Switched On – Deaf Joe – Love Stories (Church Ceilings)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

When Deaf Joe released his third album Stuck in 2018 he promised a ‘slew of ambient music’. True to his word, the Edinburgh-based Irishman delivers a sequel just over a year later, its eight tracks spanning just over half an hour of music to calm the soul.

What’s the music like?

Ambient but emotive with it. In his own words, Deaf Joe is ‘chasing memories of special places with lovers and loved ones he’ll never forget’. The scenarios include ‘the sound of the ocean roaring on an Icelandic black sand beach (Reynisfjara)…swimming in Copenhagen harbour at the height of summer (Havnegade)…and the sight of a kaleidoscopic sunset over a volcanic lake in the Philippines (Taal Lake).

There is a gentle but insistent thread of deep emotion that runs through the music because of these associations. Taal Lake opens the musical photo album with the purest chord of all, a rich C major wall of sound. As it gets louder the wall starts to oscillate a little, in keeping with ripples on the surface of the water, effects sweeping across the stereo picture.

It is an indication of just how descriptive Deaf Joe can be. Reynisfjara is similarly watery, depicting the waves on the Icelandic beach spoken of above with rhythmic patterns of subtle power, while Ocean Beach revisits the same key as the lake but applies more movement in the form of a quick four to the floor beat.

Not all of the tracks are purely ambient. Cambodian Sirens has quite a shrill treble that is highly effective, especially when the following Phnom Bakheng / Disintegrating In Lowtown returns us to C major and floats timelessly.

Does it all work?

Yes. Deaf Joe is a talented artist whose pictures with sound are descriptive and richly rewarding, giving listeners a gallery of colourful pictures in which to immerse themselves.

Is it recommended?

It is. This is ambient music looking around the world for its inspiration, but bringing its wide canvas together in one stream of sonic invention.