Switched On: John Sellekaers: Observer Effect (Glacial Movements)

john-sellekaers

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Observer Effect is an album fed by history, countless stories and books’, reports John Sellekaers. The Brussels-based musician, who also works in other art forms as an engineer, photographer and designer, is approaching this album through the view of a pioneer explorer. He is imagining the experience of visiting a new region for the first time in history, pondering how his arrival in an undiscovered area changes the previously unseen habitat – and exploring the effect it has on him. Given Glacial Movements‘ musical history the points of reference that come to mind are the North and South poles, and the remote areas on their approach – or even another planet entirely.

What’s the music like?

Observer Effect starts like an extended tidal system. Big, single chords ebb and flow with a reassuring regularity. Occasionally a less certain sound imposes on the cycle but generally the outlook is one of vast ambience. Slowly the landscape passes by, the listener seemingly positioned on a slow moving method of transport with the scope to take in wide vistas. Gradually the scenes change over time, but occasionally a darker side is revealed, as though the introduction of man-made elements is threatening the natural change.

A thicker treble pitch makes itself known at the start of On The Trail, an intense and sustained note, and as this track evolves a more distorted sound, like a long guitar note, creeps into the consciousness. After this burst of intensity, a dense blanket of sound descends for Shelter, which takes on more definitive brush strokes. In The Lightest Night takes on eerie harmonies and a strong current of uncertainty, heightened by the displaced harmonies of Optical Haze Pt. 1, which plays with the listener’s perspective, especially on headphones, before charting a much deeper course towards the end.

Parasomnia creaks as though under stress from something, before the substantial Water Sky takes a repeated phrase of one note and runs with it, the tidal system returning to the listener’s consciousness. Finally Optical Haze Pt. 2 offers a calmer scene and ultimately rest.

Does it all work?

It does – and is most effective when listened to as a whole. Sellekaer’s music is unusual, for it manages to imply melodies while using very few notes, and emotions are portrayed through texture just as much as harmony. It is coldly effective, difficult to always relate to on a human level but compelling all the same.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Observer Effect proves a worthy addition to the Glacial Movements canon of immersive ambience, telling a powerful story in its relatively few notes. Fans of the label need not hesitate.

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