Review Summary: No matter what happens, toast, tea and The Tumbled Sea will make everything normal again.
Signed to ambient/post-rock label futurerecordings The Tumbled Sea are similar to label-mates such as Message to Bears, we all inherit the moon, and Sunlight Ascending, in that the music is very minimal, sparse and inconspicuously beautiful. ‘Songs…’ is so minimal in fact that at times it can threaten to pass you by without notice – but it is this unobtrusiveness which makes it the perfect soundtrack to those precious hours before sleep, to meditation, or to relaxation. There is nothing ground-breaking about TTS, nothing about it that is mind-blowingly innovative or unique – The Tumbled Sea just creates beautiful music. Just modest, simple, minimalistic music – no more, no less.
The piano is at the forefront of ‘Songs…’ and so plays a major role in dictating the mood of the album. Notation is sparse, melodies are never overly-complex and chord sequences do little more than act almost as a reference point to the listener throughout each track – yet the piano work has an undeniable charm to it. The cascading melodies of ‘we’re turning into regular people’
in particular, rise and fall prettily, ultimately hypnotising the listener, teasing them as to when it may modulate upwards or transform entirely. It is on tracks such as this that a certain level of suspense makes the piano work both intriguing and engaging.
The piano is not the only instrument used on ‘Songs…’ however, and the swelling strings of the brief interlude ‘sleeps’
offer variety in both texture and timbre, as well as an interesting change of pace. Strings are also given a place in several other tracks on the album, though usually acting as a canvas for the piano to work upon and embellish, rather than being given a leading role. Nevertheless, they fulfil their role as background ambience in workmanlike fashion.
Obviously, on an ‘ambient’ album the use of ‘background’ recordings and ambience are of extreme importance, and fortunately TTS fail to disappoint on ‘Songs…’ Appropriate and often interesting samples are used throughout and successfully enhance their respective tracks. The abrupt, yet appropriately-fitting recording of children’s’ voices in ’walking’
compliments the track’s innocent charm, originally conveyed by the simple piano melody. While the rain noises in ’emily’s song’
and the glassy tone of the piano combine to create the comforting image of watching a storm from the safety of your own room.
By the end of ‘Songs…’ it is clear that The Tumbled Sea is bedroom music – no, not in a sexual way. Considering that it is a one-man project, and considering the gentle, uncomplicated appeal of the album, it is easy to imagine someone in a Boston bedroom playing a piano, and then experimenting with samples and synthesised strings to create this music. But The Tumbled Sea is bedroom music for the listener too. It is music to listen to during the hours of reflection before sleep. It is music to offer comfort, in the way that the warmth of your bed offers comfort despite stormy weather outside. It would be all too facile to accuse The Tumbled Sea of over-simplification, or of one-dimensionality, but when the music is this beautiful such arguments don’t really matter.