Reviews Summer Homes Nocturnes

Summer Homes

Nocturnes

Though the album might attract some of the same listeners that gravitate towards otherworldly new age music, Summer Homes’s 2015 album Nocturnes actually has a more earthy and less corny sound to it. Written and performed by Massachusetts-based musician Daniel Radin, this album seeks to reimagine the early life of the artist as ambient music works and seems entirely earnest in its attempt to create a soundtrack for various nostalgic locations which are looked back on with obvious fondness. Drone elements are perhaps the most prominent feature of the eight tracks included, but vague bits of melody let a listener’s imagination run wild, resulting in an album that seems capable of inspiring countless engaging and refreshing dreams.

I can detect a rustling undercurrent in warm and calming opening track “The Billboard” that suggests a train clacking down a railroad track – an appropriate notion considering the artist means to take us to several locations that now exist only in memory. Brief hints of inviting melody and gently swooshing atmosphere effortlessly guide a listener into recalling a simple pleasure from the past and follow up track “Crystal Lake,” in its replication of the circling waves of a tranquil body of water, only continues the introspective journey. Occasional crescendos embody fleeting waves lapping against the shoreline, and entire piece, with reverb-drenched piano playing under swirling, ethereal drones, has a swaying, rocking momentum to it. Radin certainly seems to have taken the imagery of his titles into account when making these compositions: “Weeks Field” for the most part abandons the resonating, continuous low tones of the previous tracks, using tinny, more obviously string-based sounds to create a brighter – sunnier - overall flavor. Moments of silence pop up between the ebbs and flows of the musical phrases, making this a more minimalistic piece than the ones that had preceded it.

Barely discernible mallet percussion pings out under the murmuring instrumental base of fourth track “Civic.” There’s a definite tinge of melancholy to this delicate piece, but the subsequent “Saint Paul’s” seeks instead to emphasize a sense of wonder. A whirring, mechanical background almost sounds like the quiet rumbling of a distant airplane, and the religious imagery of the song’s title is reflected in the the use of a bellowing vocal choir that occasionally intrudes almost subliminally into the mix. “Oak Hill Park” was the track, in my opinion, most explicit in its connection to the music of Erik Satie – there’s a slow but bouncing rhythm established early on in a soft piano that’s heard under the drifting high-pitched melodies. This track is also the only one which boasts a noticeable climax which occurs when the relatively subdued ambient tones suddenly gurgle to the surface then quickly fade away. A sort of variation on the earlier “Weeks Field,” “Atrium” is another relatively sparse composition with echoed industrial clatter shuddering under the string-based tune and the lengthy “Greenwood Street” finishes things off with in a decidedly low-key manner.

Hardly the big finish I might have expected and even wanted, this finale nevertheless cements the naturalistic flow of this genuinely peaceful and almost life-affirming album. Relatively little changes throughout its course – all the tracks here play out in much the same way - and thus, the record could be downright boring for some. Conversely, it could also be praised for its undeniable consistency. I found Nocturnes to be more musical than outright experimental in nature and slightly better than average among contemporary ambient recordings, but it’s likely to hit any individual listener differently – such is the way that ambient music seems to work. If nothing else, this exquisitely realized release positions the Summer Homes project as one that fans of ambient and drone music should probably check out.

7.2 / 10Andy
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7.2 / 10

7.2 / 10

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