Back when I was 15, Maitreya’s .74 album played a prominent part in the evolution of my own listening behaviour. I’m sure I’m not alone in acknowledging the change in perspective that accompanies the entry into meditative and reflective music; for me personally, it involved peeling away any assumptions of listening being a secondary sense that galvanises life’s other (predominantly visual-based) experiences, the growing merit of listening as an experience in isolation of anything else, and the self-perpetuating curiosity that continually sought music that would reward my newfound appreciation of texture and micro-detail. In amongst the instantly penetrative 3-minute pop and rock that otherwise occupied my musical soundworld, .74 was one of my early explorations of what could be termed “the abstract”.
Because of all this, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Zone Of Cold. It’s not only my own nostalgia that resurrects those feelings of entering something mysterious and alien – Simon Lomax’s first record in 9 years abandons the vague melodic structures that flecked .74 with a homely musical recurrence, and instead loses itself down winding paths of fog and snowstorm. No longer do drones curl neatly back in on themselves for the sake of repetition and motif – while his blurry electronics still dominate, Lomax himself feels decidedly more absent in determining their direction, allowing them to bleed over into dissonant clashes and ring out with a rich, almost organic feedback.
In my interview with Simon back in 2010, he spoke of the “Zone Of Cold” as a state of plateau, and a point of reflection in amongst a life of constant change. Thus it makes sense for its composer to be only semi-present, blissfully observing sound as it drifts out of the lines. Yet the title also makes a more explicit reference to the temperature of the record, which appears to strike a direct contrast with the searing heat that often wafted through .74. During “In The Dark Shadow Of Winter” I hear this most explicitly, with choral tones and synthesiser pads emerging and receding like lighthouse beams in a bitter winter mist. There’s a sense that Zone Of Cold sheds Lomax’s more musical affiliations to conjure place and environment in more vivid detail – places that move in response to their own ecological collisions rather than in accordance to any predetermined compositional narrative. It’s a most welcome move.