Emergent Narrative is a new album from Chicago based artist, Matthew J Van Howe. An excellent piece of abstract musical art, this avant garde/ambient release has retrofuturistic vibes. Stylishly vintage synths that wouldn’t seem out of place in a 1980s science fiction film combine with contemporary sounds to create an ethereal aesthetic. Some tracks have a suspenseful and haunting vibe, while others are on the bright and uplifing side. Thoroughly cinematic and theatrical, the album functions as an instrumental soundscape.
The tracks all have single word titles (Sand, Rain, Merlot, etc) which serve as clues to their distinctive atmospheric qualities. If one allows themselves to be absorbed in the recordings, the listener is treated to a meditative, interdimensional journey. Van Howe gives us a comprehensive range of emotions and memories to delve into: heartbreak, ecstasy, loneliness, danger and nearly everything else in between. Songs like Peacock have an eerie, John Carpenter soundtrack feel while Mimosa is like an extended version of one of those mood elevating jingles used in telephone company commercials. I would love to see this album accompanied by visual performance art in a live setting, complete with dancers, costumes and set design.
From a technical standoint, production quality on Emergent Narrative is very good. The sound quality easily rivals that of most studio motion picture soundtracks. In addition to maintaining a high level of audio clarity, the album really does achieve that stereophonic, surround sound that’s pivotal to providing the listener with an immersive, adventurer’s quest. Of course, all of this is aided by the fact that Matthew J Van Howe is a talented songwriter who does a meticulous job of stucturing compositions and is proficient at playing the piano. The whole thing is just very professionally put together.
As a meditative and hypnotic album, it’s refreshing the way Emergent Narrative makes for a more intense experiece than the typical “flowers and relaxation” fare. These songs will actually challenge your imagination, daring you to face some of your darker memories and fears, while still allowing room for you to experience some jubilation in the process.
Matthew is currently mastering an improvised piano album entitled, “memories i would otherwise forget,” which should prove to be another enticing entry in his release catalog.
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