- The Freerotation resident delivers his most ambient record yet.
- Leif Knowles has spent much of the past decade perfecting a particular sound, one that drifts easily between ambience and groove, with a mood that suggests a kind of zen-like embrace of nature and the sublime. It's a sound that reflects the vibe at Freerotation, the Welsh festival where he's a resident, and that, for my money, reached something near perfection on TIO-Series, a 10-inch label that gave us two of his best records so far. In the past year or so, Knowles dabbled in more purely ambient music, playing a beatless set at Freerotation and turning in an excellent mix on the same tip for Blowing Up The Workshop. Loom Dream, his new mini-album on Whities, is his most ambient record yet, and feels like it's missing something as a result, even if it meets his lofty standard in other ways.
As anyone familiar with Leif's music would expect, Loom Dream is dazzling in sound and singular in style. Its rhythms are gentle and syncopated, floating in and out between long beatless sections. Electronic and acoustic sounds elegantly gel with bucolic field recordings. The mind's eye conjures a world of flora and fauna teeming with life, while a certain spiritual gravitas, helped along by things like the celestial choir on "Borage," makes it feel like an ode, or even a prayer, to nature.
Loom Dream's six tracks flow one into the next, forming what feels like a single composition—or apparently "two ~17-minute pieces," though I'd not have known that if not for the album notes. It vaguely recalls Donato Dozzy and Neel's Voices From The Lake, but where that album marched solemnly to a staid techno beat, Loom Dream ebbs and flows to Knowles' more novel rhythms.
Lovely as much of the album is, it lacks some of the tension and mystery that's usually at the core of Leif's music. The half-clubby, half-ambient vibe brings many of his records to life, making them unpredictable and richly ambiguous. While admirable as an artistic leap, Loom Dream's complete departure from club music makes it feel flat by comparison.
The nature theme, meanwhile, is a bit heavy-handed. Connection to the natural world is powerful as a subtle motif—as it has been, I think, on a few of Knowles' past records—but less so when it's spelled out as clearly as it is here, with every track named after a flower and a note stating the album's theme outright ("Loom Dream invites us to peacefully reconnect with the living world by placing us amongst lush sonic verdure"). Taraxacum it is not. But it is the deepest excursion yet into the unique sound world Knowles has been building for years, and a worthwhile trip for anyone who likes spending time there.