Ambient

‘Together Is The New Alone’ (2001) – Donnacha Costello

‘For me – and I’ve said this a lot over the years – music has always been about emotional communication.’

‘Donnacha Costello: Slowly Sinking In’ – Resident Advisor, 2015

Donnacha Costello is a producer with an acute awareness of the emotive intent behind his music. That much was evident upon my first listening of ‘Together Is The New Alone.’ While playing it out, I had expected it to act as a non-intrusive, ambient backdrop. What I hadn’t expected was to find myself staring into space, entranced by the plaintive soundscape that was on offer, subtly imposing itself on my psyche.

In this way, listening to ‘TITNA’ can be as mindful an exercise as meditation. There’s just something embedded in the fabric of this album that encourages you to sense instead of think, accept rather than struggle and it feels quite liberating as a result.

This is, in part, due to the very tangible sense of space in the music – the production is sparse, the tempo unhurried and the timbres quiet and gentle. The tracks feels bare, naked even, diffusing a sense of bleak fragility.

‘Slowly Sinking In’ begins with a beautiful drone drifting like some remote satellite traversing the empty oceans of space, its only company the glitchy clicks and static hisses of incoming radio waves. Soon a melancholic synth also wades in like a mournful accordion complementing the drone perfectly.

 

Next, ‘Awake On The Fifth Floor’ finds a hypnotic synth radiating warmly, lurching between lustrous, foreground flares and more distant, background shimmers. Listening to the beginning of ‘In Spite Of Everything’ is like entering a different world, that celestial pad producing an uncanny, dissociative effect. This paves the way for a heavy-hearted piano note caressed by a sighing synth. A powerfully engrossing track.

 

‘Your New God’ is an achingly beautiful cut – a high, oscillating note sways and wavers, weaving a soul-stirring, gossamer melody in its wake.

 

The most minimal slice on the album is ‘Daydream Belief:’ tiny clicks pitter-patter while an almost imperceptible synth echoes out across a palpable expanse of silence.  Meanwhile, the interlude ‘That Empty Feeling’ leaves you wishing that it were longer despite how it wrenches your heart.

 

‘And I Got Left Behind’ manufactures a sedate beat from bleeps and bass stabs before ethereal pads float and hover, giving the track a warm glow. There’s a sub-aquatic feel to ‘Nothing, Still Nothing,’ the notes sounding like some murky, mermaid lullaby echoing up from the depths. ‘Dry Retch’ is arguably the best track on the album: a soothing ambient balm with a not so vague sense of numb despair slinking around the fringes.

 

Finishing the album, ‘Always A Part’ is a moving farewell. Forlorn synths drift and wander before the album’s most assertive beat helps to rouse us from our hour-long reverie.

 

While an undeniably beautiful work, ‘TITNA’ is a bittersweet listen, its bright charm mottled with darker hues of loneliness and longing as alluded to in some of the track titles. Evidently, creating this LP was a form of catharsis for Costello, one which brought relief but also pangs of loss – a  ‘dry retching’ of sorts. What’s wonderful is that hearing  this beguiling album can be just as cleansing a process for the listener.

Rating: 5/5

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