• Thu, Jun 1, 2023

Aria Cluster Gives Patterns Life


album Reviews May 13, 03:15pm

‘Omnipresent’ is proof that ambient music is more than just a bunch of sounds

Aria Cluster is the moniker under which Bhimtal, Uttarakhand’s Sushant Joshi makes electronic music. His credit list includes commercial work, film and a bunch of sound engineering (which is what he is trained in). His album ‘Omnipresent’ is a foray into modular synthesis (of the software kind using VCV rack) and soundscapes; the typically static and machine-like expression of the form can bore many a gratification-craving listener, but Sushant infuses a life into the sound that only a human can provide. As a result, the album contains tunes that require patience. Considering his creative input is more improvised than not, ‘Omnipresent’ has real, tangible feeling.

The sounds used live very much in the world of warm, cozy synths. Many emotions can be attached to them (and the songs here do that), but as far the sonic palate of this album is concerned, it is very much quiet and contemplative for the most part. True to form, these synths loop and swirl around each other; there is something about the arpeggiation and loops here that suggest emotional movement. There is barely any percussion here besides the last few tracks, but the mere repetition of notes and motifs allow the music to have a strong enough pulse. It should also be mentioned that the sounds used are squarely in their comfort zone; there is a low and rumbling foundation on which more ‘leading’ (and that word is used with extreme caution) melodies are built. He uses these more upfront and strident tones to give songs a procedurally generated feel; it’s almost like the software he plugs his ideas into take their own decisions as the elements melt into each other. Though not altogether new, it’s a really interesting approach that a lot of soundtracks, soundscapes and ambient music use. There are pros and cons to everything, of course; you will be hard pressed to find anything to latch onto like a hook or phrase you can fix on throughout the course of a song (or indeed, the whole album), but in a way, that is its intention. The songs here are more meditative in nature and are meant to be listened to as a continuous experience. And that’s where the fun begins.



There isn’t a north star or a guiding light to the songs here, so discussing them as independent pieces is unnecessary. However, the overall experience has a ton of highlights. The opening track ‘Upside Down’ is a rather quiet track with a relatively understated profile. The album has a lot of more introspective moments, and the first third of the album covers that space. ‘Thrawn’ is a more brooding affair with its heaps of low-end and more abstract melodies. This song creates moods that sort of crash into each other, which is an interesting touch. There is nothing that sounds particularly disagreeable with each individual element here, but the whole is more disorienting than the sum of its parts. This sentiment is explored to the full on the noisy, genuinely weird ‘Aria’ (which in itself is followed by the contrastingly tranquil ‘Nine Lives In The Astral Plane’). Here, there are elements that are glitchy and unsettling to the point that when there is a recognizable sequence, it is mired in layers of ambience that make its pulse sort of irrelevant, which is nice touch. The album’s last few tracks have a few more tonal shifts. ‘Percy’ is almost oppressively bright and fast-paced. ‘Sandwatch’ and closer ‘Through The Door’ jump right into nocturnal techno territory with their rounded kicks and slow builds. While this transition into percussive-based sounds might be jarring for some, they will be equally organic for others, as if the mood music of the previous tracks set up a more energetic finish. Either way, one cannot argue that the album flows in a very logical way.

That word ‘logical’ defines ‘Omnipresent’ in a sense. It is built primarily by logic and is controlled by machines. However, it is fair to say that just a human thought is enough for that otherwise mechanical presentation to take on a more organic nature. The sounds and songs here are obviously made by a computer, but it is Sushant’s mind behind it all. It isn’t like this process is foolproof, however; it is quite clear that anyone looking for an instantly entertaining listening experience will find a lot lacking here. There aren’t sounds, phrases or melodies that stick in the mind. There aren’t standout tracks that will stay in the memory long after the album is done. However, maybe that’s not how it is intended to be absorbed. This is an album you live with for its thirty-plus minutes. And if you’re ready to give it that much time, it will reward you.

Listen to 'Omnipresent' here.

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