Fog Net – Headlands (Bathysphere) review

Headlands – the first full-length Fog Net, a new collaboration Bathysphere Records co-founder Justin Longerbeam and Niko Ramsdell, is ambient in every sense of the word.

It’s ambient in the sense of referring to a particular place – in this case Albion, California. It’s ambient in the sense of working as background listening, a modern take on New Age meditation music that is still engaging enough to hold your attention rapt when you focus on its nine sprawling synth-laden soundscapes. Last but not least, it’s ambient as in Selected Ambient Works, recalling trancy, meditative early ’90s electronic music like you’d find on FAX +49-69/450464 – lush and peaceful chillout room fare, usually without a beat.

Headlands was recorded over the span of three days at Ramsdell’s home studio in Albion, California, building a set of guided improvisations around field recordings collected from around the studio like neon barnacles. Melodic modular synth and electronic textures take turns sharing centerstage with subtle field recordings of delicate crystalline streams and the distant sound of surf. This gives Headlands the sensation of piercing some TV screen like a prismatic bubble to wander around some documentary from the year 2000, perhaps about some indoor wave pool, like some kind of Vaporwave Pleasantville.

The electronic bits sound somewhere between lush ’70s progressive electronics, like early Tangerine Dream, Cluster, or instrumental Pink Floyd, mixed with early New Age music. It’s a superb example of all of the above, though, as it makes the most of modern equipment and recording techniques. The pair’s arsenal of DSI Prophet ’08, Roland Juno 106, Arturia Keystep 37, Source Audio Collider – courtesy of Longerbeam – and Elektron Analog 4, Elektron Digitakt, Moog Sub37 from Ramsdell sound downright luxurious, glistening like polished obsidian one moment, pulsing like the world’s most somnolent Jacob’s Ladder the next. It’s a lovely, transportive journey through a singular landscape you’ll want to take again and again. It’s also a lovely introduction to a pair of long-term collaborators finally weaving their magic for the wider world.

Headlands is available on cassette tape (not for very much longer though!) and as a digital download from Bathysphere Records.

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