Aqueous euphoria submerges the listener as this release explores a calming and spiritually invigorating water-based paradise
A few seconds pass before Ki Oni’s iridescent textures spread out over the unexplored expanse of Life At The End Of The World. Muffled harmonies and tunes swirl, fizzling a little with inviting lower middle frequencies. A cool and welcoming scene appears before the listener, we feel nestled in the very epicentre of an azure pool as it comes into focus. Low, repetitive notes sit below us like gentle currents, as higher, more sporadic melodies dazzle us from above like excitable sea-life. It is an ambient sound, there is no mistaking the penchant for fluidity and minimalism. However, within that often restrictive boundary, Ki Oni finds so much life. There always seems to be something new blossoming when we train our ears back into focus; the listener feels new species scuttling past and swooping overhead throughout the 14-minute runtime. It is like we’ve ventured into an abandoned aquatic centre that has begun to teem with life after its closing down. We dive down to the bottom to find that the edutainment music still plays in the dark visitor areas, we hear it softly through the muffled perspex glass of the tunnel that people once walked through in awe at the creatures above them.
A Single Heron Takes Flight begins with fluttering wings of bell sound slowly working into a momentum. A beautiful cascading rhythm flows through the sound, loose and free as it works its way up into fragile, high-pitched tones. Though the process is similar to the previous track, the texture is different. With no grounding of low frequency sound, we float with no earth beneath us, being pushed upwards by ascending scales that expand like a plume of multicoloured feathers.
Ghostly tones drift from one side to the other, more formless than the tracks that have come before. There is not the explicit beauty that there was on the first two outings as well. Floating With An Elephant, Seal chooses to wade through more murky and mystic sounds rather than dazzle the listener with twinkling melodies. This causes a more austere shade to envelop the track. No longer basking in sunlight, we feel in the midst of some great fog; unease creeping into our minds as discordant sounds push their way through. Ki Oni still treats the listener with such affection and care, pushing us through the soundscape with gentle, guiding hands. Allowing us to watch as an ecosystem of sound appears, with both repetitive processes and unique moments. With perfect harmonies and more daring dissonant passages as well. We feel at ease as we wander through the artist’s world.
Invisible Islands begins with the gossamer fragility that we heard at the start of Stay Indoors and Swim. Reversed euphoria slipping by us, sounding like it could shatter at any moment. A crystal blue pool floats to the top of the listener’s mind, something about the muffled, effected sounds conjure images of rippling water against pristine tiles. The music escapes from a small speaker at the bottom of the pool, and we feel the cool water flowing all around us.
Diving Into The Lost World drives forward in very much the same vein. Small glacial notes tinkling around the peripheries of painstakingly created ambience. The lower frequencies twist to minor and major, landing at a beautifully slow pace, calm and collected in their execution. Light, rock pool waves trickle at the sides of the sound, the melodic elements gleaming like a portal through the water. The artist is able to create this tense ambience, brimming with emotion and heartache, but relaxing and comforting at the same time.
Shallow, watery notes begin to flow over the top of one another. Aqueous guitar colliding with piano, as beautiful fountains of crystal water begin to appear. Ki Oni captures a vertiginous feeling reminiscent to that of Alice Coltrane’s World Galaxy. However, here everything is amorphous and formless in its flow. Deeper notes begin plummet into muffled territory, as the water dives underground, only to burst out of another crevice somewhere else on The Island Time Forgot.
Riders Of The Wind ups the tranquility even more, dulcet tones pushing toward the listener in gentle waves of repetitive sound. The artist works themselves into little loops, to then branch out bringing in higher notes that dance gracefully. Notes pulse through the soundscape like small geysers, periodically releasing bubbles into the shimmering water. Twinkling piano rests atop the watery texture that runs through the majority of the track.
Channel Islands pushes notes through the fragile gauze that has characterised the majority of the album. They travel through to us a little more confidently here, devoid of wobbles and wavers. A thick strand of sound travelling unhindered. Maybe we have breached the surface here, the water buffeting and cushioning our body as we see the world in all its crisp clarity. No accompanying twinkles of light breaking through water, no more flowing, trickling or babbling as the sun graces our bodies with no threshold in between. It is a cleansing experience, as we dry off after more than an hour of plunging to azure depths.
Could it be that Ki Oni was merely exploring the pristine, tiled landscape of an indoor swimming pool? It seems impossible. The terrain of the album feels so varied and multi-faceted. The subaquatic experience is deeply calming and moving at points as well. The true appearance of the landscape we ventured through is somewhere between a natural and synthetic space. The artist weaves together a sound that is as approachable as a beautifully designed swimming pool, but as diverse and vibrant as a coral reef or tide pool.