Unicorn – Playing with light

Housepig Records, never heard of it before. But judging from the quality of this cd by Unicorn, their first release, this is a label to watch. Unicorn is the project of W.T. Nelson, perhaps better known for his activities in Bastard Noise. If you now expect that “Playing with light” is a harsh and noisy occasion, you are wrong. The album title fits the music well, because the seven tracks can in general be described as subtle atmospheric ambient with a moody undertone.

I very much like the first piece, which is also the title track. It has a very dreamy, ethereal atmosphere, with delicate piano touches. ‘Clay and fire’ has a darker mood, with a deep ongoing bass drone and a sampled monologue somewhere in the background about the creation of pottery. The third and very long piece ‘Spots’ is also much to my liking, mostly dominated by a minimal synth/organ improvisation, which gives the track a ‘modern classical’ feel.

Things get denser on the short ‘The sea’, which nicely flowing waves of delicate droning sounds, evoking images of the tide coming in at a lovely beach and being slowly engulfed. The sounds get noisier and out of control on ‘Maho Kyoto’, which high pitched sharp noises which torture your ears. Perhaps fitting as a soundtrack for a violent manga movie. After the short intermezo ‘Rain (but not candy)’, the album is finished by a minimal, tranquil ambient piece called ‘Far away, close to you’, which is as pleasant end to the rewarding “Playing with light”.

By the way, I very much like the stylish packaging. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also three short present in Quicktime-format. They were created by Stephanie Miller and of course accompanied by Unicorn’s music. ‘Clay and fire’ contains images of a pottery maker at work, which form a surprisingly good combination with the dark ambient music, rather hypnotizing. “Playing with light” shows a photographer working with a variety of objects, playing games with light and shadow. ‘The sea’ contains a bit shady pictures of ships in the harbour, with a nostalgic atmosphere. This multimedia content is more than just a nice bonus!

artist: Unicorn
label: Housepig Records
details: december 2004 [hpig-001]