Review: Nils Quak – Aether

Aether manifests not so much as the presence of process and action, but as a ripple within equilibrium; a lapse in stasis, with energy spilling out of the tension release brought on by the imbalance. It’s far from what I expected from a record devised primarily on one modular eurorack synthesiser, and rather than place the sonic characteristics of a solitary instrument and the techniques of its player under the focal spotlight, Aether appears to do the opposite. It’s like an inverted image – the subject becomes an absence, with Quak’s compositional understatement causing his synthesizer explorations to blur into the field recordings that float ghost-like around the edges.

It’s all electronic interference and agitated static; the current judders gently from one texture to the next, causing many a delightful (but subtle) interrelationship. For example, “Sinterbecken” centres on hum and buzz of a loose cable, which seems to be directly linked to the distant synth drone that hovers throughout – it radiates as the behaviour gets more erratic, and dims into quiet as the activity subsides. Meanwhile, opener “Hymn To The Eternal Void” creeps cautiously across the perimeter like shadows, quivering awkwardly as bass frequencies while a distant swirl of noise implies the sheer circumference and depth of the “void” that gapes at the track’s centre. This void is like Quak himself; its characteristics defined by its very understatement, a something materialising out of its very lacking.