Drifting constantly between definitive place and hazy tunnels of transition, Underneath The Stars is an ambience of movement and a melancholic loss of home; it moves constantly, stripped of anchorage and free to drift outward and upward, wandering between states with only a tentative level of trust for any of them. Melody is embraced only briefly – clutched to the chest as fleeting ascensions of strings, guitar and piano (think the sombre introspection of Eluvium or A Dancing Beggar) – before being released and lost to the ambient expanse. The rest of the album comes as clumps and waves, blending notes and instruments into a soft, glowing something that feels brittle enough to dissolve on touch.
The strongest moments tend to be those of the more basic textural construction. “You’re Rendering Again” is a mist that clings to the high frequencies, cycling between points of stereo emphasis and mutative harmonic forms; the synthesizers tilt and turn in slow motion, and could be considered tranquil were it not for how the disconcertion brought by the perpetual movement. Album closer “Theroux” is similar in this respect, clouding the listener’s sense of positioning and direction in swirling drones – the only constant is the sense of vertigo that accompanies those muffled, cloud-like quilts of white noise that rumble delicately around the ears, creating the illusion of being suspended between the ground below and the stars above.
But the feeling of transience does establish a distance between the listener and Underneath The Stars. Tom Honey apparently started the project as a means to help cope with his tinnitus, and to this reviewer, there’s a certain likeness between the album’s intangibility and the way in which tinnitus can hold the world at arm’s length – the textures are as gloopy and indistinct, like muffled sounds only half-heard and thus only half connected with. I’m not a tinnitus sufferer myself and can therefore only theorise, but Underneath The Stars sounds as though it eases Honey’s condition by slotting into the world of a tinnitus sufferer and somewhat replicating it: communication through long vowels and open sighs of sound, bleeding one noise into the next and losing detail to an ungraspable, streaming ambient void.