Between Interval: Legacy
Spotted Peccary Records

Ill-advisedly played at low volume as one's engaged in some other, non-musical activity, Stefan Strand's fifth Between Interval album might not sound all that different from other ambient-electronic collections. But with competing distractions removed and one's attention wholly focused, one's appreciation for Legacy's sophisticated sound design grows appreciably. One reason why one might underappreciate Between Interval's music is because of its understatement; Strand always exercises tasteful restraint in his refined productions, and as the fifty-one-minute Legacy progresses, the Swedish composer's kinship with tastemakers such as Loscil, Biosphere, and Arovane becomes apparent; as with their recordings, every element in Between Interval's music has purpose. (Strand himself has said of his music, “I wouldn't call it minimalistic, but instead of giving away too much in terms of melodies I aim to incorporate subtle and implicit changes.”)

Michal Karcz's striking cover painting and Strand's suggestive track titles are consistent with his statement that the album represents a journey and that its theme primarily has to do with exploration, whether that be a physical one through the cosmos (as intimated by “Fields of Neptune”) or a spiritual one involving the psyche (“Inner Guidance”). Note that Spotted Peccary has made a limited edition colour vinyl version of the release available, though the LP omits two tracks included in the CD and download formats (“The Hour Appointed” and “Closing In”); further to that, two vinyl tracks are a tad shorter than their digital and CD counterparts.

The nuance of Strand's sound design is evident the moment “The Tunnel” initiates the recording with ominous bass pulses, silken atmospheres, and metallic textures, after which the elegant melodicism and gentle rhythmic thrust of “On Track” illustrate how inaccurate it would be to brand his material wallpaper music, no matter how legitimate such a move might be in the case of some ambient producers. One also shouldn't be surprised when echoes of influential forebears such as Pete Namlook, Robert Rich, Tangerine Dream, Steve Roach, and The Future Sound of London occasionally surface; one could be forgiven, for example, for hearing a bit of Tangerine Dream in the whooshes and synth sequences that surface during “Fields of Neptune.” Impeccably crafted, Legacy deftly segues between related ambient sub-genres, among them electronica, spacemusic, soundscaping, and even dub-techno.

Indicative of Strand's restrained approach, acoustic piano playing emerges as an element within the pulsating synthetic landscape of “Accelerant” but used so minimally and woven so subtly into the overall design that a less attentive listener could miss it altogether. The stark “Gravity Core” captivates also, despite featuring little more than a dubby synth pulse and string accents. In addition, field recordings amplify the atmospheric character of “The Hour Appointed” by deepening its mystery with waves gently lapping ashore and bells tolling, but for the most part Strand conjures his powerfully evocative realms—inner and outer—using primarily electronic means.

May 2017