Spectra by Tom Hall

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The latest out on French indie label Elli Records is from Australian Tom Hall, an a/v artist living in Los Angeles. Spectra took two years to record (2015-17) and is released (CD, Cassette, Digital) on June 5th. If you like the Stranger Things theme song, this is in that sci-fi synth soundtrack universe with a twist of late 70’s b-movie. The high tones on Vail 1123581321 are thematic, like a rover has been sent from the central ship to capture images of signs of life. Hall also shot the cover image which could be a sundog, rainbow or something as ominous as an imminent planet collision.

On Ebb a warped harmony recalls a hollowed out engine, with a minor bit of pitter-patter percussion appearing and receding. This is where the record starts to become more interesting and strange. There are ambient effects and scattered acoustic particles, but Remains is just that at just over two minutes, an incidental break in mood. From the release we learn from the artist’s preparation in making the album: “Merging a daily practice of experimentation, the research on polyrhythms and syncopation, and the use of mathematical formulas connected with our world, Tom creates a vast environmental based music.” The depth of bass chords is such as study in the dark spots of Flow and into Está Destin, a progressive pop song, broken down into simple scales and complex layers that fuse twee synths into a washed out drone.

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The artist who has been recording since 2007 has managed to fuse a live sound with some experimentation throughout Spectra. There are moments of dark atmospherics but they are fleeting in light of his quirky higher key pitch and playful layering of swirling theme park dramatics as heard on Intersect and back to opener, One Fell Swoop. Though Hall’s rendering of the epic ending, Last Retreat, once again shifts the mood a few octaves downward. Here there is an essence of Philip Glass in the air, a repetitive cycle with bonus tonal scales offering a sudden bout of the mercurial to the mix. A signal is rebroadcast like a warning over a slow freeform worn out set of stretched chords that go endlessly from dark to light, and howl away. The ending is breathless.

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