Twilight In Versailles – Eternal Sea (2014)

Sometimes it can be difficult to formulate words on an album that you like but also hold some reservations against; every album has flaws, this is without question, and often it’s possible to overlook some of these shortcomings to enjoy the experience as a whole but sometimes things dominate the skyline that, despite the music contained within being good and competent and pleasant, somewhat sully the album as an entity. In the case of Eternal Sea, I admit that my biggest concern lies within the distribution of its runtime; 10 tracks comprising 79 minutes of content is by no means unreasonable, but when fifty of those minutes are bottled into one track alone I have some mild reservations.

The sonic content of the record is quite interesting and variable though, each track bringing something of its own to the album as a whole; opener “Eclipse” is a dark and somewhat cinematic entrance to proceedings, arriving on crunchy pulses of synth drones that slowly clear and become increasingly bright as the moment of rare occlusion passes back into warm normality. The Sun’s presence is also felt quite strongly in a couple of other tracks also, namely “The Morning Glow” in its distal synth warpings and smeared, bleary guitar lines that exude that cold but crisp air of white Winter light, and “Radiant Haze” which presents a similar construction in its lightweight electronica, bouncy guitar and deeply ensconced hi-hats to create a tinkly and cosy atmosphere. The brief Wurlitzer machinations of “Nautilus” keep this feeling alive also, carrying a pleasant and bubbly air with it in circular and hazy turnings.

These brighter and balmier sequences are lightly juxtaposed against tracks that are wholly cooler and more sparse, in line with the opener; “Aurora Borealis” is the most distant and ethereal of the bunch, lost in tracts of quiet drone that are scarcely allowed to develop before being swallowed up by the darkness again, its minimal excursions briefly fluttering through the atmosphere before frittering beautifully away. The far away closer of “Aerinite” is not far removed either, creeping forwards through the darkness on gentle wafts of light and insubstantial drone and feeling nothing as it moves at imperceptible speed, each moment feeling like a lifetime without a sense of visual reference before it disappears over the event horizon and is lost forever.

But these short-lived explorations fail to touch the behemothic expanse of “Estuario del Río”, the proverbial elephant in the room. It’s confusing to me why Ryan felt it necessary to add this incongruous giant to the album instead of, perhaps, having it occupy a record of its own; its addition so vastly overwhelms the entirety of this record that it makes the other tracks feel like rather redundant trimmings. Its span is filled with placid drone lines akin to much of what we’ve heard already, the difference of course being that this time they’re afforded enormous time and latitude. To its credit it does go some way to duplicate the experience in the face of the vast river mouth of the Rio, a 200km wide portal into the ocean that would appear endless on the ground, a limitless blending of ocean and river filled with nothing more than silty water, its surface shimmering lightly in the tropical Sun, rising falling through time with the tide. It exhibits a fascination with its expanse that borders on fear, anxiety of the power and scale of nature in the form of a low-key dread in the carefully blended minimal drone onlaps, but it really is quite overlong even if it is very pleasant and entrancing listening.

It’s difficult for me to get a sense of what this album as a whole is trying to achieve I suppose; there are seaside pleasantries and brief, scattered moments of pleasure in the sight of the ocean but all of these things are overshadowed and overpowered by “Estuario” in a really unfortunate way. It doesn’t make sense to include something as vast and disparate alongside its shorter predecessors and it becomes tiring listening considering we’re already 25 minutes in. Interesting and variable sonic experience but in my opinion it’s better listening to one or the other but not both together; singularly they are an accessible, 30 minute collection of 36 reminiscent Ambient Drone constructions that enjoy our seaside jaunts and the other is a 50 minute conceptual Drone piece that holds its own as an exploration of a very specific place.