Arash Akbari – Cracked Echoes (Soft Recordings, 2014)


November is here and with it the first signs true signs that Winter is almost upon us; Autumn was brief enough, and while a few leaves still cling to the trees they’re not long for this world, and it’s time for us to begin embracing the coldest and harshest month of each year. Arash Akbari is ready for it in Crackled Echoes it seems, but more than that he sees something beyond the cool desolation in the drones here, a quietly beautiful and still place steeped in nostalgia and just waiting to be awoken as we hurtle through the abyss.

We begin with the glassy space ambience of “All Is Gone”, a sparse construction that hints at some psybient inspiration deep in its core. It’s bleak and black, filling its interstitial spaces with watery minimalism, drips and streamings swimming through the dense dronescape, rising as a wave of glistening sound that sees Winter’s cold approach from afar, empathetic to the axial tilt as it drifts overhead and peeks at the stars in the squelching synth flashes that tinkle menacingly at the end. But there’s little we can do as we rotate away from the Sun’s warming presence, as “Until Time Sits By Your Side” recognises; unlike the opener we get to feel the harshness and abrasiveness of the stirring winds and rain from the ground, replacing its ethereal movements with sandy drone abrasions, sustained synths and the gurgling of overflowing pipes and gutters. There’s a strange, shuffling shyness to this piece, a sort of shoegazing quality to proceedings as we watch and wait, stuck indoors until the elements pass with nothing to occupy ourselves with except our cool daydreamings.

The juxtaposition between floating, objective observer and on-the-ground experiencer is a delicious one and continues through the remaining tracks in a big way, although remaining aloof; “Passing Flares” feels distant and removed in its hollow and echoic janglings and tidal drones, interposed with tired and fuzzy lo-fi static cracklings, our orbiter window looking out upon the great expanses of desolate tundra to see insignificant and barely there threads of life, tiny pins of light marking remote and hard human lives in the white void. Closer “Pale Blue” also seems to play on this theme a little, a new day emerging for the people below but just another 45 minute window of light for our spaceship. Regardless, it’s welcomed with Steve Roach reminiscent synth drones, gentle and delicate, spinning out to clicking and tinkling mechanical nothings in the background, quietly enjoying itself as seasonal variation is smoothed out with heaters and conditioners in our floating box, looking down at creation below like some tiny god.

It’s perhaps in the album’s dominant piece, the sore-thumb of 17 minute leviathan “Tomorrow’s Daylight”, where things feel the most human, introducing itself to the faint thrum of chirruping insects and the wheeling voices of children. It doesn’t last long, however, as twilight descends with gorgeously dense wailing drones before transcending into perfect night, an obfuscated mush of lo-fi drone circlings, turning and turning to await the new day and its warming rays. Eventually, just at the end, we’re allowed a few harmonious and glowing synth outpourings to touch the horizon and breathe a sigh of relief, but of course we saw it coming and passed it by already, musing on those who are eagerly awaiting it below us.

Cracked Echoes is an elegant and empathetic record that wants to detach itself from the Earth’s surface and see its seasonal complexity and overall beauty from above, to compress months and miles into mere moments and try to think about the tiny lives of the specks crawling across its surface, waiting and relying on our nearest star to appear and drive life and take us through the motions. It revels in the diversity of the seasons, enjoying the beauty of its rotation and climatic variation across each year and appreciating its influence on our lives, for better or worse. Emotionally potent, expansive and luxuriously detailed: you need to be listening to this record.