There’s a scene about twenty minutes into Sophia Coppola’s masterpiece Lost in Translation
where Scarlett Johansson’s character Charlotte sits on the windowsill of her high-rise hotel. The sun is just beginning to emerge over the thick, industrious fog, a lingering jetlag has kept her up for days, and a feeling of melancholy fills the silent air as she looks out over the grey expanse of Tokyo. For a city of dazzling neon lights, thriving casinos, and bustling traffic, there is finally a deep calm and a cool stillness. Anyone who has stayed up all night knows this feeling -- that transitional time that exists in the early dawn between the end of yesterday and the beginning of tomorrow when you feel like you’re the last living person on earth, and for once it’s okay. It’s exactly this feeling that Expanses
resides in, and it’s in this feeling that The Green Kingdom invites us to stay awhile.
Rather than the more contemporary ambient techno of today, such as the works of Boards of Canada or Brian Eno, Mike Cottone’s soundscapes act as an homage to the early days of minimal ambient when the possibilities of creating electronic music were still relatively unknown, and therefore modest in scope. Instead of dynamic melodies and lush textures, Expanses
floats over crackling static and cold waves of synth tones. Indeed, The Green Kingdom’s name seems to stem more from Greenland’s frozen landscape than any tropical jungle, and this icy theme remains fairly unflinching throughout the twenty-one minute piece (with the exception of the occasional guitar and violin accompaniment dropping in and out periodically). Yet for music as basic as Cottone’s latest work, the imagination and mood it instills is far from simplistic. I have yet to find any piece of music that has captured Coppola’s feeling of melancholia in a foreign place so appropriately, and perhaps I never will. But that’s okay.