Thomas Gray & Liam Ebbs – 3 Days, 2 Nights (Analogue Attic Recordings, 2019)

The most delicate of human touches meet cushion like riddims on this hauntingly beautiful release. 

Expansiveness doesn’t have to exist with the realms of the synthesiser. For years, electronic artists have looked to blend traditional instruments whilst nurturing their passions for understanding what machines are capable of creating emotionally. We see this relationship grow or slow throughout songs, as if the unravelling is almost the message we are aiming to get involved within. The interface between them becomes intertwined, the relationship becoming co-dependant, as instruments both electronic and traditional become a blend of crafted naturalised beauty. The sound almost becomes fluid, perhaps a reflection of nature and culture, and the meaning of their shared existence. Our place in the world is questioned when we leave the cities and stare vacantly into landscapes crafted by natural process and change.  The sounds just continue on in the background, as we move into a world where living and breathing is all we have to worry about. No cars, pollution or distractions or danger. A landscape where every tree, shrub, leaf and blade of grass has a story that is allowed to sing loudly from the rooftops. 

This is the sort of vibe that permeates from Gray and Ebbs, on this new EP. This record very much seeks to understand the boundary between nature and culture. The music continually evolves, much like this relationship, taking on numerous forms across a spectrum of tones and textures, environments and scenes. The listener is very much kept within this little bubble, one that travels freely and willingly between soundscapes that off up a plethora of imagery. The layering of instruments is profoundly special, with light touches and considerations made to their arrangements and the noises they make. Everything has been slotted into place, all for the enjoyment of the listener and indeed the musicians themselves. The beats, the guitars, the keys, all key ingredients in a melting pot of homely delights and soft sunlit skies. One can only expect this level of density from the Analogue Attic Crew, who have continually released music that touches the soul as much as it inspires it since their debut EP back in 2014. For some more utterly compelling listening experiences, check out Udmo’s ‘Open Water’ EP, the various Albrect La’Brooy releases, and Rings Around Saturn’s ‘Erosion’ EPs (parts 1 and 2). The label just keeps on giving up the goods, never-ending horizons filled with fields and riches, where surprises await around every corner. So, lets take a dive shall we?

The opener, ‘Ladies Well’, begins on a lively note, with birds chirping around the sounds of harps and keys. Pads add boundaries to these little intricate elements, creating a space for sounds to reverberate. Little piano lines join in, along with the lightest of drumming grooves, as the pads keep on doing their job of tugging at the heart strings. The drums slowly and very quietly up the ante, as it is very easy to not really notice them taking centre stage as the beauty of the keys is unbelievably engaging. The kick sways into play, as the track takes off just a nudge. At this point, not many new elements have been added since the beginning, but so brilliant is the relationship between the harmonic elements that we don’t care, the loop can continue for several lifetimes. The pace dips down, as the piano becomes more prominent, moving away from the sidelines and into full focus. The kick comes back in, as the track picks itself up one more time to move us all forward into the sky. What a stunning tune. Next comes ‘Heatherbrae’, that begins more in the concrete than in the long grass. The hazy synths sparsely litter the scene, as reverbed chords bounce between them with ever increasing intensity. The beat underneath simmers the point of boiling, as it suddenly gives over and displays the smoothest of break beats. The keys now move slowly into being, their presence and purpose validated, as we move further into the next phase. A light guitar in the backdrop adds another layer of texture to an already saturated song, as the beat completely locks us in. That could really go on forever, it really could. Just another beauty to add to the pile. 

Next comes ‘Mount Allyn’, with the beat introducing us to all that is to come next. The beat provides this steady heartbeat, that allows for the vocal sample to float between the lines, adding intrigue into the mix. This builds in the slightest of ways, before those damn piano keys. Jesus, they hit hard, fucking hard, for something so soft. Their tone, their feel, their absoluteness, is all just so perfect. It is hard to think of such a beautiful switch up within any other track from this year. This just moves the track into its new melodic stage, where soft acid lines and further keys simple add more and more into the mix. This track, damn, might be the best one of the EP (so far anyway!). Finally, we have ‘Elgy for Nick’s Car’. The ominous sounds that greet us, sparse woodwind like instruments and light drums, bring forth images of chaotic natural systems, environments where noise occurs without explicit reasoning. This really draws us in, the compelling nature of the sounds giving away to!! A drum beat! Damn where the hell did that come from? These two really are masters at the subtle switch up. The breakbeat moves into play, striking hard and sure, thats a head banger for sure. The keys finally join us, perfectly weighted and considered, as the track begins its movements forward. Like waves in the sea, or birds in the trees, we just stop to marvel at natures movements and features, features that are reflected in this tune, something that defines its inner experience. It is one final drawn out notion that we are brought into, one final moment of peaceful reflection, one more opportunity to marvel at the wonderous musical content on display here, nature and culture together at last. 

This EP really is something else. The two producers here really delve into that sphere that exists between two worlds, where collective sounds join forces to present two sides of the same coin. The intricate blend, along with brilliant transitions and balancing of keys, creates a series of compelling listens, in which all aspects work together on various plains to create ethereal and mind bending experiences. We choose to step into their world, and it is quite hard to say no. how can you? sheer, elevated brilliance. Take a dip, you will not be disappointed. 

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