Gamardah Fungus
TO THE STARS AND BACK


3.7
great

Review

by figurehead of "built different" EMERITUS
May 31st, 2023 | 6 replies


Release Date: 05/05/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Hubble: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

The musicological air of stuff like "dark jazz" or "electroacoustic drone" can sometimes, I think, obscure an individual release's basic gettability. Ukrainian ambient duo Gamardah Fungus were feeling a little shaken by, you know, the invasion of their homeland by a major world power, and to console themselves and those in their orbit they daydreamed up a mini-tour of the heavens. The band is looking to the sky to remind themselves that everything is small and that therefore your small heart can do big things, because it's always been a useful place to look when things down below it aren't shaking out so hot. That's To the Stars and Back: impressionist flight of cosmic fancy as self-centering mindfulness exercise. Your ability to nod thoughtfully at music containing neither discernable beat nor human voice can safely take a backseat to your ability to suspend disbelief and marvel at all the gas giant synthesizer rumblings and neutron star flicks of treble-texture, to get swept up in the escapist art of making pretty things that move in an entertaining way, much like you might be while watching an animation showcase like Fantasia or Waking Life. This album art and these song titles make no pretensions about how Gamardah Fungus intend to strike the imagination here; if you’re fully willing to engage with it on the level of “these sounds represent celestial bodies”, To The Stars And Back has much to offer.

The lion’s share of To The Stars And Back finds Gamardah Fungus refining their ears for smooth, enveloping soundscaping. The earthy field recordings of earlier works such as Herbs and Potions and Nuclear Winter are integrated only at the album’s margins (most notably on closer “Aldebaran”), with modular synth wizard Igor Yalivec mostly opting to further explore the patiently pulsating timbres he favored on 2019’s excellent Natural Storm, and of course this album’s direct spiritual predecessor, 2021’s Polaris. Guitarist Sergio Berry, for his part, eschews the listless dissonance and post-rock melodrama that has occasionally dragged previous GF albums down (as well as, sadly, the doomy intensity that made Natural Storm such a prize), suffusing all of the album’s five tracks in soft, clean, reverb-laden chimes and gentle scrapes of stringy, metallic ASMR. In the album’s best moments, the combo is dreamy as dreamy can be— the swirling clockwork nebula of “Vega” soothes the senses as much as it vividly illustrates its glittering white-blue namesake, and “Sirius” oozes rapturous, Floydian deliberation— and the less arresting passages tend to slip by causing little offense, patches of inky void between stellar illustrations.

This dichotomy (sci-fi synth low end, om-via-pedalboard guitar embellishments overtop) is undeniably a safe proposition for 45 minutes of space ambient, and consequentially, To The Stars And Back inherits both edges of that childproofed sword. Its simple, glossy prettiness does wear thinner in some spots than others, with the duo’s largely linear atmosphere-progressions leaving some longer selections populated as much by pleasantly indistinct jamming as rewarding textural or melodic interplay. What little grit the album does bring to the table is integrated to inconsistent results, too: while the sharper guitar backmasking of “Altair” lends it a nicely alien eeriness that echoes prime Stars of the Lid, the hissing and rustling of “Betelgeuse” and rain patter of “Aldebaran” ultimately fall short as counterweights to the album’s stargazing focus, tacking on a disappointingly literal And Back to a set that shines brightest when it focuses on going straight To The Stars. This album displays a palpable enthusiasm for transporting the listener to wondrous, faraway places, less the rocky, inhospitable reality of the cosmos than the emotional reality a deep-sky photo of a glowing galactic cloud conjures. Gamardah Fungus have set out to enamor us with the romance of space— is it any wonder that they only truly stumble when returning to Earth?



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user ratings (3)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Kompys2000
Emeritus
May 31st 2023


9471 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Wow fifty whole reviews

90m80s
June 1st 2023


1523 Comments


to the stars academy

Pho3nix
June 1st 2023


1621 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This wasn't too shabby, a light 3.0

Pho3nix
June 1st 2023


1621 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I really like the name of this band though xD

Kompys2000
Emeritus
June 1st 2023


9471 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Nice phoenix, you might like Natural Storm more if you dig stuff on the drone-metal side (I see you have some earth 4.5s so)

Pho3nix
June 2nd 2023


1621 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks for the rec @Kompys !



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