I first found Lowercase Noises from a bandcamp search for the word ambient. I had just started listening to artists like Chihei Hatakeyama and Loscil and was falling in love with the simple beauty of ambient music. It had more emotion than the Brian Eno and Phillip Glass that I had previously associated with the word and was simpler and quieter than the post rock greats that I listened to. In browsing the large collection of ambient artists on bandcamp, I was drawn to Lowercase Noises because of the album art. It presented a pregnant woman with the name “Marshall” written on her belly and a heart. My wife was pregnant with my son, Mark at the time, so this intrigued me. As I went on to read that this album was inspired by his son, I immediately downloaded it. I loved it. It was simply gorgeous. Ever since that day I have kept my eye on Andy Othling and his music, Lowercase Noises. Tonight, as I checked my email one last time before drifting off to sleep, I noticed an email sent to me from Lowercase Noises announcing the availability of his new EP, Passage. Normally, I would put down my phone, go to sleep, and likely lose the email in a stream of Facebook updates and garbage. But, tonight something compelled me to get up, go up to my office, and check it out. I am very, very happy I did. This album moved me in such a way that instead of leaving the link open for the morning, I am now still awake, listening to Passage on repeat, writing this: my first review.
As the first song, Prevailing Winds starts, I am immediately drawn in. I expected slow building guitar swells, but I am unexpectedly and warmly greeted by banjo, harmonium, and Anathallo-eque drum clicks and hits. Cymbal swells and arpeggiated banjo leads you through the first section of the song, as haunting guitar swells build until it drops into an interlude of guitar and bells. The bells are greeted by the returning banjo. This simple and stunning section could well be an ambient track of its own, and as a listener to ambient music, I expected the song to trail off and end with that. But, to my surprise it the song comes back full force with marching drums and harmonium. This song alone made my night. Expertly crafted, from the composition to the engineering. Songs like Roaring Forties and Passage evoked deep emotions akin to the feeling I had first listening to Sigur Ros’ “Valtari” or anything by Hammock. The brilliant mixture of effects, ambient electronics and natural instruments resonated deep within the musician in me. Beauty Into Wreck, the fourth and penultimate track on the EP is possibly the most beautiful song I have heard since “Untitled 3” off of ( ) by Sigur Ros (One of my all time favorite songs). The floating ambiance, the cries of the guitar. The way it feels like time just ebbs and flows. The subtle and profound chord changes pull you through as you become more enraptured in the swirls of Tenori-like beeps and blips. The moment you get lost in the lush atmosphere created, the deep chords come back and pull you forward. Such profound simplicity that captures you and takes you to a moment of perfect clarity is something much of modern music needs to take from profoundly talented artists like Lowercase Noises. The final track, “A Gold Earring” starts much like the last with slowly building atmosphere and ambient glory. I expected something very similar to the last track, but Andy keeps me on my toes by bringing back the banjo and incorporating claps and percussion. It continues to build, slowly never reaching the rushing climax you expect it to, which only adds to the beauty. I always say the one thing a band can do better than a dramatic build from a quiet moment to a full fortissimo is a dynamic build that never breaks mezzo-forte. Like the end of “What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie, this song never loses steam, but never needs to bash you over the head with a soaring pinnacle of sound. It is in the subtly that I find a deep artistry, and something that inspires me as a musician to remember: Less is More.
This album was more than just good music to me, it was a profoundly impacting experience. It resonated and inspired me as a musician. It was a powerfully good experience that I am very happy to have spent the last hour listening to. On his bandcamp, the notes simply read: This album is about transition. I eagerly await the future of Lowercase Noises as he transitions into something I know is going to continue to impress and amaze me.