Otomatik Muziek / Germany / 2020 / CS
New Age music seems to have a resurrectional momentum right now. On the one hand, there’s the plague age and its shady esotericism - crystals, bowls, faith over facts; the healing force of of music, soothing inner demons as well as external bacteria. Like a matching piece of puzzle, on the other hand we have this neoliberal tradition-turned-malpractice of selfcare, mindfulness and neurolinguistic programming. And, third, a direct line to draw from the new age to the ongoing talk about social media dieting and hyping a wooky woodwork romanticism. A hand-made escapism full of reverb-laden wind chimes in the dystopia of our actual reality. Dystopia...there always was a branch of ambient music that didn’t grew into that realm of mystic realism, the one which relied more on the substances and narrative means of science fiction to exaggerate and focus in on real time life.
Swiss duo LEVELS work more in that last vein. Their chilly sound aesthetic is stylized enough to work as the soundtrack for a lower-level alternative reality. Fitting musics to drive down an emptied, endless Autobahn. Futurist small towns: clean, friendly, undistinguished hospitality. A creepy discretion. An interieur with much too much zen. And then, there’s this delicate disruption, as in „Central Activation“. It sucks you in. Tracks like „Auto-Generated“ are numbing extractions of an all-encompassing entity. Heavily processed scraps of voice add up to this feeling of a totally surreal surround.
In come the drums: facets of small patterns which approach and depart from another, forming vivid, wobbling sculptures - listen to „Searching For Alesta“ or „Detectors“ to get a first grasp of that. Or to the Hassell-esque dub of "Scattered Message". Level’s evocative sound design lives off a rich use of the lower and medium sonic spectrum while making use of a relatively small pallette of sounds. In contrast to their first, self-titled release on Umor Rex, they cut the rougher edges in favor of a smoother production, which is a total win in terms of developing their own, autonomous sound world. Cineastic at times, the music always stays sober and focused, but unfolds a stunning complexity on closer listen. A complexity able to tell you a story with just enough gaps for your own, uncanny reality to fall in.
The album was mastered by Isabel Schröer of OLO MASTERING, emphasizing the dub elements with a heavyweight bass and sharpening the treble for total sound awesomeness, which works perfectly on different volumes - we're totally stoked by that.