Reviews

Reviews

Rik M – Relaxed Machinery

Broken Harbour’s earlier release “Gramophone Transmissions” was a revelation to me, a dark and claustrophobic album that added new dimensions to the space music genre. So when I was contacted by Blake Gibson of Broken Harbour to tell me that he had a new release on Relaxed Machinery, I was pretty excited to hear it. Having had the chance since then to listen to it fairly extensively, I’m pleased to report that Gibson’s latest, “The Geometry of Shadows”, may be his best work to date.

Using themes of communication as a framing device, Gibson has crafted a collection of beautifully executed ambient pieces that move between light and dark, warmth and cold, static and clarity, and many many more states of being. It’s an album where alien static transmissions reply to dark Morse Code messages sent during the Victorian era. Where sound travels faster than the speed of darkness, leaving an ominous aural wake behind it until it breaches a tangible barrier of otherness and reverts to it’s primal aural opposite, travelling at the speed of light. Where brightness is measured in terms of an absence of emptiness, where metal and drones blend in beautiful ways, where stars are born and live and die all in a few moments time. Where spaces are bent and rearranged to hint at a physics that is both unlikely and improbable, and where light can shine with a searing intensity.

Needless to say, It’s a magnificent album.

“The Geometry of Shadows” is Broken Harbour at it’s best, a stunning work of dark and great beauty that really needs to be heard for oneself. I recommend it thoroughly, and I commend Blake Gibson for his skill and artistry. Definitely one of the best releases I’ve heard in a long time.

Jeffrey Ericson Allen – Hypnos Forum

Canadian composer Blake Gibson, aka Broken Harbour, has quite obviously been in an intensive musical growth phase over these past couple of years. He explores still new stylistic material in this latest release, an extension of the ideas developed in his Gramophone Transmissions. As in this earlier album, the compositions pulse and oscillate with a mysterious sense of message; I am reminded of the science fiction movie Contact. Gibson seems to be “tuning into” some kind of transmission, and its origin is distant, or perhaps as close as inner space. In his liner notes, he explains how the material emerged from a stem recording (entitled Ansible, like the final track), underwent extensive metamorphosis, and emerged transformed, burning away all traces of the original. I think that is such an interesting and original way to work, and it’s really paid off in this worthy recording. “Ansible,” by the way, is a term coined by Ursula LeGuin, to refer to a device capable of instantaneous communication over vast distances. It’s a key concept for this album, and most probably a core motif for the work of Broken Harbour.

The component pieces of The Geometry of Shadows are vast soundscapes, carefully crafted to present themselves as whole entites from the beginning– and as evolving journeys that carry the listener from one state to another. They each have a way of coming gradually into focus, revolving and revealing themselves, and then retracting from view. I use visual metaphors because the music lends itself so easily to abstract visualization. They are very much, as the composer says, reflections on the “interplay of light and darkness.” I always check how I feel after an intensive headphone listening session of ambient music–in the this recording, I feel refreshed and quiet, like the music has cleansed me and returned me to the world more myself; I really can’t ask for much more out of music.

There is plenty of variation in the textures of each of the five generous soundscapes, but there are also some recurrent motifs that bring unity to the work as a whole, including a metallic, shimmery wave that returns periodically–almost like a cosmic Morse code–and sounds that very slowly approach, promising epiphany. Some pieces are more subdued and coaxing to the ear (such as Superluminal and Ansible), while the whole frequency range is opened up in other places, ravishing the ear with a wall of sound, such as in Between the Darkness and the Light. Overall, they make an effective set, and offer the listener a wonderful immersive experience.

Bert Strolenberg – Sonic Immersion

Originally, the music for the concept-album “The Geometry of Shadows” was composed under the title “Ansible” (which is now the last track on this album) in 2009, but was shelved when Blake Gibson (aka Broken Harbour) decided to take a break from music. Last year though he released his second album “Gramophone Transmissions”, that gave him the vibe to dust off the material after all and rework it over a nine-month period for this release.

“The Geometry of Shadows”, best enjoyed in one go, is a work of intense long-form ambient with a nice feel of wonder and revelation, which Blake considers as quite a left turn from his previous work, but still sounding somewhat familiar in a way, with plenty of variety in terms of mood. According to the composer, the albums concept deals with faster-than-light space communications along a more philosophical idea about the interplay of light and darkness, physically, metaphorically, and spiritually.

While using a few NI soft synths and Omnisphere mostly and sticking to a “dry”recording technique, the aural outcome of dense, mysterious and floating atmospheres and mesmerizing pads on the five tracks are well-crafted sonic explorations.
Occasionally, elements of Broken Harbour’s previous sonic excursions can be noticed as well. If one likes the organic and surreal side of ambient, the free-form “The Geometry of Shadows” will be most rewarding. Well done, Mr Gibson!
Next to a limited digipack/cd-release (100 copies), “The Geometry of Shadows” is available as a digital download on Bandcamp and CD Baby.

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