Liminal Space

City of Dawn


Lurien Zittertkopf

April 5, 2023

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

Presenting an expansive and dramatic feeling, holding firm to gentle composition, this release gives a glimpse into unseen and unreal spaces

Liminal Space truly embodies its name. Though many modern electronic genres mould different kinds of nostalgia for their individual effects, Damien Duque’s latest ambient album as City of Dawn pursues an overwhelming scale of emotion and any potential state of unrest and half-familiarity that Liminal Space can linger with for a while. The release moves with a much more gentle and spacious air than anything Duque’s done yet, present enough for the atmosphere to take hold, but never trying to instil any one emotion into the listener through them. Airy synth pads and a wealth of effects are enough to evoke different images in the listener’s mind, though refusing to confirm any one of them as the right answer. It’s through this deliberate obfuscation while inviting fully-conscious listening that Duque is able to make Liminal Space as deeply engaging a release as it is an emotionally nourishing one, asking the listener to create space for the music in their mind rather than navigating paths already drawn out for them – it can make the album a more involved ambient album compared to most, but the impact of Duque’s misty style across these ten tracks is undeniable. 

A wider embrace of negative space allows parts of Liminal Space to soften themselves to a near silence that Duque – willing to let his music settle into near stillness – tends to avoid in other releases. There are no big moments of impact in these songs. Even when second half highlight Dream Pictures 梦想图片 sees one final push of synth pads in its final minute, the thick low end and heavenly chord layers from the preceding four minutes drop out, letting the last few wisps of sound to hold themselves up with little support. Or when album centerpiece Kenopsia 克诺普西亚 hints at dark ambient with its swells of heavy synths before trading it all for chilling noise. But this tendency towards restraint is a major part of what makes Liminal Space such a rewarding listen and Duque is able to do incredible work with a remarkably slim instrumental palette.

Living Shapes That Are Forgotten 被遗忘的活生生的形状 is carefully crafted to have just enough presence to hold the listener’s attention, but the quietly-mixed instrumentation and gradual ebb and flow of it all lends the track a vastness that somehow manages to be both claustrophobic and intense, fantastically emphasising all the song’s rich electronic textures. This is just one of the first moments in which Liminal Space offers thoughtful emptiness that later tracks like Starplex 星光 and We Should Love What We Cannot Understand 我们应该爱我们无法理解的东西 will also seek to, even if the full shape of Duque’s world is never truly known. The haze of it all is fully intentional, and – while it forgoes the direct nostalgia that a genre like vaporwave uses to its advantage – Duque’s invitation to build a world for themselves without giving them an exact foundation to do so makes Liminal Space an endlessly relistenable album bounding with creativity that the listener plays a part in. Throughout, Duque provides an opportunity to engage with the music on a deeper emotional level.

Situating itself around elements of ambient and spacious electronica before latching onto some of vaporwave’s components to bolster its presence, Liminal Space considers all the different worlds that more abstract music can occupy and miraculously makes all of them fit within ten free-flowing pieces. There is uncertainty and coldness in Liminal Space but this often frequently blooms into heartfelt and generous electronica, expanses made beautiful and welcoming, enabling listeners to find places to rest and reflect.