A gospel blues tinged relaxation session.
n-So is the latest composer-producer to join the excellent Moderna Records lineup who specialise in the minimal, experimental and delicate side of music – often in the ambient and piano space. ‘Out of the Valley’ is no exception as you follow an imaginary protagonist trapped in a valley full of impossibly high mountains to climb.
There are two things that make n-so stand out from the crowd and the biggest reason for that is the southern gospel tinges he gives to his piano compositions. Whilst the album is largely gentle, if a little foreboding in tone at times, the first half of it feels full of Southern America. There is more than a hint of a blues sway to melodies and it really gives the album character. Particularly with ‘AFM’ and ‘Into the Valley’ early on, I felt like it was painting the environment for me. Similarly later on ‘Mountain Song’ has a melody that could feel Native Indian if the piano was switched out for something else. ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow’ is a constant flutter of piano ripples that feels like a mixture of both Southern and Native cultures too. It also feels like freshwater trickling down a pristine stream.
Not everything is piano focused and n-So has a few tracks that are more textural. ‘Drums and Drama’ is mainly percussion and atmospheric ticking clocks. ‘Nagra Phase’ brings in warm synths and soft brass in a way that reminds me of Manu Delago. The closing track ‘Momiji’ also harks to an Eastern influence too. Whilst that does pop out on occasion, the integration of synths and pianos into a bubbly cloud of dreamlike happiness and rest at the end is where the Eastern influence shines brightest. Also worth noting is the fact the album runs continuously over track to track so this is definitely an album you should listen to as a whole if you can – it tells a stronger story.
n-So has created a lovely relaxing story with ‘Out of the Valley’ that whilst it has its darker and murkier middle section, starts and finishes with some beautiful melodies to feel refreshed and renewed. You can certainly add this album into the ever increasing collection of great piano and synth narrative ambient albums.
Recommended track: Into the Valley
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