Laura Luna Castillo uses strategies perfected by ambient music and beatless electronica to create thick slices of slow-moving drama. ‘Isolarios’, her 2014 release for Baba Vanga, wove dense drones in hazy patterns, with waves of flickering electronics unfurling like a foggy winter sunrise. ‘Laminares’ is just as absorbing, but less pristine – due, perhaps, to that fact that many of the cuts here started off as field recordings. But the ruffled, grainy textures also reflect Castillo’s willingness to rub grit in her perfect surfaces, while giving the low-end sufficient room to glower.
The result is a set of wondrous, wide-eyed pulsations that exploit their repeating chord structures and looping, fragmentary melodies to the max, swapping the airless stasis prevalent across the ambient continuum for gradual, massive shifts and seismic undulations.
Castillo’s grasp of dynamics is key to moving ‘Laminares’ out of the synthetic ordinary. The lack of drums means that rhythms are submerged rather than explicit. But they’re always present, whether through looping samples, hypnotic arpeggios or repeating synth mantras, locking together as if they were parts of a vast and mysterious mechanism.
In ‘Nebulae’, glistening whorls of gloop spiral within the hiss of breathy exhalations, as a three-note bass ostinato grumbles in the background. ‘Skafandrem’ sets Tereza Klenorová’s urgent vocal whispers against the soft-edged coo of a church organ, before everything is drowned out in an outbreak of waltzing burbles and slurred proclamations.
The epic ‘Extrasolar’ is both the longest and most rewarding piece here, its layers of gleaming pulsations quivering like a biological robot, simultaneously metallic and alive. Over nearly 11 minutes its juddering, twitching components work themselves into a hypnotic state of slo-motion euphoria, with another one of those gritty basslines shepherding a gaggle of computerised beeps, helicopter thuds and frenetic keyboard stabs onwards, crawling toward some unknown cyborg utopia to be born.