Switched On – Blank Gloss: Cornered (Kompakt)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is the third album from Sacramento duo Blank Gloss, following up their Melt debut from February 2021 – which made a strong impression on Arcana around its release.

For this record, Morgan Fox (piano and synthesizers) and Patrick Hills (guitar) united for just two days at the studio in Sacramento in December 2020. During the sessions the music came together quickly, Hills benefiting from the use of a MIDI pick-up on his guitar that gave it a darker sound.

What’s the music like?

There is a sparseness to the music of Blank Gloss this time, stripping their music back to the bare elements while looking to still paint pictures of the great outdoors. In many respects the cover encapsulates this approach, replacing the dusky orange cloud of Melt with a black and white image, a single tree in a field. The tree represents some of the inner detail Fox and Hills bring to their music, while the listener can almost feel the wind in the long grass around.

To start with, the duo take their listeners and place them once again in a huge space under a starry sky, the reverberant guitar track of Sender replicating the ‘ambient Americana’ of the previous album. Yet this time there is a sense of unease, perhaps reflecting the lockdown conditions under which the recording may well have taken place. The piano for Dusted has a distracted thought pattern, reflecting nagging pulses and signals from outer sources.

By contrast the extended No Appetite, though reserved in mood, has a soothing and sustained set of chords in which the listener can float, and Salt is similarly static. On The Ground pans right out to take in solemn piano threads and ambient outdoor noises, while Soda Lake bubbles under the surface, its positive energy just held in check.

Dressed Alike finishes the album with a warm glow.

Does it all work?

Yes. The less is more approach works really well, giving opportunity for the listener to place their thoughts. The colours given to the piano and guitar are carefully managed and beautifully achieved, with a damper often applied to the keyboard to soften the attack.

Is it recommended?

Yes – a strong complement to Melt, but a sign that Blank Gloss are moving on in their thought patterns and musical phrasing. Cornered feels like a wholly appropriate response to the troubles of the world, and while sombre in mood it offers ample consolation for darker times.



Switched On: Blank Gloss: Melt (Kompakt)


reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Sacramento duo Blank Gloss met through a shared love of punk and experimental music, but their output is the polar opposite – a blissful musical ambience which has drawn the attention of Kompakt. Their track Of A Vessel was used on the Cologne label’s Pop Ambient 2021 compilation, and it features towards the end of Melt, their debut album.

What’s the music like?

Weightless and blissful, but also subtly animated. At no point does Melt feel like musical wallpaper – instead, it takes the listener outside and places them under the stars of the night sky. It is easy to imagine a wide open vista with the music they make, the scene immediately set from the first track Those Who PlantOf A Vessel makes the same understated and soothing impression as it did first time around, but sounds even better in this context.

There are some nice guitar fragments on Virga, and on Speaking Quietly too, where a dialogue emerges between soft piano and a thoughtful line on steel guitar. Almost Home shimmers in the half light, before Stained Glass reaches the album’s restful destination.

Does it all work?

Yes. If you liked Of A Vessel then you will certainly enjoy Melt, with its very gradual and enjoyable twists and turns. Blank Gloss never restrict themselves to one formula or musical language, and the subtle inventiveness at work here keeps the music in the foreground.

Is it recommended?

It is indeed. If you are in any way acquainted with the output of Kompakt’s ambient stable, you will be glad to know that Blank Gloss have seamlessly become a part of it. Melt is a soft-hued antidote to the pace and stress of modern life.

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