Pretty much everything about S P H E R E S O U N D, the latest project from young Texas based soundscape artist N.O.M.A.D., is rather mysterious. Each song title is furnished with an ellipsis, conveying uncertain thought and tentative steps, and there are no human voices to guide you through. And yet, over the course of a little under half an hour, the instrumental collages of sound the producer weaves evoke enough thought so as to take you on something of a journey through the subconscious; whether the subconscious being traversed is that of the listener or the creator is difficult to determine, but either way, the trip is one worth taking, and one with a hell of a view. It should be noted that these ideas of “travels through the subconscious” come from the man behind the project himself, but they are simply too fitting not to be reiterated here.
The music presented here by N.O.M.A.D., (which stands for Navigation of Music and Dreams, appropriately enough), is at its best when the many layers of the pieces truly work in tandem: as with much electronic instrumental of this nature, the most arresting moments crop up when the disparate elements coalesce into a convincing whole. Fortunately, they spend much of the project’s relatively short run time doing just that. Although these elements themselves, (warm, winding bass, lilting synthesised melodies and percussive but rarely straightforward drum patterns), are appealing enough in when they stand alone, when brought together properly they create a sonic landscape that’s deceptively easy to get lost in.
The pieces here admittedly don’t display the most varied sonic palette, but they don’t run long enough to drag, and sounds are changed up enough to keep things interesting amongst the overall stylistic consistency. There are some more transcendental moments too: when the full, slow building of back drop of “Elaborate…” falls away to expose gentle jazzy keys, for instance, or the sudden explosion of melody over nagging drum knocks in the latter half of the title track. Even these “big” moments are pretty low-key, though, and in fairness you don’t get the impression that it’s these moments of transcendence that N.O.M.A.D. is aiming for. Rather, the S P H E R E S O U N D project appears more concerned with creating thought provoking atmosphere amidst the grooves, engendering a hypnotic attention to detail in the listener. If this is indeed the ultimate goal, then you’d be hard pressed to deny that the project is a success.