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Lawson & Merrill — Signals
(Neuma Records 157, 2022, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-07-27

Signals Cover art

David Margolin Lawson and David Merrill are two sound engineers who met a number of years ago at CityVox studio in NYC. At that time they shared a love and respect for many of the early electronic music pioneers from the 20th Century, among them Edgard Varèse, Steve Reich, Morton Subotnick, and others; it wasn’t until more recently that the two actually began to work together and share ideas that they had individually been working on in the interim. The album at hand, Signals, is their first collaboration together, five long tracks, each begun by one and further refined by the other, going back and forth until both composers agreed that they were ready for public consumption. They ply their trade with an assortment of modern and vintage analog and modular synthesizers, sequencers, studio effects and even field recordings. Much of the material here could be classified as minimalist floating ambient dronescapes, a heady brew of sounds that occupies a space somewhere between mystical and meditative. As I listen to and review many so-called floating ambient releases almost as a matter of daily and nightly routine, I have to say that Signals seems to be cut from a slightly different cloth than most of what I regularly encounter, a bit more dark, eerie, and rough-cut than what many artists routinely produce. The set eases in with “Morning Meditation,” a sixteen-plus minute dream soundtrack that captures what might be a multicolored sunrise against a widescreen panorama of haunting and scintillating sounds and effects. Moving on, “A Day at the Beach” seems to explore a somewhat darker corner of L&M's universe, as gently rising and falling chordal drifts share a soundspace with odd sonic entanglements. “Rivière” is unusual among the five as it’s the only piece that’s built almost entirely on sequences. In the floating and shimmering aesthetic of “Dark Angel” we find another collection of dark and brooding textures that wind their way through cavernous structures, until finally we arrive at the closer, “Coda,” where the breath of color and sunlight appear again. After the darkness comes the light, but the listener will likely want a repeat experience in Signals’ immersive world.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Lawson & Merrill

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