With all the complications that surround our existence on a regular basis, sometimes it takes the simplest of situations to understand what really matters… and what our minds are capable of. To that effect, 2015 has, on occasion, brought me into a world of ambient simplicity. With all the ferocity that is contained in the multi-dimensional art we call heavy metal, there is a need for something far more minimalistic from time to time. With all that said, the debut work from IIVII, Colony, is an exploration of the far reaches of our musical awareness, all while keeping things as simple as possible.
IIVII is the solo effort of Joshua Graham, one only started last year, marked with Colony as the debut release. That said, having worked with many bands across genres and being the visionary behind the artwork of Vattnet Viskar’s Settler, it’s a name that many will already recognize. With this project, however, the focus is on ambient soundscapes, a completely stripped down mental journey to the far reaches of our consciousness, all while minimizing the clutter that fills the sonic space around us.
Colony is a collection of seven tracks that have no dividing lines. Between each track there are brief moments of silence that allow a listener to regain their personal thoughts before being swept further into newly discovered limits of our conscious awareness. But there are no distinguished lines. This is a piece you listen to start to finish with zero interruption. From the opening moments of “Signals from Home”, as a listener, you feel as if you’ve awakened into a defined weightlessness deep in our cosmos. Alone, and lost, somewhere deep in our universe, but at peace. The droning tones of this ambiance accompanies you as you soar along in mystery. It’s a modern sound, certainly, but one completely stripped away of all that is unnecessary. Introducing such a minimalist approach to sound, it really is impressive just how far this can take a listener.
It is not easy to combine an environment of unknown blackness with one of blissful curiosity. Even in the potentially more stressful moments of “Transmission Illumine I”, moments that are heavier and darker, it isn’t fear or concern that grips a listener. Instead, it is a feeling of fascinated excitement. And the reason for it is simply the place this album can take a listener mentally. While forcing the obvious insignificance of our existence upon us, is it not a realization that causes any form of discomfort. It is something that allows us to focus in on the mental and emotional self, while all other complications in life fall away gently. And it’s all done with such a simplistic electronic collection of keyboard samplings, cassette loops, among other elements. It builds on itself straight through the closing, meandering tones of “Shaping Itself from Dust”. Yet, it never feels as though there is any true resolution or climax. Instead, we simply fall back into the subconscious state we awoke from in the beginning.
Very rarely can an artist do so much with so little in an effort to create an environment around its listener. Yet, with Colony, the debut album from the IIVII project, Joshua Graham has truly created something memorable. It is ambient electronic droning that guides an audience around the far reaches of our known universe, inciting self-reflection and imagination. It takes patience, as the notes drag on as infinitely as our universe, but it is a perfect supplement to the curiosity behind our own existence that we all have, whether we are aware of it or not. Colony has served as a fantastic departure from everything else that confuses mankind’s place on this planet, and I invite you all to appreciate the respite as much as I have.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”