I figured I should start this journey examining vapour with the album that really sold me on exploring it even more than I already done starting near the twilight of 2017. Before that, I got a “quick and dirty history lesson” and listened to a few key releases mentioned in that lesson. And now, I was willing to put down some hard earned money on the vinyl edition (as well as their previous effort). (Thankfully, I was also in the process of owning my first proper turntable.).
Overall, the album builds on the previous album’s atmosphere of a futuristic city space, which, of course, evokes Blade Runner. (By the way, I wholeheartedly agree with these guys in that, while it ended up being a well-done effort on the part of both Zimmer and Wallfisch, 2814 should have been asked to score Blade Runner 2049.). There is still that feeling of grime, wet sidewalks with scattered debris, glaring neon lights, and overcrowding of man and machine. Yet, it is not completely grim and dour. In fact, its long course is almost a kind of spiritual reawakening where it is possible to experience a deeper connection to things in a world seemingly devoid of any. With each subsequent listen, I began to see the narrative play out in my own mind – an effect that has been long sought after explicitly by one-half of this project – of someone who lives in this environment yet experiences a vision that draws him to experience something deeper than he could have ever felt. It’s a film that probably never meant to be made as your mind’s eye with the music already provides the means and the end. (Though who knows, I may have a crack at it … in my own time.)
Personally, I am a sucker for the ambient and this fulfils that checklist with flying colours: heavy on atmosphere, subtle development and dynamism, slow burns leading to lingering climaxes. And there are those who would say that this album is no different than what could have been heard previously. For me, I hear the Future Sound of London, and particularly Lifeforms and Dead Cities, as a predecessor. But I honestly don’t expect every single album to be some groundbreaking work. (Plus, with very few exceptions, every work of art has a precedent if you are knowledgeable about such things.) Being a solid and compelling work is often more than enough for me. Chances are that if you have an affinity for the ambient, this will be right up your alley.
But having said that, this album does demonstrate that if it was made by artists who started from within the vapour scene, which started as a kind of amusing personal experiment gone viral, then that scene has grown by a significant bound. This is not just a stylistic reform, which has been steadily going on since about 2014 or so, but an ongoing effort to have this music do more than just provide some “lolz” or even merely evoke memories, whether they be general or specific. In other words, the ultimate aim is not nostalgia, but nirvana. And while our paths may be different, we somehow end up in a place like the Rain Temple.
Also, I highly recommend listening to this via vinyl or cassette. There is an extended coda/outro at the end of “Guided by Love” not present in either the digital or the CD version. I have also noticed personally that, by the nature of being a double LP, the ambience has more room to breathe and can be appreciated more as there are natural breaks between each side.
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