Beginning with an evocative splash of delayed reverberation time rapidly expands into the New Year as hopes, dreams along with a selection of desires tempt the mind. Once again Afterlife finely tune organic strains of music into likeminded thinking, this time round enveloping you in life reassuring instrumentation by replacing the clouds outside with a positive vibration of sunshine. This in ways feels lighter than previous releases and yet is so very beautifully uplifting until the very end
As originality in music continuously breaks down its good to return like a shot of summer sun to Afterlife’s next release tempting you with the element of continued surprise. By way of introduction a throbbing bass, followed by a twist of surreal synths which are then offset by the chime of exquisite keys. From there on in the trademark of imagination is engaged across a shimmering array of punchy, melodic tones that put simply warm the soul in these chilly climes. There’s a lovely breakdown after the climax of excess as the groove highlights the deeper nature of it all leaving you in little doubt as to exactly who you are listening to.
Chasing your own tail can be a distinctive, timely occupation that many of us will be familiar with. The by-product of some ancient tradition or due to more contemporary stresses and strains, either way if it’s good enough for dogs then why not humans. This latest number in the sequence sees Afterlife exercises the ghost of a bluesy past with haunting keys colouring the field of vision, drenched in history while reflecting questions about matters blue, until a wash of electronics rise across the background cementing emotion and content splendidly. I’m not usually one for fade outs but in this case it seems like the right thing to do as the music enters, makes its presence felt, then exists having spoken the universal language of understanding.
If music of distinction is about provoking emotions, while capturing the essence of the human spirit in all its complexities, then for some inexplicable, perhaps even hidden reason The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly springs to mind when listening to the opening sequence of Metamorphosis of Narcissus. Not in a nostalgic way but reinforcing the possibilities of creative excitement and forward reaching motion, just like he did, within the power of sound to grasp at the radical contrast between revolution and romance, rather than the safe, soft escape into a rose-tinted history which is so prevalent today.
However, a little after mid-point all of that joyful celebration and wonder crumbles to be subsumed by a much darker brush of brutal intensity highlighting the storm of narcissism currently igniting the cultural horizon (which you can see reflected on the video). And therein lies the beauty of Afterlife’s immersive divergence, juxtaposing the elements to confound expectation. I can almost hear the echo of Hendrix or Jimmy Page coming into to play in amongst the breakdown of what is holy to reveal the spectre of Narcissus as the song plays outside of itself powerfully, without compromise. Not that this is about past reference or mixing up genres in any way – who would dare cofound the division of genre labelling after all – but more about exploring sound in enriching, life-affirming ways.
Ambient feels like too small a word to describe this awe-inspiring trip through a prism of reverberating echoes. Perhaps the meaning is more appropriately located somewhere in-between the phrases Classical and Electronic to serve the music produced with some evident justice. My only complaint though is that the immersive overlap of warmth doesn’t carry on a number of times longer, for it’s an avenue you will want to find yourself at home in.
Centred on a succession of terse piano notes that are underpinned by an overpowering humming which whirs away almost unnervingly in the background, as synthesised stabs come and go, is one possible way to elicit meaning from words rather than listening. More so is just the simple, purposeful title itself Sitting At The Piano which once again confirms the power of music to generate, connect with and then to explore the impossible dream.
Fuelling a lifetime of experience are Steve Miller’s uniquely crafted sonic journeys which begin at the point of imagination, ending up somewhere down the line at fast-forward destinations. In the case of Moksha that proves to be a fiery blend of sizzling electronic tones creatiing a free-form of expression, hinting at classic Detroit, while adding up a wealth of Jazzy sensibilities. Next and probably my favourite of the four numbers are the beautiful, life affirming notes that adorn Ad Astra. Taking the listener into other aspects of the possible this sequence of soul-drenched chords are not just indelibly human but together with a shuffle of drums and unison of voices they feed the feeling of exultation.
The pulse that is Jamaican dub is never far from reach via Afterlife and Abraxas testifies to that very influence as the sway of rhythm breezes throughout its cool keys and hot vocal touches that yearn for the embrace of Grace. The final number Dreadbox (featuring Cafe del Mar DJ, Ken Fan) again channels those vibrant colours into skanking pleasure, this time sprinkling rolling drums and bass with even more earth shattering depth.
I had been so busy with the assumption that Afterlife produced certain sounds that fitted into particular styles of music – notably Balearic etc etc – I hadn’t even realised that Ambient wasn’t one of the genres touched upon. Which in a way seems rather strange as you would imagine it to be a natural space to occupy given the immersive explorations of mood and atmosphere readily kindled across the years. Thankfully though, this must be some of the most engaging work to date from the producer behind the guise not least of all because of the rich intensity, almost too intense at times, which has been created.
Singularity is an epic opening, unfolding in warm waves of reassuring emotion that feels gently blissful throughout each aspect of its meditation on living life. So much so that the proceeding impact of The Lost Birds is like a small shock to the system, aside from the fact that it could be one of my favourite pieces of music in amongst all of the past twelve plus months of madness. I don’t know about you but if music is indeed a universal language then you will also sense a yearning, or loss, located somewhere in the hardwire of memory (hidden from view) as a vigorous whir of contemplation extends beyond conscious belief. There is something about the liquidity of water contained within the body of the sea which conjures up a captured stillness here, pictures from a black and white timeframe that are worn and lost. You may well evoke something completely different of course, unique to your own experience in the process of listening. Everest, follows by reverberating across the space of notes generated from piano to dawn, observing the blur between wind and snow as the energy of raw emotion drips effortlessly across the screen. Next, Secret Life completes the release likewise returning to the grain of torn keys, this time pitched alongside the contrast of eloquent pads seeking out future tomorrows amid the passage of time…and as the music leaves the stage it still echoes within.
This excellent new EP from Afterlife does just what you would hope casting aside the expected, surprising your senses in a multitude of refreshing ways. Producing a lifetime of soul searching music is a quality in itself but when it comes in this calibre it’s something we can all join in celebrating. Fly opens the release via an illuminating flash revealing the promise of what this summer holds in store, feasting on emotions that are eloquent and elegant. Accompanied by a resolutely gentle pulse of electronic drums its swirling wash of instrumentation adds punch and clarity to the holiday of your imagination. Next is the tougher chug provided by the title track setting the tone racing as bigtime bass explodes across a wealth of fizzy synthesizers, then complimented by the emotional roller-coaster of The Bridge complete with its jazzy/ bluesy mind-altering brilliance. Lost Tribes completes the journey with liquid intensity bubbling, meandering across a whirlwind of probing keys that never leave you asking for more…
The bass throb igniting the opening bars of Resistance says more in seconds than a life time of evocative words. This feels like the point at which Afterlife has transformed their linage of ideas into defiantly something else. Perhaps that’s an abstract notion but you can hear the amalgamation of all thats gone before blossom into the art of Resistance. You can also experience that playing out in the loose shape of eastern influences drifting across the sea of punctuating percussion, likewise in the accompanying configuration of four/ floor drum hits, combining fundamental elements of dancefloor urgency with the uplift of soulful introspection. Two versions of Resistance are then perfectly realised by Sean Johnson (aka Hardway Bros aka one part ALFOS sonic pioneer) fusing the still provocative influence of Detroit’s Techno heritage to the expansive atmosphere’s imagined by Afterlife’s timely notation. Both provide the stimulation of an intoxicating retelling of the theme. Then more typically associated with Afterlie’s originator is second number Antifearance which adds a funkier, sunshine swing to its collective rhythms, breathing in the swell and shimmer of synthesized sound in all its glory. Nice line in garments too.
Talk about perfect timing. Just as the summer heat ignites thoughts of sunnier climbs Afterlife arrives with this latest instalment of refreshments. Into The Heat begins via sun soaked rays suggesting a cosmic refrain, with echoed voices pulsating alongside the rhythm of generous percussion and soaring, celebratory keys. The expansive sounds which fuel Wanderlust then perpetuate the notion that something good is about to happen with suggestive swirls of emotive synths, sprinkles of piano and a deliberately intense expectation. Jolly Up, completes the series of originals with a four on the floor chug of driving beats accompanied by chimes of joyful resolution destined to feel hot on the sound system.
Last but not least are DJ Rocca’s remixes of Si Si Si from last year’s Naif EP. Not surprisingly the tantalising Erodisco mix replays the influence of the 1980’s into fresh movement with vocal stabs alongside a neat line in bass. The tempting colours of his most impressive Dark Arts mix finishes as introspective layers synthesized sound create dangerous corners to lose yourself in.