Branded by Constellations

Branded by Con­stel­la­tions is min­im­alist, an ode to lives spent away from home, that of sailors and fish­ermen. It’s cold and des­olate, sure, but as with many darker ambient works, that’s the point. The idea is to go on a musical excur­sion, to wit­ness harsh land­scapes and weather, an inter­pret­a­tion of pieces of a life most of us don’t live.

David Colohan and Richard Moult are no strangers, not to me, and not to each other. They’ve col­lab­or­ated before, on Agit­ated Radio Pilot tracks, once as a duo on Hexameron, and often as part of United Bible Studies. Here, they offer some­thing of a split album, although the two clearly settled on a shared vision, stop­ping just short of actu­ally working on each other’s con­tri­bu­tions.

The excur­sionary approach is echoed strongly in the pack­aging, cared for by Fluid Audio. Lovely-smelling matte prints of old naut­ical scenes take up most of the envelope the album comes in, and we’re drawn to the inter­ac­tion with land and land­scape by survey maps and angler’s instruc­tions.

Side Colohan — “As The Stars Change Places With The Falling Snow” — is a calm sea, floating accor­dion and auto­harp notes, subtle analog synths, snatches of waves gently crashing and radio voices. It would fit in with some of the best ambient works from earlier Agit­ated Radio Pilot albums, but is not out of place among Colohan’s more recent work as Raising Holy Sparks either.

Side Moult — “A Moor­land Shrine / The God Of Dis­ap­pear­ances” — is slightly darker, stem­ming from the side of his work that takes its clas­sical base material (piano and strings) and dis­torts it into some­thing primal. Here we really feel the sound/water wave ana­logy col­lapse back into itself, espe­cially near the end where the piano tones stretch, col­lide, ebb, and flow.

It’s also an ode to the Atlantic, not a place, but a body that fea­tures heavily in the works of both artists. And while I know there are plenty of sunny days to be had on its shores, this album reminds us that the ocean is a fickle entity, where warmth and fresh­ness may give way to brooding dark­ness and violent rage.