Todd Campbell aka The Ideal Setback is releasing his sixth album on his ten year anniversary of music production entitled Fernweh. Fans of soundscape artists like Gas, Stars of Lid and Fennesz will embrace this five-song EP.
The thing I always enjoyed about ambient soundscapes when done right is the ambiguity of emotion it can create. It mimics life in that your emotions aren’t as black and white as the words they try to convey. I might not be particularly happy or sad on this Monday but shades of degrees are found when taking an earnest reflection of what might be inside your thoughts.
Fernweh doesn’t need words to relay its ambiguity. In fact words would be detriment. This is conveyed on the first track “Yūgen.” The song slowly starts to rise in the first thirty seconds. An unclear distant wind and white noise seem to find homeostasis as drones come in and out of existence. It’s a tranquil sound but also quite expansive and perhaps vacant all at the same time. The song drops in degrees and increments and then elevates to clarity out of the clouds.
“Selcouth” manipulates vocal samples with effects, pads and who knows what else. The song is sparse, minimal and like the opener is able to define semitones of emotions through nuanced changes in the soundscape. “Selcouth” does have a bit of crescendo but the comedown isn’t from a peak. Up next is “Commuovere” which is built around a droning panning effect that fluctuates in the stereo field. The tones and melodies are too dissonant and jarring to go into cliche new age territory that you might find playing while getting a back massage.
The title track may bare comparisons to Sigur Rós. The track felt a little more conventional than the rest but still managed to mix different shades of emotion as layers of sound build upon it. Campbell closes the EP with “Eunioa” which may be the light of clarity but still might be a mirage.
Saying Fernweh is a beautiful album would negate everything I was saying. It would be more correct of me to say the beauty is that it never seems to be trying too hard to be beautiful but instead embraces the ambiguity of aesthetics itself. Highly recommended.
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