anthéne – black carbon

Stylistically, this new release by anthéne (Polar Seas Recordings manager Brad Deschamps) rather recalls ambient music of the mid-1990s and early 2000s. These kinds of heavenly ambient pads, suggesting vast distances and the great calm of crossing them, are ubiquitous features of space- (and sometimes ‘arctic’-) ambient music. But the title’s reference to black carbon and the album’s track titles (“decline”, “anxiety dream”, “uncertainty”) prevent the perspective from actually leaving the Earth.

Furthermore, this album doesn’t textually fit with the space-ambient canon: Deschamp doesn’t only use weightless pads and electronics but also guitars and other sound sources. Sibilant trebles, including outright hiss, run through these pieces, giving them an uncharacteristic grain. Given the apparent subject matter, the overall effect is of observing space, from the Earth, through a fine layer of the titular particulate matter. Concisely and without at all labouring the point, it draws attention to the disjoint between the human desire for infinity and the ways in which finite human civilisation contributes environmentally towards its own undoing.

Whether or not this personal interpretation is credible, the album is largely a fine piece of work, and its gentle twist on the genre is welcome. It’s suited very well to April Suen‘s grainy pastille illustration of fabric draped and folded over an indistinct, possibly human, form.