Angelo Harmsworth – Blush


(Phinery, 2016)

I got into drone and ambient music for one main reason: I’m a sucker for science fiction and music that makes me think about science fiction. I love the laser synths, layered to oblivion, representing interstellar travel, supernovae, wormholes, alternate universes, galaxies, Other Earths, and all manner of space stuff in between. I like how it allows me to contemplate existential questions and drift in the unknowability of it all. I like how it makes me feel small and insignificant.

But I overlooked something along the way, because there’s more to ambient and drone music than that. There’s an innate humanness there if I just stopped looking at the sky and turned inward – which is sort of what I do anyway, but instead of contemplating ideas like the “soul” and our place in the universe, certainly human questions, I missed that there’s some great commentary on our relationship to one another. Santa Fe–based sound artist Angelo Harmsworth gets to that level of contemplative music on Blush. (And before we get too far, let it be known that this lovely slab of wax is Belgian tape label Phinery’s first foray into the LP game. Bra-freaking-vo, Phinery, brilliant work.)

That’s right, Blush is truly a rush of blood to the head, a celebration of big time sensuality … and an aural manifestation of pheromones blanketing the atmosphere, to use a descriptor that doesn’t recall another artist’s music. It’s a deep breath, an anticipatory gulp of air in the tingling moment before deep, secret connection. It’s a euphoric blast, crystalline and overwhelming but intensely natural. Harmsworth is able to stretch these split seconds of revelation to almost interminable minutes, prodigious slabs of pure time that can be scrutinized for every last fleck of human emotion and response contained within.

“Blossom” is split into three parts on the A-side, and “Perfume” forms a triptych on B, each suite suggesting massive sensory stimulus. The tracks are heady and hazy, blanketing their environments. They’re synaesthetic representations, in that they enter the body through the ear but register in the nose and on the palate – exactly like the pheromones suggested above. The entire experience is rendered visibly on the album cover where a female, midway through removing her shirt, is revealed in almost a clandestine way, barely concealed in the intimate setting. There’s an immediate reaction, helped by the soft colors and backdrop, of familiarity and comfort, through which one can project a partner. There’s safety here in Blush, but also a sense of adventure. As such, the whole of the record – the sounds, the synaesthetic smells, the visual elements – works together, unifying itself to a singular vision.

Blush is in my head. I don’t see it, I don’t project it, I experience it within myself. It’s not space music, and it doesn’t have to be – maybe Angelo Harmsworth has a song cycle about Saturn kicking around in his hard drive or something, but for now we’re Earthbound and interacting, and that’s just as important. And I can’t shake the feeling that Blush is going to turn out to be drone music’s Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream – I shudder to think of my now-five-year-old-son finding this while browsing my LP shelf in a few years. Maybe I’ll have done my job as a parent, educating him on excellent music, and he won’t care about the visuals, instead electing to just slap on that wax and press play. …God, I could have phrased that better.


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