In his latest record, a collaboration with Dion Abraham titled Refractions of Sound, musical experimentalist Ian C. Bouras expands on concepts first introduced to us earlier on his career with LPs like 2009’s The Certainty of Being Found and 2015’s Pieces of the Past while sticking with the refined ambient blueprint he’s called his own since first hitting the scene over a decade ago. With Abraham, Bouras finds the perfect kind of chemistry to exploit in Refractions of Sound’s most moving of moments – “Extemporization” and “Concoction” among them – and while there’s never any doubt as to who’s project this is, the headline-making artist at the center of the creative hurricane issues a compelling statement in this latest release worth taking note of if you’re a student of the avant-garde model in general.
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In the tracks “Wrinkle,” “Ad-Lib” and “Invention,” melodic tension is the name of the game for Bouras and Abraham, who don’t include any linguistic poetry in this LP but nevertheless manage to create an artistic narrative in the music just the same. To be frank, there really isn’t any room left over in these songs for conventional pop verses; when we break down each of the tracks to their brass tacks, the multidimensional construction of the music is so elaborate that, even in a different capacity, I don’t think that words would have ever made sense for Refractions of Sound. As its name suggests, this is an album steeped in the strange eccentricities of a post-rock n’ roll world, and not the charismatic familiarity that comes with listening to something randomly found on the radio.
The master mix in Refractions of Sound is brutally physical in a few different songs, such as “Creation” and “Improvisation,” but I can understand what Bouras was going for in creating a little extra beefiness in the EQ of these tracks. Both in compensation for the lack of urgency in this record and in an effort to keep everything bonded together as well as things can be in a LP as ultra-experimental as this one is, pumping up the backend of these songs definitely improves our access to the fine lines of their individual arrangements, which is of paramount importance to enthusiasts like myself who live and die by the minute details of an LP like Bouras and Abraham’s.
As hard as you might try this January, I’m not totally convinced that you’re going to find another left-field ambient album quite like Refractions of Sound, as it raises the bar for its creators and, to a larger extent, the style of music that they’re toying with in its eight elegant tracks significantly. Ian C. Bouras has absolutely done some smashing work in the past, but I get the feeling here that he’s looking to travel down a different rabbit hole he has yet to explore in this most recent set of studio sessions. Whether this marks the first of many collaborative records we’re going to hear in the next few years or not, Refractions of Sound is a classy but aesthetically-affirming homerun hit for experimentalism aficionados east and west alike.
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