French composer Antan released his debut album "Yore" on the 26th of September, 2020. Dear Prog Loop reader, if you will take only one "listen with headphones" warning seriously in your lifetime, please let this be the one. Antan's focus on creating a rich atmosphere is over the top, rendering "Yore" a cinematic record. Listening to it is an audio experience that attacks your aural vision from every position. It is hard to pinpoint each individual sound, but collectively, they form an irreproducible nostalgic and melancholic feeling. Indeed, as a word, "Yore" means "the far past." Most of the music consists of a minimalistic combination of instruments, original sounds, and quotes from other famous soundscapes (one such quote is from legendary soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause). Some of the music, like N-Sphere, is based on improvisation, which may seem odd for such a precisely crafted record. Antan says that "everything can take us back to the past, can be related to a memory: a smell, a person, a noise, a word, a music," and "Yore" seems like the perfect manifestation of this philosophy.
1. Dwelling on Memories (2:29)
The melancholic and captivating universe of Antan emanates through our ears from the very first track. A synth glide slowly building up before the entrance of the guitar even sounds like the big bang of this universe. You can even hear the pressure of his fingers on the fretboard, which makes this opening more sincere. But the real emotions hit with the concise yet effective ornaments of a reverbed piano that takes you to the cavern of yesterday, making us all refugees of the past, dwelling in the memories. Indeed, the track's sincerity isn't just for us to create a bond with it, but also offers us a chance to reflect on our own lives and to create a deeper bond with ourselves. This may be the power of Antan's music and what he should develop even further.
The track is minimalistic, perhaps a reference to the simplicity of the past, yet this also makes the listener concentrate on the smallest details. The sound of children's laughter is one of those that makes the track more tied to the ground. It would be interesting to see Antan experiment with more classical influences or tonality in general because the atmosphere and the effect are the end-result, and what will separate him is the uniqueness of the emotions the music makes us feel.
2. Deep (4:23)
Facing a seashore on a cozy rainy day, the entering piano sounds as if it is a part of the whole natural occurrence. These well-mixed sounds take you to places, wondering and wandering. Steven Wilson once stated that Pink Floyd's success came from the focus they put on the atmospheric aspect of their sounds. And apparently, it was essential to all of the famous and celebrated artists of the genre. Well intentionally or not, Antan has taken this idea and set it as its own philosophy and musical statement. His music did not come from the conventional way of music-making. He wanted to explore something more atmospheric, something more "Deep".
It is interesting to see how the bands evolved and explored these atmospheric possibilities in the music-making. The track was an instant reminder of Radiohead's "Daydreaming", one of the most successful tracks that embrace this idea. Antan's composition takes on the subject from a different perspective, where it is closer to a natural feel than a song. The whole layer explores and mixes different elements of nature and music production, where the end result just focuses on the feeling — not a specific intention on a technicality. This album may not be for everyone, but there is a strong audience looking for music that directly comes from the heart. I believe this is his musical statement.
3. N-Sphere (8:22)
As the second song ends, the sound of a closing door can be heard, and this sound carries the listener to the longest song of the album, N-Sphere. After the closing of the door, the muffled and distant sound coming from the synthesizer creates a dreamy atmosphere – so does exactly what Antan had intended to do with this album. This repeating sound disappears and reappears throughout the song, and at the 40 second mark, a guitar enters and slowly becomes more and more audible. Because this song is a live improvisation session, it's really nice to see how the synthesizer and guitar fit together without disturbing the tone of the song while also remaining natural and unforced, although more creative and different sounds could have also been added to these first couple of minutes.
In the second minute of the album, a second guitar is added to the song, and sounds from a second synthesizer can also be heard. Layering all these instruments on top of each other and then slowly bringing the muffled sound into the foreground, Antan builds up to the solos of the two guitars, which happen coincidentally. This layering may symbolize the many constituents of the universe that come together to form the bigger picture, as Antan quotes "a body, a community, a planet, a universe, N-Sphere." This part of the song is also when the listener can really get a sense of improvisation, as it sounds much more creative and spontaneous than the first three and a half minutes of the song.
When the song draws to a close, the guitar is left by itself, and the simple yet effective chord progression really creates a contemplative and emotional atmosphere. Antan is quite skilled when it comes to detecting and converting emotions into songs, but a possible feedback could be to make more variations in the sounds throughout the song.
4. The Cemetery of Extinct Species (5:03)
As Antan puts it, "The Cemetery of Extinct Species is an ode to extinction... before ours?" Although there are no lyrics, the thoughtful and philosophical side of his music stems from the provocative questions and themes that manifest themselves in the album. The sounds of waves, wind, and birds carry you to this untouched land, especially changing the panning of the sounds is what makes it so effective. Composed from soundscapes recorded by the naturalist Bernie Krause (an expert in the sound of nature), the track gives us a glimpse of the previous five extinctions from a metaphorical cemetery for the extinct species. It is hard not to feel as interrupters of when nature takes its toll, with the grandiose church organ playing a funèbre chord progression. Overall, the track achieves the atmosphere it wants to create but relies too much on the sound effects to show us what it could've shown more musically. The ending can be more of a buildup with the existing instruments adding small details and more instruments filling the remaining space, symbolizing the species that come into existence over time, but resolving to a quick and abrupt end, symbolizing the rapid decrease of diversity caused by mass extinctions.
5. Yore (4:12)
While every track explores a similar approach to musical philosophy, the way Antan executes each song differs from each other. Opening with a one-note piano loop, Antan continuously adds chords and swelling guitar melodies on top of it. Maybe it was a representation of where he came from and what this whole album means, considering this track having the title of "Yore" and also being the closer of the album. This may be a salute to his past that he misses or hates, we can only know that Antan has a strong emotional connection with what he left behind.
The organ and droning synthesizers are slowly added to the 2 chord progression, creating a stronger sense of coherence and completeness. It would be nice to hear more of the spaceship-like sound throughout the song and let the music be more hitting and climactic. But apparently, he wasn't going for that kind of a finale; Antan slowly took the instruments off, just the way he introduced them all. This creates a bigger opportunity for us to comprehend and further analyze his intentions behind certain dynamic decisions he made, but the infinite possibilities can only show how Antan was achieving what he tried to: Creating a river of endless emotion.