SCQ Rating: 82%
“Ambient” – a genre of music that defies the structure of pop music to arouse contemplation and emotion. Of course, the word “ambient” also preserves journalistic integrity on a daily basis and has gotten me, and I suspect a lot of music critics, out of some tight spots. There’s no need for guilt or denial; with every laptop a virtual home studio these days, who’s to say what every sonic embellishment is composed of and whether said adornment comes courtesy of a traditional instrument, or modern software program?
Peter Kutin’s third release, Ivory, didn’t catch my ear because I knew it was composed almost entirely of guitar – no, I only found that out later. But what drew me to his enigmatic explorations was certainly textural, as if Kutin’s approach to “ambient” leaned less on float-y distraction and more on weighty instrumentation. “White Desert” lays down a hotbed of subtle atmosphere, dotted by treated blurs of guitar, static and what sounds like field recordings from a beach, before introducing a softly descending bass figure that compliments an imagined vista. Alternately “After the Plague” stretches over brittle chords and into an increasingly drone-fed landscape, seemingly losing its form if not its potent emotion. In what I reckon is among the best compliments I can offer, you needn’t even pay attention to Ivory’s song-titles; artistic license aside, a track called “After the Plague” applies as much to its ambient quality as any nonsensical title you could lovingly label it with.
Giving the aforementioned highlights additional presence, Kutin diverts attention by occasionally forging new territory. The classically inspired “Sombre”, which loops a violin piece through smeared orchestral layers and rainy field recordings, keeps Ivory’s approach from stagnating and uncovers some intriguing points of navigation. Patient and immersive, Kutin’s made one of the year’s most self-assured ambient records without abandoning the possibilities of his core instrument.