offthesky – Light Loss (DRONARIVM, 2015)


Unseasonal albums always feel a little awkward to me, especially ones that pin themselves to a specific timeframe but then are subsequently released at some other arbitrary point in the year; Light Loss is one of those albums with an awkward release date that doesn’t quite seem to marry with its thematic devices. Created to mirror the descent of colourful yet fading Autumn into Winter’s grey fugues it somewhat feels at odds to the brightness and encroaching warmth and life that Spring provides around its launch date, a result of which, at least for me, does seem to otherwise dim the experience of an otherwise rather decent record.

Opening the album is the miserably titled “Mouthful of Silence” which, as you might expect, relies in part on utilising the power of the unspoken to amplify its haunting atmosphere, something which the album as a whole does remarkably well. Wafts of thin, warped instrumentation float through the darkness, this new nightfall filled with twisted unknowns that create a deep and lonely claustrophobia, the emptiness quickly overwhelmed by abrasive guitar drones and noisy currents that hover directly overhead before imploding into fear and an abrupt silence. “Dream Coma” then ushers itself in, some restless sleep that’s somehow overcome the fear previously established but only to find itself in a creepy world of its own creation. Violins sleepily forge the ethereal heart of the piece alongside the light guitar work and snippets of radio fragments suspended in the drone, but as we drift aimlessly deeper into its core things become more chaotic and the mix becomes overwhelmed with jangling miscellany, a cacophony of lightweight electronica peaking in inconsequential drama.

The catharsis is insufficient, and thus “Bloodletting” arrives seamlessly on the same light winds that closed “Dream Coma”, then proceeding to unfurl on lush drone lines and soft vocal coos to create the most blissful albeit jaded moments thus far. The resolution arrives in a slow tide of damaged instrumentation; violin scrapings, jumbled guitar pickings and an assortment of noisy textures grow into a overbearing haze that melts into a distant sludge, the troubles packaged up and ejected as it slinks away on thin strings and retreating vocals, its mind put to rest. As if to clear its head we venture outwards in “If We Were A Lake”, a superficially lifeless affair at first that slowly populates itself with quietly introspective instrumental pulses and piano tinklings alongside the faint but untroubled vocals; it’s all a bit indistinct and a bit wishy-washy but it’s nicely reflective and peaceful amidst the angst of its fellows.

Everything culminates in the 21 minute leviathan of the title track at the end though, a slowly building giant that affords itself an enormous amount of time to come into its own, the day brightening slowly and plucked away with the rapidity that only Winter can achieve. It grows in delicate waves of sound, slowly creaking and stirring out of the darkness but picking up its pace rapidly once established, migrating into thick drone sequences and chaotic percussion helped along by little flutters of a distant saxophone, a nice touch in amidst the jumble. It’s brooding and a little tempestuous with its mulch of textures and splashy cymbals in amongst the dense drones but it doesn’t return to the record’s previous bleakness.

It’s thematically interesting and there’s nary a dull moment, each piece moving from one consistent and frequently troubled frame of mind to the next, but it’s a little late for me to find this really mind blowing and wholly relatable, I would have loved to have seen this come out perhaps a month or two ago when it would have felt seasonally impactful. That doesn’t stop it from being a decent record of course; it uses silence perhaps more potently than I’ve ever heard to lend its creeping crescendos even more power and its blurred acoustic instrumentation wavers on the edge of organic in an interesting way, but sometimes it does feel a little jumbled and incoherent, perhaps even a little heavy-handed, in its presentation at a few points as it tries to drive its catharsis and emotional terseness home, but otherwise emotionally meaningful and rather thoughtful all round.