An Ambient Collaboration (MP3s)

Unlike a lot of collaborations by ambient musicians, the recent dual effort by Devin Underwood and Marcus Fischer sounds, in fact, like more than one person is doing the work. In general, ambient music is about the sublime: maximum effort for minimum impact, a surface of almost ignorable refinement masking all manner of activity buried deep below. Individual ambient musicians strive to make something that is both worthy of attention and capable of being relegated to the backdrop. Two musicians working together in an ambient mode need to find a balance without so forsaking their individual voices that the fact of the collaboration becomes almost a distraction from the singularity of the finished work.

Which brings us to Correspond, the Underwood-Fischer collaboration, five tracks that mix a songless haziness with sharp fragments and a deep sense of longing. The choices the duo make are unusual, like the muffled discontent evident in the half-heard speaking voice that enters in toward the end of the opening track, “Wind,” and the zithery and flute-like instruments that peek out of the tremulous cloud formation that is “Contrails and Mountains.” Foghorn resounding and watery samples conflict artfully with the title of “Snow on the Streets.” In “Crystal Radio,” what seems like true classical ambient music — this textured sonic muslin un-spooled by the yard — gets occasional breaks, tiny nanoscale fissures into the otherwise contemplative bliss.

Highly recommended, all the way through. It’s streaming at distancerecordings.com, and available as a Zip archive of MP3 files or the larger, “lossless” FLAC files. More on Fischer at unrecnow.com and Underwood at spectaciera.com.

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