- There will always be a special place in my heart for Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works, which has this peculiar sheen of beauty I've never quite been able to put my finger on. But there's something about opener "Ghost/Drift" on The Very Last of the Saints that instantly brings to mind that rarefied air of eternity, as it tunnels forever with melodies that shift subtly but massively like drifting glaciers. The synths and strings shine with a blinding brightness that imitates the cold ultraviolet above the clouds, rather than the oppressive heat of the sun.
Ghosting Season, the Mancunian duo of Gavin Miller and Tom Ragsdale, operate somewhere in the realm of ambient techno and post-rock, incorporating the emotional politics of the latter into the linearity of the former for a kind of rhythm that's heart-tugging but determined and mobile all the same. Violins abound on "Muffled Sound of Voices," layered gently to create a mood that's stirring yet never rousing, even as a beat rustles beneath. Word is the album was originally going to be released under their ambient alias worriedaboutsatan, but the duo changed their mind at the last minute. Either way you approach it, Saints is not a pure ambient album nor a techno album, and the dialogue between the two sounds keep things tastefully restrained: even the lunge at the jugular towards the end with "Time Without Question" feels padded by thousands of layers of sheer fabric. You can hear the thumping beats, but you can't really feel them thump.
Their music does seem to borrow a lot of ideas from that early Warp material akin to Aphex's more peaceful moments; it's in the austerity of the tones and the fragmented, silty breakbeats, like on "Far End of the Graveyard." The melodies are emotional but cold and inhuman like Incunabula/Amber-era Autechre, avoiding the overdramatic bent so much "melodic techno" ends up drowning in. Gregory Hoepffner provides a raspy vocal on the sedate "Follow Your Eyes" that teeters just on the edge of mawkish, but more distinctive is the monologue on centerpiece "Lie/Through Your Teeth." Through Ghosting Season's most delicate, fragile soundscape wafts a speech describing an increasingly disturbing dream, told in tones alternately detached, humorous and maniacal.
The unending, sometimes tragic beauty of The Very Last of the Saints is almost its undoing: the album's consistent suspension of lightweight metal in clouds of melody makes for a back half that feels less captivating than the incredible opening run. But far be it for me to complain about something being too beautiful; Saints is just an album that requires a lot of effort to get all the way through, but if you can, it's certainly a rewarding listen.
01. Ghost Drift
02. Far End of the Graveyard
03. A Muffled Sound of Voices feat. Knox
04. Follow Your Eyes feat. Gregory Hoepffner
06. Through Your Teeth
07. Lost at Sea
08. Time without Question
10. 13 feat. Birds of Passage