Ambient music concerns itself with atmosphere. It is more about texture and feeling, rather than about melody and rhythm, leaving the masses to categorise the multitude of this genre’s manifestations as “dreamy music”. However, within ambient there is a lot of room for interpretation, giving rise to different measures of concretisation of subject matter. This ranges from “dreamy music”, which abstracts the subject into its purest atmosphere, to very impressionistic interpretations of enclosed spaces and landscapes that are more accessible, yet less known for some reason.
Intricately enough, “1864” can be interpreted on varying levels of this sliding scale. Moritz Leppers – the main man behind Altars Altars – offers the listener a fine handle to attach his ears to: “I randomly cycled around the city most evenings and tried to make a soundtrack to what I saw,” which is reflected in the song names that comprise of dates indicating a time period of roughly a month, near the end of the summer. Together with the sunny cover art, that strangely enough purveys a beach-feeling (in contrast with the desert it shows) this makes “1864” into a twenty minute experience of sunbathing and bicycle fantasias.
RELEASE DATE: 20 March 2015 LABEL: Found Toys. Creative.
“Most of what you hear is either guitar, a loop effect or the sound of the tape i recorded onto” says Moritz of his record; a surprisingly puritanic set-up for an album that sounds so panoramic. The tape loops are quite audible and they make for a touch of reality on the record. The sound of something physical playing throughout the music is very assuring, and even though “1864” is an ambient record, it is very accessible and it offers the listener enough handles to focus his mind on. What’s also preventing the record from becoming a dizzying experience is the fact that Moritz likes his music guitar-heavy. The tape loops, effects and noisy textures are pervasive throughout the album, yet leading on is his sparkling guitar. The playing is at heart very impressionistic, the parts are melodic and there is a lot of movement going on.
In my mind, “1864” deals with climatology in the first place. “August 23rd (Cycling Through the City)” aptly demonstrates the sunny indie rock spirit that this album is infused with, and these themes are in no way far-fetched, as they are completely in line with the album’s packaging aesthetic. “August 22nd” however, ironically sounds like a downpour, with the bright guitars bringing about the succinct sound of raindrops hitting the ground over wind gusts of white noise.
“1864” is very much a collection of snapshots. The songs are images in their own right, but they start and end very abruptly. They’re not granted the time to tell their story, which all together creates a very volatile experience. “1864” is a very pleasant ride, yet all is vanity, and the sonic bath of sunny noises also comes to an untimely end. Moritz Leppers tickles me with impressions and feelings, but draws away the moment I turn to embrace, leaving me slightly delusional.