Label: Cold Spring
One of the most wonderful things about artistic creation is that you never really know where it will take you. Even though Photosynthesis started out as an attempt to write some quasi pop/classic pieces, you’d never know that from the finished product. What the duo of Dave Ball and Jon Savage have created instead is a haunting, delightfully organic album of ambient and experimental electronica. This is a record to sink in to, letting it take you on its journey to some other place, and it has a refreshing, almost cleansing feel to its retro soundscapes.
There’s a warmth to Photosynthesis that many other albums of this sort lack, aided by the use of analogue sources, and it’s this warmth that gives the album such a special feel. Even if there are moments when it verges upon the haunting and unsettling, as during “ATM#2” with its ominous bass drone and piercing, warbling frequencies, it never feels like a dark ambient album; rather, these are moments of contrast that fit in well with the organic nature of the album. After all, nature is often a violent, destructive force, and that is captured in tracks such as this one, and that side of humanity is demonstrated here too, as it is in song titles such as “One Night In Helmand Province”.
Photosynthesis is also an album that makes clever use of space. “Passing Cloud Factory” and “The Process” are relatively sparse tracks, with elements drifting in and out over a foundation of subtle drones and strings, and the space created is just as effective as any individual sound or other element. And the way one track flows in to another creates a sense of narrative, not necessarily in the sense of a linear story, but of a cohesive whole; it feels as if the album has something to say, raising it above being a simple collection of tracks and giving it an extra sense of importance and weight. When a more obvious melody or movement does come to the fore, as on closer “Dead Neon”, the effect is all the stronger for how well it contrasts with the more sparse, ambient sections.
Not that any of this may be readily apparent. Photosynthesis is an album that requires multiple listens and proper attention to fully appreciate, but the rewards are more than worth it. It is an album full of depth, with an engaging character and atmosphere that is more than worth losing several evenings exploring.
Photosynthesis is available on CD via Cold Spring.