelches and drum programming. Voices drift
in the wake of the melody, tiny choirs whispering and ululating in the
indistinct distance. “Echo Angel” begins as an echo of “Elektra”
before erupting into its own existence, springing from the last
reverberation of “Elektra” like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. The
daughter from the parent is more energetic — more alive — than her
father, dancing and whirling with abandon. “Radio Row” adds a chamber
orchestra to the cinematic feel that Reading has with his work, a
nostalgic soundtrack quality that drenches the music in the diffuse
light of the European auteurs.
There are more echoes on the B-side. “You Can’t See It From The
Ground” is rife with dub reverb; as the fat beats come back through a
second time, they bring a contrail of billowing static with them, a
high-plains dust cloud from a distant hazy horizon. Marimbas duet
with an archaic radio signal in the uptempo “Nothing Good Comes Easy,”
a song that belies that title with its catchy dance-floor rhythm.
Closer “Univoice” loops a vocal track through several patches,
attaches it to a rolling bass rhythm and ends The Haunted Sea
with a tugging, insistent undertow — the rhythmic pulse of the tide
against your legs as you wade into the ocean to chase a kelpie into
the deep blue sea.
John Reading’s Satellite Beach project is an excursion into cinematic
instrumental music: widescreen downtempo that soundtracks an
imaginary series of nostalgic images that both cleave to the past and
yearn for the future. Rife with classical echoes and the tiny
micro-noises of modern electronic composition, The Haunted Sea
manages to have organic warmth and textured brittleness. These are
the atmospheres of the sea at dusk, the breath of wind and the spray
of water. Replete with ghosts. Excellent.
The Haunted Sea is out now on Record Camp.