Album Review: Earthen Sea – Ghost Poems: subtle, sensitive, soulful electronica.

The Breakdown

Immersive ambient electronica blending a dub infused mindset with rhythmic delicacy – a record that inspires contemplation.
Kranky Records 8.7

Jacob Long (aka Earthen Sea) has a musical provenance that inevitably draws you in to take a look. He’s been a member of the Dischord endorsed, post-hardcore agitators Black Eyes, injected sax and bass to the electro-dub, No-wave work-outs of Mi Ami and since 2014 released less abrasive sounds as Earthen Sea, probing ever deeper the restrained tensions of ambient techno. After releases for New York’s Lovers Rock, this solo work eventually brought Kranky records calling to welcome Jacob into their particular home of experimentalism.

Since then there’s been two Earthen Sea’s albums, the kinetic wave-form beats of ‘An Act of Love’ and the more subtle, fluid soundscapes of ‘Grass and Trees’, and now his latest LP ‘Ghost Poems’ (due 15th April on Kranky) is set to shimmer into our collective consciousness. It’s a work of patient and diligent construction, composed and crafted during lockdown, sound-sourcing the domestic but wanting to transport the listener beyond any four walls.

Having said that, ‘Ghost Poems’ isn’t a record which offers any quick fixes. As with other Earthen Sea releases, at its heart is a devotion to gentle persuasiveness of subtly immersive electronica. Best experienced when taken as a whole, it’s only then that you begin to appreciate the intricacy that Jacob Long creates. Sure there are some recurring components of Earthen Sea music that underpin the album, the gentle dub surges, the reverberating chord minimalism and the precision rhythmic linkages, but the fluidity in the way that they are blended on ‘Ghost Poems’ suggest that this release may be his most impressively inventive yet.

In places the record conjures up a glowing sultry haze. ‘Rough Air’ drops a hint of trip-hop soulfulness as it revolves around a humming keyboard loop, woozy warm chords and an understated percussive calm. The occasional, perfectly placed bass waft is prime chilled excellence. Then there’s ‘Ochre Sky’, a lilting breezy tune with a hushed rhythm and restrained keyboard chimes that shudders with an intoxicating Sandro Perri vibe. Elsewhere things become less soothingly horizontal. ‘State Horizon’ resonates darkly around a gothic chordal loop that calls to a distant organ moan. A low drum thud completes the processional, while ritual cracks and shakes add to the tension. That same suspense hangs over ‘Oblique Ruins’ with its pounding aftershock beats dominating the faint memory of a distant melody.

What all these tracks emphasise is Earthen Sea’s rhythmic sensitivity and innovative approach to beat making. His attention to detail is underlined on ‘Ghost Poems’ as he constructs loops that include minute snippets of dripping taps, clinking cutlery, scissor cuts and sniffs but still retain a pulsing momentum. Listening to tracks like ‘Stolen Time’ you recognise that, besides an ambient depth as layered as any Floating Points, it’s this percussive flourish that personalises Earthen Sea music. If you add his dub infused mind-set into the mix, best captured on the echoing confluence of ‘Felt Absence’ or the wave form reveals of ‘Snowy Water’, then ‘Ghost Poems’ becomes a record that has a distinct spirit of its own, illusive but deceptively powerful.

That aura drifts right through the album to its sumptuous closing tracks, the cavernous ‘Fossil Painting’ where shadowy organ notes revolve around a subterranean boom and the drifting banks of misty synth chords on ‘Deep Sky’. Surprisingly there is no long fade, the album’s final notes echoing for the briefest moment before ‘Ghost Poems’ disappears suddenly. To the end Earthen Sea has made a record that inspires but does not insist on contemplation but if you do choose to gift it some time, you will be rewarded.

Pick up your copy of Ghost Poems by Earthen Sea from your local record shop or direct from:

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