Some people say you can’t have too much of a good thing and, while that’s generally a load of hogwash, it might be true when it comes to Panabrite records because Norm Chambers has had a damn good 2012 thus far. The excellent Sub-Aquatic Meditation LP appeared on Aguirre around the same time as Soft Terminal on Digitalis back in March. Those albums made clear the Panabrite vision; soft textures, melodic synth lines and often minimal, pulsing tones. So far, so American synth revival. Chambers’ music has a unique charm though, something effusive and confident, an attention to detail that is always rewarding for the listener. This is no loop soup, rather Panabrite tracks are exercises in patient, minimal composition. Now Chambers’ third LP of 2012, Illumination, has landed on British label, Under The Spire.
Illumination doesn’t break hugely from the precedent set by the last two LPs, but you could hardly expect it to be massively different. When you’re on a streak this solid, why mess with it? This album continues to explore the synthesized world of Chambers’ imagination, more minimal and less New Age-y than Soft Terminal, brighter than Sub-Aquatic Meditation. It feels natural, environmental almost, in parts. The sounds are synthesized but they feel like birds or wind or that open nature atmosphere you can’t quite put your finger on.
Side A slowly emerges from the underwater feel of ‘Cirrus‘ into a bright and breezy exploration of modular tones. ‘Equinox‘ is almost a pop song, ‘Artery‘ is pulsing static beauty, ‘Moongate‘ an exploratory epic. It’s beautiful and assured, pleasant but rich in detail. ‘Moss Port‘ on Side B throws vocoded vocals and withering high sawtooth melodies into the mix, foregrounding the electronic roots of everything we’re hearing. ‘Station‘ pushes the two together again, clusters of synthesized tones mutating and building, falling apart and building again. Melody emerges from madness and fades back into the depths.
Overall, this is what we’ve come to expect from a Panabrite release. Top quality ambient synth music, perfect for background music or deep listening. It’s slighter in it’s form than his last few releases, adding a wispy ethereal feel to certain passages. With three LPs in 2012, we’ve been able to see Panabrite from a slightly different angle, and Illumination simply adds another layer of welcome perspective. A little more detail, a little more colour and a greater idea of the whole picture.