Dark times in life can make for some of the best music in any artist’s career. Most mainstream music fans will always remember the dark and depressive early work from Trent Reznor with glee, even if his life was truly moving in a downward spiral in order to create those classics. The Isolation Tapes seems to act in a similar fashion, creating music through a need to find one’s self after dark days. In order to pull this off, they decided to stay in a remote cabin for five days with only a fire to keep warm and natural sounds to create ethereal and therapeutic music. This glimpse into The Isolation Tapes’ soul is lush and refreshing from a musical standpoint.
The Isolation Tapes are not going to change your views on stripped back ambient music. The instrumentation is nothing new with guitars, ambient drone, and an occasional didgeridoo to bring some Australian flair. However, the feeling a listener can get from such sounds are ethereal and majestic in all ways possible. You can feel the pain, agony, and depression throughout. You also get to feel the hope, awakening of a soul, and a tinge of happiness along the way.
All five tracks work in unison to create the immense moods represented throughout. “92 Days of Sombre” kicks off the album in a simple fashion. The short track is an instrumental that features the didgeridoo, deeply hidden vocal sampling, and slowly strummed guitar work to set an effective mood, The follow up, “Like Autumn Leaves” is a strong companion. The beautiful wall of ambient guitars and string samples are pretty on the ears, while lyrics speak toward the feeling of isolation. “A New Man” is the best song on the album, and possibly one of the best songs of this year. The vocals and guitars on the song are fragile, feeling as if they could break like glass at any moment. Early lines equating finding one’s self as surgery is impressively tangible. There is a dual vocal mix near the end that is very strong in front of a building guitar line and sweeping noise in the background.
The final two tracks bring the concept together as a whole. “Brood” is a nasty and dark instrumental that opens with heavy and ambient backdrops, only to create a sense of fear and apprehension by the track’s end. “Down That Road” is an airy track that leads off with slow and distorted guitar picking. The lyrics speak toward losing someone (possibly the former version of yourself) and witnessing the memories fading away slowly. A need for human contact manifests itself into the mood of the track, while the last segment picks up the pace and ends the album on a hopeful tone for the future.
There really is nothing to complain about regarding the record as a whole. The concept is perfectly executed at every step, the instrumentation is stripped back and powerful as a result, and the vocals are truly haunting. Clocking in at 18 minutes and five tracks, it is pretty remarkable how much staying power The Isolation Tapes can create.
For fans of: Giles Corey, Sun Kil Moon, and Radiohead
1. 92 Days of Sombre
2. Like Autumn Leaves
3. A New Man
5. Down That Road