Via Negativa marks the first solo album for Terrence Hunnam, visual artist and member of the incredible Locrian. The connection that Locrian have with ambient music is quite apparent in their music and that is the aspect that Hunnam is exploring in his solo attempt. Even though Via Negativa is not in the same style Locrian’s landmark albums Return to Annihilation and The Clearing, Hunnam still retain a certain connection to his main band, with Via Negativa finding Hunnam retreating to the very core of his songwriting, back to the ambient music that fuel his other musical endeavors. While the fact that this album was recorded in its entirety by himself in his basement makes the end result even more remarkable.
The choice of synths for Via Negativa is astounding on its own. From the more peaceful tonalities found within “Become More, Become Less,” Hunnam lets all of his creativity loose. The synths about three minutes in “If Only You Knew What Darkness I Am Plunged Into” fill out the space in a magnificent manner while the almost icy tones at the beginning of “Unapproachable Light” show how Hunnam can come up with unique sounds for his music, transmitting an almost corporeal effect to the listener. But even when the tone of the music changes and Hunnam goes to more extreme paths the synths will follow the new direction. In “If Only You Knew What Darkness I Am Plunged Into” the music gets steadily more and more aggressive as the track progresses reaching a point when it feels it is all over you. A similar effect is implied for the first eleven minutes of the bonus track, “The Ideal Forms.”
As for the different forms that Hunnam’s music can take, you will not be disappointed. There are instances when the music takes on a majestic presence, as is the peak that Hunnam reaches about ten minutes in “If Only You Knew What Darkness I Am Plunged Into,” the excellent beginning of “Unapproachable Light” and in a more underplayed manner in “The Ideal Forms.” On the other hand, Hunnam also explores the more minimalistic aspects of ambient music. The second part of the opening song is a testament to that, as is the more abstract approach that Hunnam undertakes in “Unapproachable Light.” But probably the most impressive moments are from about thirteen minutes onwards in “Unapproachable Light,” with the music taking step back and Hunnam slowly deconstructing the track to its very bones, and the minimalistic ending of “The Ideal Forms” with the inclusion of some sparse, trippy effects making the sounds even more interesting.
While apart from all that and even though the music of Hunnam is quite abstract, there are still instances where the use of rhythmic patterns is explored in a very appropriate manner. The drums that appear in “If Only You Knew What Darkness I Am Plunged Into” build a more solid foundation for the song, while some sudden skips mess up the beat and cause some really cool disorientation. What is even more extraordinary is Hunnam’s use of rhythm in “Unapproachable Light.” About thirteen minutes in the song, Hunnam beats drop in and out creating a very unearthly and unique rhythmic pattern. All that ties in really nicely with the repetitive patterns of Via Negativa, with Hunnam giving his best to make the listener completely immersed in his music. But what is remarkable here is that the music does not remain static and dull, but still progresses and further evolves in a more steady method.
Hunnam brings forth a really cool album of ambient music. The different aspects that he explores in Via Negativa do not pass unnoticed and the result is an absorbing record.
7.0 / 10
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