By Edward Willoughby
Music Within’s latest release, ‘Finding Stillness’ lives up to its title, with a collection of gentle sound worlds that create a feeling of peace and stasis across fifteen tracks. Each of these songs lingers on, staying with us just long enough to get completely lost over a fifteen track journey. Additionally, there are five ‘Soft Mix’ tracks and four ‘Piano Solo’ tracks that revisit certain tunes to offer a different perspective. Self assured in their subtlety, these songs need not make any grand statement; rather they take the listener gently by the hand beckoning to access that quiet part that lies deep inside.
We begin this long form journey with ‘Dream State’ and its gentle waves of sound lapping up against the shore with strings playing open harmonies which appear gracefully as if out of nowhere. Bass eventually joins as this song slowly unfolds, set against a lustrous sheen of timbre shaded with hints of shimmering frequencies. Next, seamlessly floating on to mellow piano patiently circling is the title track, in which we are met with bittersweet chords and a soft synth doubling; gentle and uncomplicated.
Following with ‘REM’ and its glimmering warm synth and a ripple of electric guitar, the sound is comforting like cashmere, with a velvety floating melody that turns pirouettes above, as if weightless. ‘By The Sea’ begins with effervescent sounds in the background like tiny bursting bubbles of sound. A carpet of chords laid out by strings gently rolls on with a lonely cello at the fore amongst a haze of strings, voice and swells of synth noise.
‘Weightless’ begins with muffled piano, as if felt has been dropped between the hammers and the strings, joined by electric guitar and building warm synth. This track slowly evolves as it builds around a simple repeated figure. In ‘Goddess of the Sea’ an otherworldly organ sound creates a gritty glow that is sustained and grows in intensity. Like a soothing lullaby, this backdrop of sound is layered with the gentle singing of a male and female voice, doubling each other and occasionally diverging into harmonies.
Synths hinting at breathy woodwinds set the mood in ‘Quiet Mind’ with a glassy, reverberant melody of arpeggios that occasionally rises to the surface. Piano meanders as if taking a slow walk through a garden in quiet contemplation, while glacial strings ring out slowly and seamlessly, seemingly without an end. ‘Daydreams’ is a bright apparition of gleaming drone sounds of brilliant treble, juxtaposed against a bottom end of strings that bring a melancholy tinge.
‘Alpha’ waves is murky with piano played over a constant sustain pedal, allowing all the notes to ring out, holding on until they eventually die away. As the sounds bleed together in this sonic watercolour, the sounds gain subtle depth and personality with a judicious touch of synth shading. Next, with breathy, windy, hollow timbres, ‘Light Years’ builds on a harmony that widens as the strings become more mixed, and somehow these sounds feel almost like a spiritual encounter.
Back to piano, with slow moving chords, ‘Worlds Apart’ is bold and starkly spaced out, each chord like a slow step forward. ‘Floating’ follows with its sombre broken chords and mournful sustained strings. This track combines sounds in a painterly way and creates a feeling of drifting and floating, as its name suggests. Next, ‘Restore’ is like a ray of light shining through clouds on a rainy day with its long, held sonorities mingling with the sound of gentle wind and raindrops.
Leading into the final moments of the album, penultimate track ‘Calm Surrender’ gleams with a glassy, bell-like sound, with gently rolling waves of sustained synth punctuated with gentle xylophone. Finally, ‘Look Within’ rounds out this album with jangling synth textures and a sensation of being drunken, disoriented and dazed.
Overall, the effect of this album is very meditative, calming, and at times brings us closer to those elusive inner, spiritual spaces. In the right frame of mind, this music flows through the bedrock of a calm stream of consciousness. Walking the line between sound forms and light, this music is bright and leaves the listener feeling lighter. As a whole, with its long individual tracks and generous track listing, this album can occasionally be a little challenging to patiently absorb as a whole, though on the whole is a rewarding, subtle listening experience.