Ambient music is no stranger to the concept album, many records across the many ambient subgenera have worked with a unified focus from start to finish and a number of different inspirations have been used. From the very beginning with Brian Eno’s ‘Music for Airports’, through The Orb’s space exploration in ‘The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld’ and the more grounded journey represented in The KLF’s ‘Chill Out’ to modern ambient albums like 2015’s ‘A Year With 13 Moons’ from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma or Noveller’s ‘Fantastic Planet’, the concept album is an idea that is well formed in the genre. Often we find albums that are guided by an idea, be it a journey, physical space or a specific location; generally something with an expanse or setting that the listener can project the songs into/onto as the album unfolds itself and takes us away. Initially it might be a strange idea, a genre that is often so sparse and easy to place into the background of our lived experience having such a narrative and driving force, but when you think about it does make sense, the concept, whatever it may be, gives something of a direction and aim to something that could easily just run off in several directions and become a senseless mass.
RELEASE DATE: December 18, 2015 LABEL: Self-released
David Palmer, as Sky Flying By, has set out to create such an album. Titled ‘Detour’ it is a record of a journey and as the title suggests, a detour from the planned route. Written across several locations including Boston, California and Ireland, it is easy to see where the inspiration for such an album has come from, and looking through the track names you start to get an idea of the journey that the album is to take and the narrative that Palmer has envisioned. The major feeling throughout seems to be less about the goal of a destination and more about the places that are found on the way and the discoveries that are to be found. It is the abstract nature of it all that is most appealing, we have been given the guidelines, ‘No Where Near’, ‘Forget the Map, Just Go’, ‘Would Never Have Found Here’, ‘You Were Right, That Was A Wrong Turn’, titles that come as simply headings of the journey that we must create. The visualisation of the journey is something that we must project ourselves into, where I see a drive through forested English countryside, someone else sees the barren Australian outback or the snow covered Canadian mountains, leading to every listener having a unique and personal connection to the music.
‘Detour’ is an album of sprawling ambience that flows from start to finish with emotion injected into each and every track, there’s always something to pique your interest and engage you as a listener. Be it in the more upbeat and driven tracks like ‘Your Hand Is Our Sail’ which starts off with drawn out synth and strings, slowly unfurling with a muted bass joining in, then some staccato violins, a thumping drum is introduced, it’s exciting, it makes you itch to move, to explore. ‘Forget the Map Just Go’ sets out with solo cello, drawing itself blissfully across several minutes, then after 4 minutes an electronic drum beat pops out with glassy synths that just begs you to smile and imagine. Even the more laid back ‘drone’ like tracks keep you involved ‘Rather Late is the Hour’ and ‘ Lost Evening, Found Morning’ are restrained tracks that crawl through, but they carry a power of their own, and yet more canvas to let you paint on. Each song has something special to discover, and a moment of bliss that carries on through, and with this discovery there is something about yourself that is found too.
‘Detour’ is an evocative album, it allows you to reminisce about the past, but also envision a future and every song has a story to discover from within you. As a listener you can set off on a journey of wonder in your mind, a journey of cinematic proportions that each song soundtracks beautifully. Sky Flying By has generated one hell of a soundscape to explore and enjoy and has made a very special listening experience.