Donor Lens - Desire Path
May 6, 2022
Sounds associated with calmness and tranquility have often found a home in genres such as ambient or drone. The reverbed tribulations of an oscillating synth, or the wonderful grandiose quality of a slow attack are enough to inspire a feeling of ethereality. Having said this, it is always a unique moment when an artist inspires a soothing, undulating calmness using clearer and more animated sounds, and this is what Mai manages on Gaia.
Gaia frequents warm melodic progressions, the movements of which are clear and unobscured by foggy reverb. Organic and electronic sounds trade supremacy between each other falling in and out of hypnotic tunes that represent the tumultuous swaying or flow of a natural setting. It feels as though Mai purposely pushes forward with more electronic instrumentation after the initial track Sunrise to try and accurately convey the mystical wonder of the range of settings. Ocean flows with this elegant weighty arpeggiation, aqueous notes slowly joined by an unrelenting and confident thrum. The initial notes resonate with a sound somewhere precisely placed between organic and synthetic.
Though the melodies Mai leans upon have a repetitive quality, there is so much ground covered over their runtime. The more the initial melody repeats, the more the world around us seems to open up. Karst begins with a harsh and almost subterranean sharpness, but as we burrow up through the underland Mai begins to send god rays of light and the hum of flora toward us. The starting melody is like a set of stairs, repeating but forever moving us up to new heights until we breach the wide world.
Much of the album harbours a filmic quality in its delivery. Forest Canopy, with its vertiginous swells and ever explorative melody, feels as though we approach from a low flying helicopter circling some great leafy valley. The dramatic impacts of low notes and the lift of the higher frequency synths conjure this vision of a sprawling forest landscape. The intensity comes to a graceful stop as we reach the end, and Mai lets us down into a small clearing.
The blending of electronic and organic sound gives this ultra-realistic sheen to everything. The realness of piano sounds gifting the feeling of physicality, which is then refined by electronic sounds gently interjecting with impressive but subtle hues. Though the lion’s share of the album deals with physical phenomena, both the entry and exit points are a little harder to grasp. We begin with Sunrise, and end with Vapour. Mai seems to take a great pleasure in illustrating these more intangible aspects, illustrating that they move and flow in beautiful and elegant ways just like the natural phenomena that are within a human’s grasp.
Not only does Gaia convey the purity of a natural surrounding using an electro-organic sound, it captures the aura of a forest clearing or seabed with whirling progressions and surging instrumentation. Mai takes great care in composing in an expressionist style, where the emotions and sentiment of the setting shine proudly through its appearance.