It’s been over ten years since I first heard In a Safe Place, The Album Leaf’s sophomore album. It wasn’t hard to lose track of Jimmy LaValle’s instrumental ambient post-rock project, as he hasn’t treated us to a full length album since 2010. But now he’s back with Between Waves, once again creating mesmerizing tracks that peacefully surround you and then suck you in deeply as soon as you pay proper attention.
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Jimmy LaValle has been working consistently on his solo ambient project since 1999, although ‘Between Waves’ is the first full-length record we’ve heard from the Album Leaf in over six years. It’s also the first LaValle has recorded and produced as / with a ‘complete’ band, but that’s not important right now. His music is still meditative as ever, capable of weightless drift and cloud-reaching melody. He is a long way from his beginnings in hardcore bands and the post-rock-isms of Tristeza. Although that was all good too.
From the beginning, we are treated to krautrock beats, shiny machine-driven grooves and towering loveliness. Lush bursts of synthesis greet us on ‘False Dawn’. ‘Glimmering Lights’ is full of post-dusk sparkle. ‘New Soul’ breaks away (slightly) with its moody, Bristolian trip-hop beats only briefly threatening to weigh down LaValle’s cloud-surfing melodies, with a rare vocal from him. It’s a largely instrumental album, as ever, but I sometimes wish he would sing more often. It’s so damn effective.
‘Back to the Start’ uses synth-pop mannerisms, sounding somewhere between vintage instrumental Pet Shop Boys and the more melodic end of something you’d once here on Kompakt Records; Michael Mayer, maybe. Evaporating melancholic drone pervades the synthetic sheen and skittering beats running through the record. On ‘Wandering Still’, the melody builds in a symphonious and immersive way and ‘Never Far’ sees LaValle’s bittersweet vocal fit happily amongst dreamlike synth melodies. Unfolding and tumbling drums set the tone for ‘Lost in the Fog’, then cool electro glitch is countered with unhurriedly warm guitar.
Do people say ‘Folktronica’ anymore? Did they? Should they? Whatever, it’s very nice. No, I might even go so far as to say this record is gorgeous. He saves the best track for last.
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- Between Waves by The Album Leaf
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