Music Reviews

Artist: Agencies (@)
Title: The Number Stations
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Deep music for deep listening to immerse in varied moods and textures where melodic fragments luxuriously float in plush atmospherics, some serene and some disquieting. Indeed, the album title, like some track names suggest Cold War era tension and this listener cannot help but feel that Agencies may be tapping into memories of when humanity was closer to the horrific brink. The Number Stations opens with the psychedelic, “When Tomorrow Becomes Today”, where disquieting ambient fits right at home under the ‘illbient’ genre. Saturated in reverberating, choppily phasing psychedelic fragments that echo in the perpetual distance—like fever dreams—as tones ripple, dissolve, then re-materialize, fragment and re-assemble into a continuous, dizzying loop. This track serves the function of ‘time machine’ and takes the listener back to a narrative that is about to unfold. Subsequent track, the aptly named, “Quarantine the Past” has remnants of the psychedelic ripple, only this time on a more serene backdrop as the waves then become modulating, near-retro sublime synth tones. A din of radio chatter from mission control levitates as radio signals float in the aether and dissolve into ongoing ripples of time. “Shelters” offers a tentative, fledgling start amidst a sedated plume of angst while playful Casiotone notes and distant guitar flows through much the way a child weaves through throngs that queue to the bomb shelter. The magic in the track is in how discord is successfully merged with a sense of playful wonderment. “Time Lag Accumulation” opens with metallic resonance as if from turning bike spokes before pensive keyboards materialize and bring calm reassurance, even when a disembodied vocal chorus joins. Wood instruments interplay for an intermission of tranquility. “Wasp Network” sets the tone for tension with nice, dramatic synth sweeps and understated beats, radio signal transmissions and voices that indecipherably intone with a sense of urgency that dissolves midway through into another dreamy excursion. “Standing Wave Levitation” and “Carriers” are both comparatively serene yet brief ambient tracks; the former accentuated with understated melody and guitar feedback, the latter has faint toybox tunes within the larger drone tone. “Errornets” is melancholic infused with static crackles and enigmatic shuffling, but “Static Dead Lines” is more expansive; a fuller, lush backdrop with understated beats and muted melodies. Among the more mellifluous tracks is “End of Transmission” which starts with a barrage of radio frequency feedback before sequaying into an orchestral cinematic ambient piece complimented with acoustic guitar and piano, culminating into a wash of bliss. Finally, the title track, “The Number Stations” caps the release on a somewhat dramatic note, melds drone and ambient seamlessly—though it starts off with discord it is then overwhelmed with guitar ambience and piano fragments that fall like a drizzle amidst distant static crackles. It is not known whether the narrative is stuck in time, but what remains is a lingering sense of bittersweet and wistful melancholy. If you are into deep, lush and layered yet masterfully crafted ambient-drone with melodic overtones, this album is for you.

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