The opening and title track "Ataraxia" by artist Ambienteer ascends from a quiet drone to an ethereal hum of sound that overwhelms and elevates the listener. A prominently displayed treble is beautifully underscored by ululating midlevel sounds and a subtle but beautiful basso reminiscent of African chants; together, the pieces float together to form and- re-form discords and resolutions. At over 11 minutes long, this first track sets a perfect tone for what's to come with the rest of the album: subtle charms and darkness that intermingles with lucidity.
With a light rap of sound, the artist snaps the listener out of that floating reverie and into the second track, "Augment", which introduces light, jangling percussive elements and a slowly creeping movement that never goes into the directions that a listener might expect. "Shiftless" descends back down, submerging the audience in a murky array of thoughts. Although the track has few distinct elements, the piece feels unfathomable and pensive.
In a phenomenal moment (my personal favorite), Ambienteer deftly moves his audience into an arrangement reminiscent of a cathedral hymn-- big, organ-like sounds plod steadily to collide with electronic bells and bring a shiver down the spine in "Reclamation." The artist suspends his sounds, allowing them to grow and assume their place, rather than pulling them away from the listener's perspective too quickly to be digested.
Then, with only a slight pause, the album takes a noticeable shift: a mechanical windup sound brings in the aptly-titled track "Music Box". Thankfully, Ambienteer avoids parroting the shrillness of a true music box by interweaving the light chimes that one would expect with a propeller-like synth and the recurring rasp of the wind-up mechanism.
"Barium Falling" marks a return to the drifting drones and uneasy resonance, and "Murmuris" continues where it leaves off, and pulls with it sorrowful, almost fugue-like chords punctuated by jarring, wintery field recordings and a persistent, eerie sound of wind.
The final piece, "En Coeur En Hiver", is a befitting and beautiful end to this richly dark album. It's uplifting and nostalgic, but its deep drones and static compete so that the listener is gently forced to stay grounded, neither sinking nor floating. Instead, the listener is acquainted with the sound of a heartbeat, and a sense of sleepy, begrudging renewal of alertness to the less ethereal world outside.
All in all: this album will make you want to pause, rewind, and re-listen to its subtle messages and exquisite moments. This is definitely another album that demands an in-depth listen; it's not for the pop-hearted or the easily bored, and it may make those in cold places wish to crawl back into bed. But for those who wish to have a love affair with a very lightly structured and richly paletted soundscape (and maybe bliss out to their music visualizers for a time), this offering is sure to more than satisfy.