This is the debut solo release of Morgan Packard, and only the second release for this fine new label in less than a few months, following on from Mark Templeton’s superb “Standing on a Hummingbird”. It is extremely rare that debut releases AND new labels come up with something quite so exquisitely assembled, but on Airships Fill The Sky, Anticipate have pulled off something of a coup.
This collection manages to systematically re-invent and reconfigure genres as diverse as breakbeat, ambient electronica, and even techno and house in one beautifully crafted album that effortlessly bristles with creativity and a sharp, canny production aesthetic.
From the outset, Packard introduces such “un-techno” instrumentation as accordion, cello’s and even saxophone, and weaves them into an infectious, twitchy vibe that demands closer listening. Subsequent tracks deliver shape-shifting moods and atmospheres, combining Packard’s unique instrumental touches with glitchy, compelling beats and angular rhythms.
The sparse elegance of tracks like “A Place Worth Keeping (part 2)” are slices of pure minimal ambience, which quickly evaporates and reforms into the wonderful “Dappled”, with it’s Basic Channel–like clipped and gated keyboard refrains and pin-sharp rhythmic overlay. “Kelp Sway” follows a similar formulaic approach, but this time the keyboard is a more insistent duo-tonal setup, infused with hiccupy, rhythmic stabs, splashed with woody clicks and shards. “Waterbugs” opens with a translucent wash of digital skipping, laced with swathes of evanescent chords that unfurls into a compulsive, jazzy rhythm-fest filtered through itchy, grainy keyboard stabs once again.
This is a sublime piece of work and is (dare I say it) a near perfect debut that elegantly showcases Packard’s jazz and classical origins, and fuses them into something very special indeed.
Also included in the CD package is “Unsimulatable”; an enhanced CD/DVD with the digital visuals of one Joshue Ott, a long time collaborator with Packard, and erstwhile producer of visuals for techno and ambient parties, as well as being a former exhibitor in the prestigious Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria.
Whilst I enjoyed Ott’s visuals, I couldn’t help but feel that this was a somewhat tokenistic offering that did little to enhance Packard’s music in any significant way. His home made software, superDraw is perhaps testament to his programming ability, but the dancing shapes and ribbon-like visuals were rarely any more entertaining than the regulation skins on any popular software music player. This is perhaps indicative of the speed with which audio-visual interfaces are developing, and given that Ott also rendered the beautifully spectacular and intricately organic images for the album’s cover, I feel that he has a long and distinguished career ahead of him, if only he had animated THOSE images for the DVD.
All in all, I would say this could possibly emerge as one of the most influential crossover CD’s of the year, and is a rare gem of a release…are you knocking on the door of your CD store yet? Essential.