BY MATTHEW CLARK
Fred Warmsley’s latest album under the Dedekind Cut moniker, Tahoe, is a meditative, ethereal album that sees the producer further exploring the ideas introduced on his previous album, $uccessor. Released on Kranky, a label known for putting out music by such acts as Tim Hecker and Grouper, Tahoe is an album that at times embraces the tropes of ambient music and in other cases completely upends them.
The opening two tracks are perfect examples of Warmsley’s skill for taking traditional ambient techniques and injecting them with his own vision. Both tracks move at such a quiet pace that at first listen it may be hard to notice the subtle tones and noise permeating the background behind the gliding synths that make themselves the focus of the pieces. These noises add a sense of unease to the music, and in many ways highlight the melancholy feeling of the album. The album definitely requires a quiet listening environment to get the full experience.
The title track, “Tahoe“, sounds like it would fit in perfectly in the soundtrack for a dystopian or otherwise gloomy sci-fi film, with its strings that emphasize the feeling of longing and the sounds of nature constantly fading in and out, just out of reach to the listener.
The true highlight of the album however, is “MMXIX”, which packs in many of the sounds that ambient music has been known for (chimes, pan flutes, even Tuvan throat singing which was notably used on The KLF’s Chill Out album) but subverts traditional expectations, instead drawing attention to how synthetic the sounds are, perhaps to make a comment on the inauthenticity of ambient artists pulling sounds and field recordings from cultures they aren’t a part of to be used in their music. Regardless of intention, the end result is one of beauty, and the most engaging piece on the album.
Overall the album does a very good job of showcasing Warmsley’s talent for creating sonic worlds that are grand in scope, cinematic at times, and inviting to the listener. The track “De-Civilization” wouldn’t feel out of place in a Tarkovsky film.
Warmsley referred to the album as a “time peace” that deals with “the past, the present, the future, and fantasy,” concepts that are both fully realized in the music in ways as abstract as the concepts appear. Listening to the album feels like journeying through the inner recesses of the Dedekind Cut sound only to come across a great, open vista of light, providing solace at the end of your journey. It feels like a trip through time, captured.
At first glance, Tahoe is a very straightforward ambient album that sees Dedekind Cut further exploring the palette first touched upon in $ucessor and American Zen, but the further in you dive, the more you discover that there is a lot more to be said here than what has been said before, and the album is better off for it.