Edge of Solitude
It’s been a couple of year’s since Iran’s Mehdi Saleh released a stand-alone Alphaxone LP (a lengthy sabbatical by his standards), but he hasn’t been standing pat. A slew of split and collaborative releases with a wide range of other dark ambient artists speaks to the varied company Saleh keeps; compare the impressionist cityscapes of ProtoU to the gnostic forestry of Council of Nine. Edge of Solitude is nothing if not a sonically and thematically unified release, but it opens up another dimension to Saleh’s work while retaining his smooth production style, showing that he’s still absorbing new methods of crafting dark ambient, even nine LPs into his career.
Outer space and cosmic themes aren’t wholly new territory for Alphaxone, but the whole of Edge of Solitude finds myriad ways of evoking them. Wispy sprites swoosh past in stereo on “Echosphere” suggesting passing satellites, while the faintly ringing echoes of “Broken Worlds”‘ pads connote a slowly fading corona. “Solar Pulses” breaks from the record’s propensity for long and slowly phasing passages: a series of gentle harmonic tones chime out in slow sequence in the track’s first half, then abruptly leap out at a shockingly brisk pace (well, shocking by dark ambient standards, at least) in almost playful, Glass-like phrasing. The simply joy (yes, joy) of the movement of the track underscores another of Edge of Solitude‘s characteristics: for a dark ambient record, it ain’t really all that dark. The often somber and turgid attitude with which so many dark ambient producers approach themes of space and astral processions is rarely found here. Even when it’s slow and repetitive (as it often is), the record never feels gloomy or ruminative. Instead, it often adopts a picturesque and observational tone, casting its eye on the music of the spheres without any recourse to human consideration.
Whether you want to take that position as an exercise in object-oriented ontology or simply Saleh mixing some brighter colours into a dark palette, Edge of Solitude is another solid entry in the Alphaxone catalog, and one capable of communicating the massive scope of its subject. Closer “Ocean Grooves” feels vastly longer than its actual run time, with the same tranquil tones rising up and falling away like slow breaths. If the title’s meant to connote a planet’s surface, etched away by long-since vanished bodies of water, it’s a fitting final scene for Edge Of Solitude. Simple yet beautiful monuments to ages no one was alive to experience, discovered eons later.