Review: Offthesky – The Beautiful Nowhere

True to its title, The Beautiful Nowhere feels suspended above time and place. Melodies and textures meander through emptiness, nudged this way and that by soft electronic inflections and samples. Tracks close on abrupt fade-outs and anti-resolutions, providing brief snapshots of sonic states of limbo – purpose and significance feel forever out of reach, with each track (and the album as a whole) dimming into silence while still in motion, and still unfulfilled in the quest for self-assurance. The only time the record ever settles is to sink into the melancholy that accompanies its bewilderment and loneliness.

The pieces that work best here are those that appear the most fragmented and self-conscious, as these are the pieces that most effectively convey the “nowhere”: the floating space debris of “Surface of Your Sin”, the tumbling guitars and violin sweeps of “The Lonesome Crowded Nest” and the clunking kalimba of “Born of Shy Sap”. A muddle of texture topples over itself, entering in sporadic intervals like wind chimes, knocking the listener back on forth and, ultimately, leaving them precisely where they started.

Often melody takes on a more rigid form, such as in the guitar-centric compositions “Whittling You Little Lights” and “Waiting to Fade”. It’s during these pieces that The Beautiful Nowhere stops to soak up its sense of isolation, and personally I found them to break the flow that carries the listener into emptiness. On an album that spends much of its playing time building an atmosphere of confusion and intangibility, these moments of “downtime” – allowing emotions to fully form and be felt – seem rather incongruent.

But at its best, The Beautiful Nowhere is impressive. It’s also incredibly mercurial – not only because of the watery reverb that runs throughout, but because of how each texture is carefully placed so as the keep the vacuous drift at a consistently fluid pace, sending constant ripples to ever-distort the surface of understanding and spatial existence.