Jason Kolb and Jonas Munk have been collaborating both in person and via file sharing from across the Atlantic for over ten years as Billow Observatory. Over those ten years the ambient/minimalist duo have given us a self-titled album in 2012, II: Plains/Patterns in 2017, and now on February 8th Billow Observatory release their their third album, the minimal yet lush III: Chroma/Countour. As with their previous releases, Jason and Jonas create a world of soft edges and hazy horizons, giving the feeling of floating above the proceedings of the day. Part ambient, part new age, and all ethereal moods, Billow Observatory want to lull you into a space of enlightenment, or at least give you a sense of peace as the world crumbles around us.
II: Plains/Patterns was one of my favorite albums of 2017, and it was also my first real taste of Billow Observatory. Listening to their debut compared to their sophomore effort you could hear how light was let into the room, so to speak. Where their first record was vast and expansive, like a long sigh in the darkness of space, Billow Observatory decided to pull the blinds and let some morning rays into the proceedings.
On the lead single for album three, III: Chroma/Contour, that trend continues. “Iris” opens on delicate notes from a keyboard that seem to ring for eternity. The sound of Billow Observatory has gone from ambient and textural to something more in line with post-rock, or ethereal pop. “Iris” rings like Sigur Ros intertwining with The Besnard Lakes. It’s still minimal, but much is said and received in such a sparse back and forth. It’s like cosmic telekinesis. Thoughts and emotions shared through space via some unspoken communication. I guess similar to Kolb and Munk sharing files and ideas via the web in order to create an album.
According to Azure Vista Records:
Much of the album plays out as a study in minimalism: the texture and colour of each sound is being explored in miniscule detail, with enough space in the soundfield to allow each sonic constituent to breathe fully. There’s a conceptual dimension to several tracks on the album, with
guitars, analog synths and voices being mangled by samplers, computer software and a broken dictaphone into pure abstraction. But simultaneously there’s a melodic undercurrent, revealing a deeply emotional aspect of the music.
Check out “Iris” below.