- There's always been a kind of sonic heat-stroke shimmering within Luke Abbott's best work. Woozy, burbling and unsteady beneath your feet, his music lulls you in but never lets you feel at ease. It's now been four years since the shifting, textural pastoralism of his debut album, Holkham Drones. Like that record, Abbott's second LP, Wysing Forest, explores the fuzzy harmonic soundscapes we've come to expect from Abbott.
Abbott has said that Wysing Forest is indebted to the spiritual jazz of artists like Alice Coltrane and Don Cherry, and there is indeed an expansive and improvisational feel to the album that points to those forebears (alongside his longtime influences Cluster and Boards Of Canada). Border Community boss James Holden looms large as well, especially on the album's brain-fried analogue workouts, which recall last year's monumental The Inheritors.
Constructed from live modular jams recorded during Abbott's residency at the Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire, Wysing Forest has a coherence that belies its improvisational roots. It's a testament to Abbott's knack for editing and ear for transitions that it feels like a single extended piece of music—for all of its detours and stop-offs, there's still a sense of direction within. The 12-minute "Amphis" opens with a statement of intent: gurgling, star-bent tones and subtle drones circle in chaos around a synthesizer melody that doesn't become anything recognizably musical until several minutes in. It's the kind of amorphous, shape-shifting electronic music Abbott's been making for years, but it feels newly alien and detached from reality here. Atop a gorgeous, disintegrating synth melody, "Highrise" stirs itself into a pulpy beat that slaps and elbows more than it grooves, while "Unfurling" twitches and groans into a garbled bit of noise-techno. "Free Migration" combines one of Abbott's most lucid, bewitching melodies with blasts of noise and an almost martial drum charge.
Elsewhere, Wysing Forest indulges in the kind of widescreen synth-scaping that's often been a welcome contrast to Abbott's twitchier material. The aptly-titled "Tree Spirit" warbles peacefully, while "The Balance Of Power" smoothes out all of its edges into a placid, ringing bit of ambience. After the grinding buzz-saw of the "Snippet" interlude, Abbott reprises "Amphis" for the album's closer. Sounding almost like an extended remix of Boards Of Canada's "Bocuma," the track exudes a beatific, church-calm atmosphere. It's a quiet, almost reverent close to an album that further refines the disorienting beauty we've come to expect from Luke Abbott.
01. Two Degrees
04. Free Migration
06. Tree Spirit
07. The Balance Of Power
09. Amphis (Reprise)