The most complete and enjoyable Earthen Sea release so far.
As Huerco S. did with his For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) last year, Jacob Long has made an exemplary ambient album by stitching together all the parts he liked from other ambient albums. The chords are from Chain Reaction artists like Monolake. The string samples and relentless kick drums are from Gas. Many of these tracks fade out rudely and abruptly, like the ones on Vladislav Delay’s Multila. If you’re a fan of club-derived ambient music, An Act Of Love might bring to mind half the stuff you’ve ever fallen asleep to.
But ambient music isn’t about originality. When you want to listen to ambient, you don’t want a unique experience; you want the physical sensation it provides, no matter who’s making it. And An Act of Love is deep, rich, foggy, and plushy. It’s not surprising, then, that Long has lived in San Francisco; if you’ve ever been deep in the city’s vast Outer Sunset, pushing through thick fog amid an endless grid, you’ll understand what he’s getting at. This is music for staring down long streets and watching streetlights fade into nothingness. It puts the fear of the universe in you.
The tracks on An Act Of Love are essentially divided between pure ambient cuts and more techno-derived ones. Long isn’t satisfied with just the kick drum; there are swung, unusually funky hi-hats, most notably on “About That Time,” whose drums would jack as hard as anything Todd Edwards ever did if they weren’t swallowed in a mist of chords and digital wind. Too much drum busywork can occasionally distract from actual ambience, but like the Gas kick drum to which Long is surely indebted, the drums on An Act of Love serve to push the listener forward into the mist. With each passing second, you descend deeper into the belly of the beast.
The beast spits you out pretty quickly. An Act of Love runs only 38 minutes, and it would be improved with a bit – or a lot – more meat on its bones. Some listeners might enjoy the convenience of such a short album; chances are it’ll be over by the end of your morning commute. But Long could have made a truly immersive album, something the listener can get lost in. Instead, An Act of Love just fogs up your surroundings for a short time. It can’t help but feel a bit slight, especially given that none of these tracks change much during their runtimes.
I suspect the Earthen Sea project has dizzier heights and darker depths to explore. Long is still probably best-known for his work in punk bands Black Eyes and Mi Ami, the latter of whose singer Daniel Martin-McCormick also makes excellent, warped house as Ital. Earthen Sea feels like a hobby; his prior release under the moniker, the compilation A Serious Thing, ranged from deep house to Bonobo-like beats to material not far removed from what we hear on An Act of Love. This is certainly the most complete and enjoyable Earthen Sea release so far, but it doesn’t feel like anything close to a culmination. When one comes, it should be magnificent.