A good deal of ambient music floods the sound spectrum with washes upon layers of rich pads and subtle tones ebbing and flowing in a non-offensive, meditative manner. It’s essentially texture music; it provides the same feeling one gets from crawling under a pile of layered blankets on that January night the space heater quits functioning. Sunfalls’ most recent EP, They Love Data embraces just the opposite. Forget the broken heater, fuck the blankets, the cold is still there. Why hide from it? Lay naked on the bed. Imagine the warmth and let the mind produce any layer it wishes. This release isn’t exactly ambient music, but it is a close approximation; subdued glitch-noise meditations may act as a better representation. The release’s descriptor notes explain the formulation process as an “exploration in hybrid modular environments.” The resulting environment is a frigid one indeed. Even when the most basic human element arises in the fourth track, “I wasn’t lookin”, with the vague semblance of a voice building in the distance, it is processed to such a degree that it is rendered inhuman, robotic, and wafting about in a just out of reach state of barely there inaudibility, perhaps providing the listener with the sense that, while the numbing isolation persists, there is something out there in the vast void of space…somewhere?
In fact, the most beautiful thing about They Love Data, I find, is that sense of space. They Love Data is a starkly minimal EP, but in no way is it depriving the listener of anything. On the contrary, that is part of its charm. The framework provided by all the intentional sounds we hear creates an aural environment for the listener to either succumb to that cold wintery sense of isolation, or, even better, let its electric jolts prod the listener’s cerebral cortex into doing something so much music does not: to imagine.
This type of music makes for a great, eyes closed, headphone experience. By working with a delicate restraint, and not entirely filling the stereo field, we are left with distance, which provides room for Sunfalls’ sounds to create dynamics through movement. It also gives the mind the time to picture the unreal world that the music lives in. Spry crackles maintain the semblance of a consistent rhythmic theme while the mid and low end gurgle, sputter, fading in and out of existence. Beats bounce into existence whenever they need to, if just for a second, and then fall off for extended intervals. White noise static bursts sporadically. High frequency digital pulses generate random squiggles and resonate, trailing off into the ether. Grains break apart into chaos, disappear, and re-emerge fully formed as something new. Abrasive moments seem somehow light and quiet instances menace by never foreshadowing the origin of the next lingering sonic stab. Embrace this paradox, shed the blankets of easy comfort, and find your own warmth in Sunfalls’ icy space-scape.