Matt Lewin is a Melbourne-based producer who records under the moniker Spacecadet Lullabies, and his 2018 release Gardens was a Top Album here on Divide and Conquer. His new release, however, is quite different from what he (or anyone else, for that matter) has done before. Lewin calls The Map Maker “a thematic collaboration with a spirit captured on a hidden reel to reel tape… to explore an existential map of time and identity.”
The process began when Lewin sorted through his late father’s belongings and found a small tape containing original songs for vocal and piano by his enigmatic grandfather, never heard until now. Lewin digitized the tape and created samples in Ableton Live, melding them into the work we have here. “I have attempted to respectfully converse with my grandfather through my interpretation of the themes in his music. I’ve avoided using his voice or trying to reshape his songs. Those intimate moments and compositions are his and what you hear from me is the expression of my humility in response to his musical inner world.”
Lewin concludes that this album “…is not about the legacy of my grandfather nor myself, but a realization through music that our lives are a brief moment of consciousness that steps into the stream of time.” Lewin worked in his Melbourne home studio with mastering performed by Lachian Carrick at Moose Mastering.
I very much applaud the artistic spark that led to these compositions. Though I have worked with found tapes myself, I’ve never summoned forth such ethereal tones and cadences from more conventional music. This sheer transformational power of sound reminds me of how Spielberg fashioned his mother ship’s rumble from the space between soldiers’ footsteps.
Part One begins with a quiet bed of low-frequency sounds, upon which are introduced chords that evoke a celestial choir. The track has an underwater feel, which is interesting given that the cover art looks like a sculptured bust submerged in liquid. Part Two starts out with a dry, desert-like ambience with sustained mid-frequency wailing that morphs into a rhythmic loop. Here I found the first tantalizing evidence of where this music came from, as single strokes on piano keys are almost recognizable. About three minutes in, Lewin somehow fashions kick drum and percussive samples from his source tape as the melodies multiply alongside each other, finally settling in as lovely, almost conventional themes.
Part Three is a more atonal construct with a choir-like resonance to the samples. The musical voices have a subtle throbbing effect, almost like a slowed down heartbeat. This one’s a shorter composition without lots of variation; more like a tonal cloud that inexorably moves forward. Part Four connects directly to the end of Part Three, continuing that same cloud of sound but with a very prominent beat. At this point I’m really interested to know whether Lewin stuck to his grandfather’s tape for these beats, or if he cheated somewhat and used a preexisting Ableton sample.
The final eight-minute track is titled “Heirloom” and is the only track not listed as a “Map Maker.” Like Part Two, it’s possible to intuit where the original piano track ends and Lewin’s sampling begins. In fact, I’d go so far as to call the beginning of this track a virtual reprise of Part Two with interesting variations. I liked this track, though it does feel like a full restatement of previous themes.
Fans of ambient and space music should enjoy this, as well as anyone who is intrigued by Lewin’s concept and is curious to see how it turned out.
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