Switched On – CoastalDives: Next Light (Data Airlines)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Next Light has a deeply personal resonance for CoastalDives, the pseudonym under which Ohio’s Casey J Cooper operates.

His father had to undergo emergency brain surgery around the time of his 75th birthday, and Cooper wrote wanted to create an ambient work to transport the listener to another place. He does this with the help of field recordings from St. Joseph Cathedral in his home city of Columbus. Placed at the beginning and end of the album, these give an idea of the space in which Cooper will operate, and the natural noise of people coming and going gives a communal feel to proceedings before the music itself gets underway.

What’s the music like?

Consoling. Using analogue synthesizers only, Cooper achieves his aim through music of elegance and poise. The grandeur of the cathedral is immediately evident on Dark Spots, where hints of Vangelis and Angelo Badalamenti can be heard as the stately chord progressions move slowly on their way. Splitter has more movement, taking on the profile of softly ringing bells as crossrhythms are worked in.

The title track is solemn and lost in thought but with an underlying strength, suggesting the power of recovery, while Rewire builds up thick textures, a powerful swell of sound. 75 eases a little, still suggesting the slow progress of an object, while Black Pearls has a majestic profile and an analogue timbre harking back to Jean Michel Jarre. Finally Reservoir has lovely mellow tones, a suitable epilogue arriving at a settled place, the
preceding music having done its job.

Does it all work?

It does. Listening to this when even slightly under the weather has a calming yet strongly uplifting effect, the writing acknowledging nervous tension and anxiety but presenting a clear way forward and out at the end.

Is it recommended?

It is, for all the reasons above – and for the fact that First Light has some very fine writing for keyboard that brings some of the greats of the instrument to the surface. CoastalDives has achieved his aim of strength and resolution from hardship, with plenty to spare.

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