Ambient with Soul
Do you ever find yourself stuck in a loop, repeating the same tasks over and over with no end seemingly in sight? Your life might be a bad ambient album. People are frequently mistaken when they assume ambient has no purpose but to play in the background; it’s an understandable mistake—the genre is very well suited to putting on for a nap or a lengthy work session—but good ambient is so much more than that. Should anyone need an example of what good ambient is, look no further than Kid Koala’s latest record Music to Draw To: Io, which is, at times, a magnificent sprawling work that is both out of sight and in your face, playfully tugging your heartstrings from a distance.
It seems foolish to yet again compare an ambient album to the groundbreaking work of Brian Eno, but here we are. Kid Koala draws on a wealth of influences on this album to make it a surprisingly dynamic work for an ambient album. The depth and breadth of emotional experience on songs like “Aphelion” and opener “Circle of Clouds” is stunning. While it can’t be recommended in good conscience to listen to the record while driving, it provides an excellent experience when listened to as you read a book or simply as a soundtrack for relaxation. That being said, there is a journey to this album. The song titles, such as “Lost at Sea,” often denote how dark or floaty the track will be. Often these tracks are lovingly accompanied by the voice of Trixie Whitley who whispers lyrics over the lush background, creating a multifaceted album that sparkles from all angles.
There are some misgivings to be had on the tracks featuring Trixie Whitley, though. The instruments are excellent, but the presence of a voice on this type of album stands starkly against its soothing background, particularly on the track “Lost at Sea” where her voice stands out far louder than it does on other tracks.
2019 appears to be off to an excellent start for ambient records. Between this and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s excellent Tides: Music for Yoga and Meditation, we seem to be in a heyday for ambient. With Kid Koala’s excellent addition we not only find ourselves in a great month for ambient but receive one of the best, most complex ambient records in recent memory. Should the records that follow this year continue to hit such a high level of quality, we’re in for a delightfully sleepy year.