Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gel-Sol - IZ: Cyclic Defrost Review

Seattle-based electronic producer Andrew Reichel (aka Gel-Sol) has cultivated something of a reputation for ‘widescreen’ downtempo / ambient soundscapes, with his 2004 debut album under the production moniker on Em:t ‘1104’ calling to mind The Orb’s surreal sample-laden psychedelic flights of fancy circa ‘Adventures In The Ultraworld.’ A scant twelve months on the heels of last year’s ‘Unifactor’, this third album ‘IZ’, a joint release between the Dublin-based Psychonavigation label and Canadian imprint Upstairs sees Reichel constructing a nine-part ‘all ambient adventure’ for his niece Izabella, who was born last year. From the very outset here, the familiar melodic aesthetic heard on previous Gel-Sol albums is firmly in place in, with the opening title track introducing the lush, almost orchestrally-arranged fusion of rich ambient synth pads and flowing melodic elements, the resulting blend sitting somewhere between Pete Namlook’s similarly cosmic and beatless mid-nineties output and Tangerine Dream-style prog.

Curiously though for an album dedicated to an infant relative, while the overriding mood tends towards uplifting and optimistic territory, there’s still a trace of underlying tension and uncertainty, with the sampled sound of distant police sirens and what sounds like a homeless man creating an effective counterpoint to the bleak-sounding string swells that roll throughout ‘Mourningwok.’ It’s these vaguely unsettling undercurrents that also add an unexpectedly dark and poignant edge, such as the dark subterranean bass tones and disembodied hypnotherapy samples that float through the ominous ‘Raneboze’, and maintain the levels of intrigue whilst preventing proceedings from drifting completely away into a blissful ambient / chillout waft.

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