Agata Melnikova’s second album as Sign Libra is an unusual proposition. While 80’s-sounding synthwave is still all the rage- a trend that is lasting longer than the decade it idolises- Sea To Sea feels like a throwback to a slightly later era. This is the instrumental synth music of the early 90’s, when synths sounded more like samplers, mixing desks were getting wider, and everything was sounding warmer and more velvety. More specifically, these are the sounds that were espoused by artists like Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream and even Enya at the time. Despite being brand new, it sounds sonically dated, or at least retrospectively minded. But that’s not a judgemental statement- what matters is whether it works, and the strength and energy that’s been put into these compositions really make it shine.
The artist uses perky, wordless singing and vocalisations (I presume her own) as the most expressive instrument, and these, like everything else, are mostly staccato, sometimes bordering on bouncy.
A breadth of other sounds is also called on quite sparingly. Despite the album being dedicated to the barren seas of the moon, “Sea Of Fecundity” is even given actual ocean wave sounds, further adding to the new-age vibe. The throat singing noises and spritely sound of “Sea Of Islands” sounds almost tongue in cheek, but its skipping attitude is nicely infectious and really wins you over with a groove that does seem to reflect more modern electronica.
“Sea Of Vapours” is a pleasant surprise as well, as it is built around a light house beat that takes it into the early days of trance music, while “Sea Of Knowledge” also adopts that steadier beat but brings with it an almost Celtic-sounding array of melodies that’s nothing short of charming.
As a notable aside, RVNG have noted that “a portion of proceeds from this release will benefit Music Fund, an organization that gives young people living in conflict zones and/or poor regions the chance to practice music in suitable conditions.”
Because I’m a Libran star sign myself, I like to think I have the balanced and sensible nature to appreciate that astrology is a load of nonsense. And while shades of this release sound a little bit ‘new age’ in the hackneyed sense, it’s imbued with a brightness and positivity that ends up being very endearing, making this a lovely work to chill out to- and something I’d recommend, as a little bit different, to fans of the lighter side of synthwave.