The Dead Company is the solo project for Jon Bushaway. Apparently over the last fifteen years he has produced four hundred and fifty tracks. His most recent recording is entitled Four Horses, which is a sprawling, dark, ambient album that is a little under seventy minutes in length. It was originally one piece of music but eventually split into five.
Right off the bat I think it goes without saying that this is music that you have to be in the mood for. Even for ambient music it is rather minimal. There are only a couple of different elements to each song and there aren’t any distinct changes. The music is less dynamic than a group like Stars Of The Lid or Mountains but more trance-like and hypnotic. It’s contemplative music that contains so much melancholy it almost feels detached.
The first track “Four Horses” is the shortest of the five pieces. It didn’t have as much emotional resonance as some of the other tracks but contained spoken lyrics, which helped the sparse piano. The lyrics are on the verge of a mythological and biblical allegory. He says, “For here there are four horses Which will you choose to ride One that will take you places And stay there by your side.”
The second song “and it will all be gone” works better than the first. He utilizes pads that float in and out of existence and places vocal samples that sound like someone giving an emergency announcement over a ham radio. The vocal sample works well because you can’t hear what is being said. Brief waves of sound dance like whimsical fairies but an ominous undercurrent does occasionally manifest. The song gets more intense and layered as it progresses.
“More Horses” contains drones of angelic pads that instill a sense of tranquil reverence. As with the previous track his vocal samples work. This time they seem to have a slight delay and are panned hard left and right. “A Better Man on a Better Day” showcases a return to piano. The lyrics are intensely dark and despondent. He says, ”So here is where I am a useless waste of a man The fingers don't stop pointing The pain inside just growing.” He closes with the most dissonant and alien sounding track entitled “Your Horses.”
I don’t think Four Horses will be playing during happy hour but it has its place.
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