Review: Souns – “Aquamarine”

Michael Red continues to distance himself from the dance-conscious work associated with his name through Souns, an experimental/ambient project whose Aquamarine LP was released by Subtempo Records late last week.
Aquamarine, in its finer moments, calls to mind the work of Loscil’s Scott Morgan, but that contrast does more to hurt than to help it. While Morgan constructs grandiose palettes and somber sound-beds where individual elements, textured beyond recognition, elicit sentiments of storytelling, Red’s work here is mostly about technique. Yes, the synth warbles and the static bellows, but it doesn’t feel likeĀ Aquamarine is telling us anything. Its language is synthetics.
Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not occasionally wonderful to absorb. Purely aesthetically, there are interesting elements on display here; they just don’t narrate as much as float. On “Open Face Sun,” which falls in the record’s second half, the whispered sing-song of piano keys — or is it marimba? — tickles a field recording pockmarked with crickets, a seductive if vaguely ominous tableau. “The Sound” is the belly of an alien spacecraft hurtling through deep space, all buzzes, chirps and quirks. On “Sun Inside The Sun,” off-kilter pulses of throbbing sound make for uneven terrain.
Red shows an attention to sonic detail that makes him worthy of Kranky comparisons but, ultimately, the LP, for all of its merits, doesn’t stick together past its running time. In that respect, this music is haunted but not haunting — and that’s a tragically lost opportunity.

About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.