Surrealistic times in this place



Liam Murphy

December 30, 2022

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

Full-bodied low ends and heartfelt musicality are delivered in a release that bewilders with its beauty

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The swirling ambient sound that has come to be known as slushwave has fully cemented itself in the past few years. The seeds planted by legendary artist t e l e p a t h 宦恢巷奐 have seemed to bloomed fully with artists like desert sand feels warm at night and MindSpring Memories finding their sound and acting as pioneers for the genre. While not every release can be truly unique, a select few can be called slushwave masterpieces. coldvenice’s 6-track EP certainly deserves that label.

The listener has to steady themselves as they move into Surrealistic times in this place, the lapping waves of the opening track moving in an unpredictable manner from inaudibly tinny to rich and deep within a moment. Each loop of the sample ending with a start of a vocal that is cut off before it has time to fully unravel, a sharp cyclical energy within the first few minutes. Yet, into this uneven atmosphere, coldvenice lets the vocals set sail deftly and they bob happily on the fluid movements of the underlying instrumentation. The sound might seem unkempt and hazy, but the precision with which the artist works is commendable. The vocals move seamlessly from proudly crooning in the position of a lead singer to a subtle aspect of the track moving more akin to percussion and background melody than a leading voice. Unlike other projects that typify that torrent of delayed and echoing sound, coldvenice revels in a fun and unpredictable style, spiking the ends of the instrumental up with a sharp resonance that falls in line with the marching rhythm. As the listener makes their way to the second half of the track, vocals wobble a little discordantly, seemingly fatigued from the constant waves of sound. But coldvenice ensures that the phasing and fullness of the instrumental follow along with the vocals perfectly. 

More interesting influences make themselves known on Calm times, pure souls. The instrumental lifting off into a low glide as pitch moves slowly upwards, embraced by whirling saxophones and synths. Just as the sound hits a critical point, with lead melodies worming their way to centre stage, everything blossoms perfectly with what sounds like a hip hop cascading chime sound. Cool lounge piano curls up just past a film of heavy percussion. This introduction imbues the track with a dormant, jazzy power that is recharged over time by the same deep booming drop. As the behemoth track lumbers on, using scattershot drums and subtle looping, it moves toward a proggy sound as coldvenice feeds everything through a tightly wound filter and deep vocal warblings begin to sound out the other side. Effects are not employed in a showy or novelty way, but are utilised to help create an atmosphere and progress the journey of the track. 

Added as a bonus track – possibly to allow for the physical release produced by French label Underwater Computing – The connection of our hands starts more spritely than the rest of the EP with light phased percussion scanning from one side to the other, joined by wistful mallet notes opening things out into a laidback yearning sound. Clean guitar riffs wade through the enticing pull of the filters, appearing occasionally like the blurred memory of a holiday or romantic encounter. The theme of love is definitely a focal point to the EP, from the gushing track titles to the sultry nature of its sampled material, dipping into sounds that are soulful and move with the tranquility of new age or Balearic music. 

Though Blessings and more blessings from the universe sounds as if it is going to be a gushing ode to meditation and oneness, the track actually starts as more of a pained wistful journey. Sharp guitar notes play out somberly, flanked by deeply moving bass. Percussion cascades down over yearning instrumentation that breaks out into little jazzy riffs every now and again. Though its start is sombre, the artist masterfully guides the listener along the pathway of the track toward a cathartic section around the midway point. Piano reaches out passionately, past the mirage of phasers to deliver that pure expression of emotion that the track’s title suggests. This blooming of emotion that reaches its pinnacle halfway through the runtime allows the instrumentation to sink back with this real sense of angsty poignancy. By the time the catharsis comes again – carrying a swooping 80s guitar solo with it – the track has truly morphed into a heartfelt expression of universal proportions. 

As it reaches out of a film of gristly feedback, Another life form in another existence leans heavily into an R&B soulfulness. Romantic guitar disturbs the phased dissonance, before the listener dives deep into an aquatic sound from which heartfelt vocals reach towards them, caught on the upsurge of constantly whirling frequencies. The floor of the mix rumbles constantly, a spectacle that can be heard at varying intensities throughout the EP. The heady power of it makes for a unique presence, rather than letting the listener wallow in phasing reverberating echoes, coldvenice creates a dynamic ride with contrasting feelings of pressure and elation.

A cool and perfectly-lit lounge area opens out before the listener on Living on the best nature. No pressurising phaser, no real sense of progression or forward motion. It is as if coldvenice meets us at the end of our journey in a cool bar or pristine waiting room filled with dulcet jazz piano, birdsong and chimes. A thrumming low end still provides a support though, that same trustworthy guiding hand that has helped us throughout. Gradually, the listener comes back to the real world after a full body experience. As we reach the midway point, the piano blossoms into jazzy chords that drift out with a revitalising serenity, after which the instrumentation lingers a while before diving down into the very core of the frequency range.

Not only does it present a mastery over an unwieldy style that often evades producers with its magnitude, Surrealistic times in this place exudes deep feelings of emotion and affection. The touching melodies of the instrumentation and the caring nature of coldvenice’s production style embrace each other from start to finish. The release is an affecting spiritual experience that fully envelopes the listener in a loving warmth. It has a stature and a vibrancy that marks it out as one of the best releases of the year.