Album ReviewsReviews

Lost in the noise


Recently, in a fit of want­ing to clean up some aspects of my life — ergo, my office — I came across a CD-R that I had received some­where at the tail end of 2009. While clean­ing, I put all the promos I could­n’t dir­ectly find MP3 record­ings of on a big pile and added them to the digital col­lec­tion.

I’m pretty sure that for some reason I had never listened to Environs 1 by Home Planet before. I really do listen to prac­tic­ally all promos I get, but some­how this one — and its sis­ter album, a self-titled work by Trans­mis­sion, both made by Steve Lofkin — got lost in the noise. It might have been because I had just gradu­ated from uni­ver­sity and star­ted a new job at a book­store at the time — a few months later I had star­ted doing my Cloud­scapes as an altern­at­ive form of cov­er­age that was less time-con­sum­ing than writ­ing reviews. In the end, it’s a poor excuse. These albums just got away from me.

Finally, then, the MP3s of this album found their way into my big digital “music to check out” folder, and soon enough it came around dur­ing a shuffle. And then I found out that Environs 1 is really nice. (Trans­mis­sion is prob­ably also really nice, but it’s this one I’ve been play­ing a lot and which there­fore gets the focus here.)

It’s a gui­tar-based drone album, though much more of the spacy floaty kind than the heavy one. Three long pieces paint — des­pite the name — pic­tures of alien worlds and land­scapes, with the first two tracks (“Land­ing” and “Orbiter”) bring­ing mys­ter­i­ous and fore­bod­ing tones, though noth­ing out­right men­acing. There are layered loops of gui­tar here, with dif­fer­ent tex­tures and intens­it­ies, but not so many that the music would lose its light­ness.

The final track, “Touch Free In Rain”, is slightly dif­fer­ent: a place of thun­der and rain. Rather than melod­ies and tones, obscure metal­lic scrap­ings and clangs accom­pany the extra­ter­restrial weather. Only about halfway through do the drones return, this time sug­gest­ing some­thing of an alien pres­ence, rather than just a land­scape. The piece is slightly darker, but never oppress­ively so. It’s more the feel­ing of impossib­il­ity of com­mu­nic­a­tion and con­cep­tual dis­tance rather than danger or viol­ence.

All of this makes for fine listen­ing, the kind where you really feel your­self drift­ing to other planes and spaces. It would func­tion as an excel­lent score to games of (calm) space explor­a­tion, I ima­gine.

The funny thing is that upon examin­ing the two promos, I could find no info on them what­so­ever online, nor on their cre­ator, Steven Lofkin. I do hope Even­ing of Light isn’t the only one Steve sent his CDs to, but whatever the case may be, no one seems to have picked them up, nor can I find a page for Steve’s music.

Why then, after over six years, this piece? It’s not that this is a life-chan­ging album — I have a couple of sim­ilar-sound­ing ones on my shelf — but it is good. There’s some­thing tra­gic about the album’s fate, but ulti­mately that fate has been undeserved. I’ve reviewed many worse albums in my time, when my efforts would have been bet­ter spent dig­ging through my old promo pile to fish this one out.

Steve, if you’re read­ing this, sorry for my silence all these years, and thanks for send­ing me your music.

Update: Steve did read this, and you can find the Home Planet album with new titles, cover art, etc. on the Trans­mis­sion Band­camp.