Review Summary: Synthetic worldbuilding.
The analog synthesizer has become somewhat of a symbolic ideal for the a lot of the music being produced this side of the millennium. This generation of mostly college age musicians, children of the post-modern automaton known as the internet with an infatuation for all things retro now that an index of what amounts to the entirety of human knowledge and history is available at their fingertips, have been furiously engorging themselves on a lost world of music obscured by rudimentary and suffocating pathways of communication and information sharing. While synthesizers have come to almost completely dominate the landscape of popular music in recent times, the analog synthesizer occupies a rather interesting position in the musical environment of the post-millennial world. Sounding both old and new at the same time, the retro-futurist capabilities of the myriad interpretations of this instrument have been exploited in what seems to be a rebirth of the ideological concept of the future, filtered through a lens of renewed utopian optimism interpreted by sound.
M. Geddes Gengras newest release, Ishi
, sits comfortably beside the kinds of analog synthesizer revisionism of acts like Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never and Christelle Gualdi’s Stellar OM Source. Taking cues from a library of ambient and progressive electronic greats like Tangerine Dream, Steve Roach, and Jean Michel Jarre, Ishi
is an almost 80 minute journey through anachronistic aural landscapes punctuated by warm ebbs and flows of synth timbres and modular blips. Remaining a thoroughly ambient endeavor throughout, M. Geddes Gengras music is able to inhabit a space between fully present and totally absent that is still engaging without being overly obtrusive or disruptive. The album, as a result, ends up pinpointing exactly what makes ambient music of this nature successful: texture and timbre. Ambient music in general has always been interested moreso in the texture of sound rather than its utilitarian implementation, and Ishi’s
juxtaposition between lush, warm, inviting tones and the harsher, more challenging sounds that pepper it’s musical setting is a welcome take on the tactile interpretations of generative sound synthesis. “Passage”, which sounds like something that could have easily made its way onto OPN’s modern progressive electronic opus Returnal
, and the 43 minute closer, “Vigil”, are the highlights of Ishi’s
esoteric sound design and aural worldbuilding, managing to totally nail the escapist, futuristic vibes of the kinds of synthesizer and ambient music it takes such heavy inspiration from.
While mostly derivative in concept, M. Geddes Gengras’s Ishi
is an accomplished, successful revision and reinterpretation of the kind of analog synthesizer music that has continued to be the sound of the future since the birth of the instrument. Wrapped in packaging that resembles a rejected cover illustration of an early print of the legendary OMNI science fiction magazine, the entire presentation and execution of this release is drenched in an authenticity and genuine respect for the source material that makes this kind of music all the more engaging. For anyone interested in the world of contemporary analog synthesizer music, Ishi
should be a welcome addition to any collection.