No Perfect Wave is a stunning tonal mix of bowed guitars and tape manipulation that creates waves of shifting drones that are melancholic yet beautifully uplifting, no tension, just resolve. Arthur Russell, Colin Stetson, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor but if they spent the week with Sigur Ros, you know, to cheer them up a bit.
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Goodness. Okay. I wasn’t expecting this. It’s gorgeous, first and foremost, but ‘No Perfect Wave’ has also been described by our descriptions man Tom as a record of “shifting drones that are melancholic yet beautifully uplifting -- no tension, just resolve”. Listening to that first track, he’s not wrong: this record is a sort of proof that good drama and serious introspection can come without being pushed by conflict -- like the dark ambient equivalent of My Neighbour Totoro, it’s as if this record’s tensions have been built into the record’s DNA, absorbed into strengths, and out has come a record that converts droning dread into triumphant melody.
Every groaning inflection of bowed guitar or stretched-to-fuck brass feels more beautiful than it does foreboding, and despite its make up as a dark ambient record with the acoustic bleeds of Mohammad or Ryo Murakami, this record ultimately feels like a strangely bright, open-air affair. Tracks like “Ice” pedal a distorted and demonic drone, but they’re sandwiched between the kind of emo-ambient outpourings of “Memory As Mist” and “Pale Ink”, tracks that survey for a linear motif and produce one as big and impactful as it is subtle in the confines of its song. Little guitar-picked vignettes like “Your Interruption” draw a line in the record between peak-scaling ambience and homely, lo-fi recording happening at the bottom of the mountain.
All the things C. Diab is doing give credence to ambient music as an expressive and deeply hashtag emotional experience. Those first few pieces feel wonderfully ascendent, but “Lying In The Back of the Car On Highway One” mixes that with gorgeous fret-sliding and side-of-the-road recordings (tapping into my favourite sound source of all time: things being driven down a road) that suggest the big, bold feelings usually exist alongside your day-to-day. The brass medley of “Three Pyramids” suddenly swaps all timbre for a gorgeously loud meditation that wouldn’t be out of place on an old *shels record, and suddenly I look down on the record and see C. Diab had recording help from Ian William Craig and I realise that of course this record is big on feelings and with a heavy heart.
Highly, highly recommended, in case you didn’t realise.
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