Even without a listen, this is a special album for me already. Ian Handsley was responsible for the second release on The Places Series, with ‘Roke‘, a powerful depiction of its namesake storm off the coast of Japan, reflecting the impact it had on his fragile B&B. This track was a definition on Ian’s talent and since that release i’ve witnessed his library of productions grow, to what is now a full CD release on Gterma.
If Roke was your first introduction into Ian Handsley‘s work then ‘Body of Blue’ will maybe surprise you a little. You could have been forgiven for thinking Ian would become a master-mind of dark, atmospheric ambient, live sound effects and in short, a parallel of someone like Biosphere. I’m sure he still has that side of him locked away somewhere, but Body of Blue is a slightly different upbeat and melodic collection of music.
Artist albums tend to either be one of two things for me; a pre-defined journey of accompanying sounds, or a collection of potentially differing music that defines an artist’s taste. No-one approach is better than the other in my mind. Take John Beltran’s recent ‘Amazing Things‘ – one of my favourite albums this year which spans a perfect horizon of electronic music. Then compare that to Boards of Canada’s latest – an intentional, complex subliminal journey.
On first listen, ‘Body of Blue’ is the former, a collection of some beautiful electronic music that spans atmospheric ambient, to synth-laden euphoria. The title track is a great example of what to expect; a slow, progressive echo of euphoric chords that never quite peaks – an intro that leaves you wanting more.
In ‘Nanmadol’, Ian adopts a silky distant female vocal that brings Balearic elements and subtle drum programming to an otherwise stripped back album. The albums simplicity is defined in Cicadarama – one of my favourites, probably because it hits home with my ‘trance’ routes – epic strings and an addictive looping melody, like ‘Body of Blue’ – another tantalising teaser that deserves to just grow and grow.
On second listen, you start to feel Ian’s inspiration for this collection. The clue is of course in the title track, and when you start to associate this inspiration with the tracks in hand, a vivid depiction of Ian’s view out to coast comes to mind.
Take the Markus Guentner style ‘Shipping’. What starts as a distant fuzz out of sight on the horizon quickly transports into an ever-approaching mass of power. In ‘Contact’, the slow reverberating synths struggle to touch the long-awaited shore and the degrading vocal glimmers with a failed hope of reaching it’s final destination. In ‘Fighting Against Your Lungs’, Ian takes what is normally a view above the horizon, to the depths of the blue – floating, with a drenched atmosphere and glimmers of light through an otherwise muddled unknown.
After explaining how I felt after listening to this a few times, I may have ruined that moment of wonder for you…I hope not. But at first, Body of Blue was for me, a collection of great music, but with the above in mind and my decision made on what Ian wanted to portray with this album, I can’t get enough of it.
Everyone’s perception of music is different, but that’s where most of my inspiration for the title ‘A Strangely Isolated Place’ comes from. Music that transports you to wherever you want to go, with no-one else’s point-of-view to ruin your own. ‘Body of Blue’ embodies this ethos.
Available on enh’s Bandcamp for a very fair price, or you can also purchase the CD with a 16-page booklet here.