Review Summary: Less is more.
Sam Lee, the man behind The Tumbled Sea is clearly a proponent of the belief that “less is more.” This is made abundantly clear by the minimalistic, piano-led tracks on his one-man project’s two albums so far. That music so unassuming can be so expressive is remarkable; that it is so soothing is less so. Musically, there is little to The Tumbled Sea besides simple piano melodies and simple chords over a canvas of swirling ambience. Nevertheless, each and every track on The Tumbled Sea’s second album, ‘Melody/Summer’, effectively creates mood and atmosphere, seems to tell a story, or at least hint at a theme or setting. The Tumbled Sea is almost soundtrack-like in its unobtrusiveness, gently shaping the listener’s musings whilst maintaining a peaceful demeanour and a beautiful elegance.
The tracks that comprise ‘Melody/Summer’ are dominated by simplistic, single-note piano melodies that are by nature, minimalistic. Accompaniment, too, is minimal, with foggy, synthesised ambience acting as an atmospheric backdrop for Lee’s dreamy piano lines. More fleshed out tracks do appear – ‘Ø’
revolves around a beautiful, solemn procession of Theremin and violins – but these are conspicuous by their relative elaboration. Therefore, it is fortunate that The Tumbled Sea manage to avoid the potential pitfall of weak, ineffectual tracks and succeed in penning remarkably expressive, fragilely pretty ones. For example, ‘Summer III’
has a decidedly cold feel to it, a desolate piano line softly rises and falls as synths gently burst into life dramatically: all of this conveys tragedy and loneliness effectively. Meanwhile, ‘Melody III’
has an almost romantic air to it as slow-moving synthesised strings and a metronomic chime counterpoint the relatively late entry of a sweetly coquettish, fractured piano riff.
‘Melody/Summer’ seems to exude a peaceful and deliberate sense of beauty with each and every note and it is all the more powerful for this. In less capable hands, such minimalism could be scant and threadbare, but The Tumbled Sea makes the most of its simplistic neo-minimalism. The piano is at the forefront of ‘Melody/Summer’ and is largely responsible for dictating the mood of the album. Generally speaking, the musical imagery created on ‘Melody/Summer’ seems to be of loneliness and unrequited yearning, yet it is so placidly exquisite that it exudes a strangely life-affirming warmth. On ‘Melody/Summer’, The Tumbled Sea makes the most of minimal instrumentation to create a rich album of exceptional beauty, proving that sometimes less is more.