From the slightly north of me on the shores of Lake Nipissing in North Bay, Ontario comes The Gateless Gate with a new album of brilliance in ambience; “Oceans are Moving from the Arctic to the South Reflecting the Light“. Six tracks that explore the movements of oceanic passage through your mind and dive deep in to the ambient flow of sound to create imagery and enlightenment held within the confines of this record. Once again Allister Thompson has outdone himself with this album as it stretches the boundaries and pushes the envelope of modern day Neo-Ambient-Progressive music and keeps this facet of the genre well alive in this 65minute atmospheric journey. Canada is still in the throes of the cookie cutter commercialized clap-traps that plagues and hinders the airwaves and music television stations alike. Unlike our other global counterparts, North America has still yet to awake from their opiated state of musical abuse that we have been subjected to for years now. That’s not to say that in other parts of the world other countries are also facing some of the same struggles with what sort of music that is being forced upon them through commercial jingles via pop stars of the moment or on the MTV, Much Music channels but North America just seems to enjoy pushing their corporate thumbs down on the heads of bands and artists who want to break free of the shackles of pop culture tyranny. There is a silent vast majority of bands and artists who are taking their music overseas or releasing them here via online to a sub-culture of fans who appreciate the existential efforts of music that goes beyond the sandbox rules. Now, all that said, for those who like the pop culture sounds-more power to you and it has its rightful place in the musical societies world over and if that’s what rocks your world then go for it but here we find music that goes deeper and farther down in to the psyche of the musical brain and find held within its coffers the bright and dark facets combined to create something brilliant.
The album opens up with the title track, “Oceans are Moving…” in true Prog fashion with the swishing sound of rain and waves rushing up to shorelines washing up on to Terra firma. The faint scent of swirling synthscapes enter in as the grand voice of the winds as it grows louder and takes over the call of the earth’s tone. A tour de force Tangerine Dream-esque feel to it the song takes us beyond the realms of reality and in to the free floating feels of space and scenes of growing fractals of colour and time blending together to have you at ease with your chi. Calm yet striking waves of sound in their celestial voicing leaves you well rested and care free of thought as you absorb the ethereal tones gently swim through your speakers and permeate the air to your room. Around the 9minute mark we shift gears slightly and the entrance of a tremolo sounding guitar comes to the forefront and plays us its Siren’s song as the synths begin to lightly bounce their notations and create their waves a little more vibrantly. As the guitar carries forth it calls us closer and closer to its tone and has us reaching out to touch the notes that emanate off the fretboard as if we could see them glistening over the Arctic waters. We shift again at 13minutes to a haze of fluttering synthscapes and falling pages from the mouths of electric Sages as the song slows its heartbeat down to bring us back to the folds of reality and places us back on the soft wet shores barefoot and alone as we gaze up in to the skies looking for the astral plains that had only recently carried us away to regions we had never knew existed before. “Thirty Thousand Sunsets” rises and sets to the occasion like the 30,001st time by my initial listening to it. The signalling of another day down as the synths capture the very breath of the moment here with their blanketed layers and softened quilted tones. The pull of a guitar chord in the background falls like a gentle summer’s rain that left its drips on the leaves on the distant trees as the calming winds sway the waters from its leaved hands. This song has the thought of an undiscovered corner of the world that has never seen the foot of man and has been left untouched by us to go about their life on earth as it has always been since the dawn of its time. Bird songs bring us the choral and pastoral voices that sing over the soothing streams of dream like synths that smoothly pull the sun down to its evening resting place for the night. The orchestrated tones here are the first movement of the coming nightfall and the basking glow of the moon that will soon rise. Completely unhurried and tranquil this piece allows one to focus on one thing, mould one’s mind to a particular place or thing and enjoy the serenity of it not moving at all as you feel yourself being carried away by some celestial being to your dream sequence for the night.
“A Rainbow is Like a Smiling Cat” glistens as it starts its inception and progresses from there. The purring of the cat and it shuffling and rubbing its feet gives us the welcomming of animal life on the album as we smile upon the paean tones presented here. The shortest track on the album but certainly not the least involved either. The song allows to feel empathy, humanly and poetically as we listen to the soft murmurs of the cat who clearly commands the attention it so deserves as the synths carry us across and through the clouds to where the cat rests and expresses their contentment under the basking sun light. The title gives us the reminiscence of the Cheshire cat of course but also that it’s not too often we get to see rainbows in the skies surrounding us just like we almost don’t get to see cats smiling even when they are content. “Angels of Glamorgan” echoes in with the sublime voices leading us southward through the waters as the light musical backdrop continues to appease our senses with brisk drumming and gentle acoustic passages. The voices blend in with the synths to be one and we are carried further downstream as the song progresses in to a sweeping array of placidity. A procession of sound that does not lead, nor does it leave you standing alone but it swallows you in to its chamber of docile voices and serene musicianship. Many different themes play out in your head here as images from so many possibilities are conjured up in your mind from; funeral processions, reaching summits high, gatherings of the wise, the rising sun, the flow of water as it sits in its rightful place as a titan amongst the world’s natural forces. A moving and stirring piece of music that is both ambient and powerful together. “NOW!” the longest track on the record coming in at 18:39minutes and only slightly longer than the title piece takes the second to last slot here again in classic fashion as the grand track presented. With a very Floydian opening a la bird songs, buzzing flies and the faint sound of human voices in the distance the piece has already begun its journey. With what sounds inspired by Pink Floyd’s use of the big wall of sound and including the usage of recognizable tones like; people, cars, birds, airplanes etc this song draws upon the deeply rooted facets of the human psyche in the beginning. Memorable sonorousness that everyone has heard before but for some reason when they’re played back to you it leaves you feeling so many emotions from days gone by, calls you to reflect and react in different ways about them now. The haunting synthscapes here are long well thought out notes that have already dug deep in to your head as you hear more and more favourable and indelible sounds filling your head as you pause yourself in a lull to capture those moments again. The title of the song makes you wonder what is NOW!, Why NOW!(?) but that is it NOW! and forever NOW! as images can only be captured in cameras and film and never relived but only remembered. Thought provoking and ghostly this track gives it all to you as it says nothing verbally but tells you so much internally and through sound that just allows you to absorb again and again reflecting on life, purpose, tomorrow, yesterday and of course, NOW!
“4_TLJ” closes out the album and commences with a very proud sounding set of notes as it steps out in to the light of the sun and throws its arms to the air saying here, NOW!, Never yesterday again. A very stout and brilliant composition as the notes strike outward and signal their fulfillment to the end of the journey and that they come to their final shore and wash upon it with grace and finesse from the northern reaches of the Arctic to the southern tips where the light shines brightest last. The oceans have moved, the songs have swayed and the album draws to a close as we are left with the thoughts of what we have just heard that can not be unheard but can be heard again and we begin our journey all over but ending with a completely different feeling, perhaps similar but not the same and every time we place this album it will invoke and conjure up more and more form our pasts and bring light to some things that were once dark and forgotten but for the good.
The Gateless Gate never moves backwards only forwards with their sound and their tireless efforts are highly commended and respected here at Progressivelyso. This album of Progressive-Ambient music is stunning, striking and serene as it moves you in so many directions as the music: carries, lifts, sways, swoons, collects, leaves, dives and delves deeper than any of their previous albums. Enjoy