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.