This elegant album communicates integrity and substance in the few seconds it takes to open the case and start listening to the first track, "this train is a rainbow". The decisive minimalism of the graphics and the carefully dense texture of the music announce a wish to be known and listened to, with an assurance that there will be a lot to hear and nothing dropped carelessly in simply because it can be.
Sit up and listen. You might treat this album as background music later, but on the first few listens there are plenty of rewards for paying close attention. Reverence for the wide potential of music to connect with something like difficult truth, or at least to provoke the feeling that there are important things to experience are clearly involved. Meditative, absorbed listening is recommended (and, happily, easy to achieve). Paul Elam might or might not have thought these things as he made the album, but it's ours now, and we can make of it whatever we like.
The percussive elements are subtle and varied. They move about, drop in and out, and use unexpected textures and resonances. Here and there, rapid flurries of tiny, ultra short beats could be the crackle of static, but they work perfectly well as pulses of forward energy.
Deeper, slower beats grow out of bass sounds and hold an entirely different time frame. In "Songs Well Known" there's a real groove, as seductive as you like. That tune stops abruptly and a bass note introduces "Broken" very very far down the octaves. Listening to the piece from another room in my house, I can feel great chunks of air moving, catching the natural resonance of walls and floors. It's a bit scary. A host of drones and shifts seem to be moving with it, and my internal visualisations (strong throughout the album) move through forests and across moorland. It disappears and they float away , diminishing like spirits into a grey sky.
And on it goes, with (always) ambiguous unearthly sounds, hints of orchestral scoring and suggestions of natural instruments playing as a band. My imagination draws and redraws the landscapes and ecosystems. The music suggests them, and then moves on before the images can become fixed. The open ambiguous spaces, simultaneously (of course) also imply the inner territories of the soul and the emotions. Without the distraction of strong tunes to hold the imagination down, the experience is genuinely psychotropic. It's like being hypnotised but without being told what to do.
It is an album that is varied, perhaps to the point of restlessness. It's complete redemption is in the carefully managed development and the delights of new sounds at every turn.
This Train Is A Rainbow
They Shook Hands For Hours
He'd Found The Sea
Songs Well Known
I'm Fond Of Maps