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Motion Sickness of Time Travel

Luminaries & Synastry

[Digitalis; 2011]

By ; August 3, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Rachel Evans has been pulling an Emeralds all year. During the latter half of the previous decade, the members of the Ohio-based trio released a ton of excellent material through a variety of media (albums, cassettes, CDs, mp3s) and asserted themselves as major players in the world of ambient electronic music with both quantity and quality. This year, Evans has seen similar success. The vinyl rerelease of her excellent 2010 cassette Seeping Through the Veil of the Unconscious brought her all sorts of accolades; she also recently released a terrific split cassette with the UK’s Jimmy Billingham (also known as Tidal) on the Tranquility Tapes label. Meanwhile, her work with husband Grant Evans (under the name Quiet Evenings) has garnered plenty of new fans thanks to releases like Intrepid Trips and the Transcending Spheres LP.

In other words, 2011 has been very good to Rachel Evans. And things just got a whole lot better with the release of her latest LP, Luminaries & Synastry. Delicate, music-box-like keyboards, floating vocals that would make Liz Harris proud, and the occasional rhythmic texture combine to produce an hour’s worth of engaging abstract music that echoes with otherworldly strangeness like the Grand Canyon on Mars. And it’s that otherworldliness that distinguishes these sweet, subtle melodies from the many, many ambient electronic artists making music today. Check out the rapid clicking and bubbling gurgles on “Late Day Sun Silhouettes,” the Doppler beeps and flanging fluctuations of “Ascendant,” and the intermingling industrial crunch and sunset haziness of “Day Glow.” Bask in the layered chaos of “Like Dunes,” which recalls Emeralds’ 2009 What Happened, or the high-pitched buzzing that sounds like a tea kettle filled with battery acid on “Moving Backward Through The Constellations,” or the windswept droning of “Athame.” On these tracks and others, Evans imbues her typically ethereal sound with just enough effects to keep things fresh while dutifully steering clear of gimmickry or the clichéd sandpit that is “space music.” On Luminaries & Synastry, the medium becomes the message; the way Evans seems to effortlessly wring so many sounds from her synthesizers makes this album perfect for repeat listening.

It’s not often that you hear such a pretty album play with texture like this, but Rachel Evans is uncommonly talented. It’s difficult to parse her lyrics, but snatches of clarity ring out—something about “the other side,” for instance, on “Athame,” further suggesting the theme of otherworldliness. Jonn Serrie she isn’t; Rachel Evans isn’t gazing up at the stars but rather making her own. She’s a restless explorer with a sharp ear for the different means by which sounds and tones can interweave and co-mingle. For many ambient artists, Luminaries & Synastry would be a shining achievement. And it is, don’t get me wrong. But for Rachel Evans, such a release is probably just another Thursday afternoon, and that’s pretty damn impressive.


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