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Rain 2

Rain 2
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Can you record the sound of an earthworm for use in an Ambient track? Or in a much more serious manner: snowfall? Turns out that the latter is possible
after all, albeit in semi-liquid form, and Scott Lawlor is the man to prove it in his second installation of C. P. McDill‘s Webbed Hand Records’ Rain series
which invites artists to create tracks in, about and around one of the most common of all natural phenomena, occidentally speaking. Available for free
the label’s website,
Rain 2 (aka Winter Rain) is a long-form piece of 60 minutes and not the best artifact to be included in AmbientExotica’s annual Winter Ambient Review Cycle
when you just look at the track title itself, since, you know, it is so keen about the liquid, non-crystalline aggregate state. Okay, I could come up with
a bad joke by stating that there have been reports of people who experienced rain during winter – gasp! – but in all honesty, rain is still not the most
archetypical link to the season one would hope, let alone the most romantic or exalting. However, iciness and snow are in Lawlor’s composition alright,
occurring in the shapes of incandescent fractals, icicles and said field recording which was recorded with the help of a smartphone over Christmas 2012,
resembling a kind of surreal tape hiss that is almost transcendent. Since this piece is called Rain 2, one can expect a certain ground level of warmth,
or else it would not be physically possible to rain, and this kind of warmth is emitted by an interesting mixture of surfaces, moods… and lacks thereof.

The gateway to Rain 2 is shrouded in mystery, so much is clear. Regardless of whether one laughs this oxymoron away – a clear mystery? – or finds it stylistically
appalling, it poignantly describes the simultaneity or duality of Scott Lawlor’s long-form piece, especially so the first minutes when anything is comprehensive.
Take, for instance, the initial kick-off: dark as a didgeridoo are the New Age-oid synth coils traversing through the grainy haziness of the vaulted antrum.
The large amount and longevity of that whitewashed, fizzling tape hiss has been heard innumerable before, true, but it works particularly well here, at
least aesthetically so, for it lies like a superimposed veil over the blurry, sternly reverberated and muffled semi-brazen mélange. There are many Ambient
musicians who would have fathomed the interdependence between sound, sustain and silence unperturbed, but the grizzly filter of snowfall prevents utter
silence from becoming reality. It also prevents a second antagonistic force: pitch-black darkness.

Much has been written about darkness in Ambient music, not just in the frequented fields of, well, Dark Ambient or Hauntology, but also by pinpointing
it as a plasticity-extending stratum in ethereal works. Even if it is just a feisty bass runlet that underpins the vigorous radiance of a seraphic formation
of pads, it eventually injects oomph via darkness. Rain 2 works differently in that Scott Lawlor embraces the interstitial cusps and apexes in which the
hazy bass drones and low frequency adjuvants meet the soundless kind of darkness. Notwithstanding the omnipresence of the quasi-illumining veil of hiss,
the progressive composition lets their entanglement unfold freely, resulting in a surprisingly soothing and mild murkiness that demands more of the speakers
or headphones than it challenges the listening subject. The shapeshifting gestalt of the drones flows organically and causes alatoric variety. It is as
if one sees a mephitic yet nonhazardous cloudlet diffuse before the inner eye.

Up to this point, I have not used adjectives or descriptions carrying the concept of coldness, a strange omission considering that this work is part of
my Winter Ambient Review Cycle. Indeed, the dun-colored but vitreous didgeridoo-like synth movements are comparably tame. However, a stronger translucency
and iciness is naturally about to happen. The first instance is appearing around the mark of 13 minutes: a protrusion of comparably piercing beams of light
appears out of nowhere, towering ever-gently above the cavernous cove. It is by no means a revelation, let alone an unwanted intruder which turns the endemic
rules upside down, but it is notable, a first ice shard of the things to come. After this short event, everything turns back to normal, but Lawlor prepares
another embroidered vignette that launches after 21 minutes. Polyphonic synth flumes – best compared to 70’s synth choirs – are reigning (raining?) and
sport the crystalline fractals that were heretofore amiss. And since I have mentioned flumes: deluges of water take over most of Lawlor’s arrangement later
on, ostracizing the formerly ever-present synth-based spheroidal helixes and only leaving room for malevolently opaque low frequency cloudlets. Pouring
rain and a mephitic thundering echo are intertwined. The result, finally, is a curious tranquility, one that is frightening yet soothing at the same time,
harkening back to the anodyne appeal of rain that is watched in an encapsulated state of shelter.

Light, meanwhile, does not necessarily equal coldness. In fact, it rarely ever does, but in the case of Rain 2, it can make for a rather astute and thus
verified simile. Throughout the piece, it is not as incisive or glacial as it could have been, the reason being found in the gently wafting concoction
of said darkness. Oddly enough – but not overly odd if you read a few of my winter-related reviews – these dark zoetropic streams spawn warmth. Needless
to say (but still stated), the western perception of winter predominantly consists of negative terms. With each additional layer of clothing, weariness
increases. In Ambient though, each additional layer of textures augments and bolsters the thickness, usually an applaudable state, depending on the genre
and interpretation of minimalism. Rain 2 sports a handpicked, cautiously chosen set of ubiquitous textures, and it is this trustworthy consistency which
further interpolates the feeling of being enshrined in a shelter. And besides, as brought up in the opening paragraph: this is a piece about rain, not
snow, although the constant haze is based on the very snowfall that has been recorded by the artist.

Rain 2 aka Winter Rain is all about the simultaneity of coldness and the familiar perception of snugness. No matter how aloof and enigmatic the didgeridoo-like
structures or their gloomy afterglow may be, their delicately enmeshed fibers become a controlled flurry of blurred sinews. Together with the golden thread
of recorded snowfall in the shape of pristine yet hazy faux-tape hiss as well as the glowing monoliths of cold light and ice, Scott Lawlor’s second installment
takes the water-soaked concept to the coldest of all seasons. The stringency of the 60+ minutes track is remarkable and ultimately applicable for meditation
or desk-related tasks, although I have to admit that I am only familiar – yet overly so – with the latter habitual procession. Rain 2 is a soothing affair,
and I have to keep telling that myself over and over again, for this should not be the case by the look of things: the predominantly shady, abyssal bass
braiding, the Native spirits and specters of the didgeridoo, the sizzling rivulet of rain drops and the increasingly hymnic and well-backed choir-evoking
synth coruscations before the unperturbed apotheosis are abstract and distant, but evoke and produce thermal heat and a certain degree of mellifluousness
in unison. As is always the case with longer pieces, it does not take a skilled listener rather than a devoted one to fully digest it, for Lawlor takes
Ambient back to the stage many people still think it belongs to: a non-intrusive, gently meandering backdrop that ennobles one’s phase of contemplation
and productive pondering. Since it does not impose elysian euphonies on the listener, he or she can – and probably will – let loose of the unfolding of
events from time to time. In the end, Rain 2 carries you home, and safely so, albeit with specks of frostiness and a wintry aura.

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I am an ambient artist who composes in many sub-genres such as dark and light ambient, solo piano, cosmic drone, avant-garde and noise music both as a solo artist and as a collaborating partner. My music is created with intentionality, creating a sonic space for the unfolding of personal stories as well as exploration of spiritual and cultural themes which profoundly influence our society.

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Scott Lawlor - Rain 2