Donor Lens - Desire Path
May 6, 2022
Mai 麦’s Arcadia 1 begins with three plucked guitar chords representing a beam of light. The light stumbles up to a deep, green canopy as it pushes its way out into the air. Pads swirl on the periphery, the guitar chords used have a beautiful sequencing to them. Panic and worry followed by a growing triumph. Suddenly it’s almost as if the deep ends of the frequency are frazzled by hot sunlight, as an unrelenting string sound burns in the heat.
Pure Light carries this sense of cautious optimism in a phasing bassline, setting a certain tone to the track. The guitar enters, Mai 麦’s mixing and engineering resulting in a pristine, clean sound as if the acoustics of the instrument are at one with the forest. With this solid sound as the backbone, Mai 麦 let’s the other sounds slowly grow, enter and exit. A drum line pushes past the echoing surroundings, supporting the drum line with light rhythmic hi-hats. As the guitar is extracted momentarily, the listener understands the sense of depth that sound brings.
The gentle trickling of water. A muffled blues-y guitar rolls briefly at the front end of the track paving a way for Mai 麦’s fingerwork to provide sustenance. The undulations of the guitar begin to seem more and more like the gradual rhythm of a wheel moved by slow running water. The frequency range opens and closes almost creating a sense of mirage about the gloriousness of the guitar or of the effervescent sounds surrounding. The slow tempo of the tracks enable a calming atmosphere to really push itself to the fore.
The Island brings a swirling delayed guitar into sight. Each echo trips over the last until it presents itself clearly at the front. Mai 麦’s guitar work speaks more to a desperate emotion here, each end note of the chord reaching higher and higher. We settle back into a peaceful sleepy chord progression. A light synth sound joins the acoustic in the second reprisal of the emotive section, creating a sense of build. The more calm section finds us alone in the midst of a luscious green wonderland. Beautiful, but isolated and alone.
Sensorium finds more lower on the fretboard. With a sequence that almost sounds like a heavy nirvana song plucked on a beautifully organic guitar, we are taken slowly into the darkness of the breathing forest. Timid pools of water settle and hum in the background. The higher frequency remnants of guitar sounds reach up to the thick canopy. A foreign object enters. A heavy and distorted synth brings the first feelings of abject artificiality to the album. It’s thick sound finds its way through the entirety of the forest within seconds, it’s rhythmic characteristics juddering slowly through the trunks of the great tall trees. The guitar falls away, leaving a snapping synth note shooting off into the distance.
La Cima combines less artificial synth with lone piano notes to create a framework. The guitar fits into that framework but is then overthrown by another humming synth. Mai 麦’s hard work creating the beautiful organic atmospheres is tested with these sudden instances of synthesised sound. But surprisingly, the pairing of the two sounds works. Almost as if the once quiet forest is having new life breathed into it from somewhere far away. Even the guitar seems to be infected by a robotic phasing effect when it comes in. It keeps its same sound, the alternating waves of calm and concern, the movement from tranquility to a deep worried longing is irresistible. The guitar fades, and the building crescendo of before erupts before us. The sun finally beats back the night. The surrounding fauna begins to wake and crane its neck towards the light.
A lone bird caws into the endless collection of trees and greenery. Mai 麦’s guitar emerges one last time. It is half instrument, half amorphous river of light. It ambles slowly but surely through the trees. The echoes of it fill the forest floor and permeate the sky above. Either early dawn, or a rumbling back into the solitude of night. Something has undeniably shifted and transformed the instrument that Mai 麦 instated as the prominent character in most if not all the tracks. It seems the synthetic quality of some of the moments caused it to retreat even more into an organic stasis. Without boundaries or an evident end or beginning it’s sound reverberates endlessly. The player could be somewhere deeper into the forest, but it seems to emanate from all sides. The sound fades out. And the forest scene darkens and disappears.
Lush organic soundscapes are created in each of the seven tracks on Mai 麦’s Arcadia 1. The beauty of the guitar sequences is astounding and the surrounding instruments and percussion only serves to amplify that beauty. The interjection of harsh electronic synth in the last half was unexpected but worked well as the narrative of the songs came to its close. In Arcadia 1 is a purity and longing that is hard to come by.
Listen in full/purchase here: https://sound-of-mai.bandcamp.com/album/arcadia-1