Review: Ten – The Fog Bank

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Label: Ten Recordings

In many ways, post-rock, ambient, and drone music have a lot in common. All three genres seek, through different methods, to wrap the listener up in a cocoon of sounds, enveloping them in sounds either warm or starkly oppressive, taking their consciousness away to somewhere else. It’s a task that Ten succeed at on new album The Fog Bank. Though nominally an ambient group, there’s a lot of arresting melodies here that mean that tag doesn’t quite fit perfectly; but the overall effect of the music makes it accurate enough. Full of warm drones, blissful melodic lines and an aching sense of beauty, The Fog Bank is a record to sink in to late at night.

As with so much ambient music, the influence of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works is clear; not only in the actual sounds used to construct these songs, many of which are reminiscent of those albums, but also in the way the songs are strcutred. As with those albums, The Fog Bank contains actual songs, laced through with melodies and recognisable structures, rather than the airy almost-nothingness of some strands of ambient music. There are some exceptions, such as ‘Make Sense’ which just drifts along, like a cloud emitting drones, electronic melodies and a steady beat. But on the whole, The Fog Bank is an album of ambient songs, rather than just ambient music.

There’s a lot of post-rock influence apparent on the album, too. The haunting sadness of ‘Loci’ and ‘Gaps in the Mesh’, in particular, are heavily reminiscent of the more downbeat moments of Mogwai’s Young Team, and it’s here where The Fog Bank almost abandons ambient music – not in terms of sound, but in effect. If ambient music is designed to be able to drift in the background, then some sections of The Fog Bank don’t meet that criteria – the emotional heft of some of these melodies is so strong that they’re all-but impossible to ignore.

And yet, the album as a whole still manages to wrap the listener up in the musical equivalent of a warm blanket, offering something close to comfort. It is a beautiful album, all the more so for the undercurrent of sadness and loneliness that is present throughout. As such, it possesses a heart and soul that it unusual in this genre, and makes it a very moving, rewarding listen.

The Fog Bank is availavle on digital and CD via Bandcamp.

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