It took a few listens to appreciate that Sound to Light is a blistering, sublime effort and a real album to be heard all the way through. Other descriptions might include words or phrases such as spaced out, throbbing, neon, and post-shoegaze. The record is a triumph of instrumental nuance, sound production, and organization. The lyrical content (on just a handful of tracks) is hard to decipher. Words, meanings, and associations are either absent or float in a gorgeous enveloping bump and rush of sound. The two excellent opening pieces, “Soubresaut” and “A Thousand Cuts”, could feasibly stand alone as singles, but lead into a slew of tracks stripped down to their main assets as opposed to more rounded songs. It’s an inward-looking exploration, a puzzle, although one without obvious sonic representations of organic decay or entropy. Channel One layer descending notes, sub-robotic rhythms, chamfered climaxes, and haunting landscapes. For example, “Three Stars” is a fabulous piece of mounting, ecstatic, psych-drone lusher than Amp, as affecting as Tim Hecker, better produced and more accessible than H >ost.
I can’t nail down the roots of the splendidly haunting, minimal piano piece “Tiago”, yet they are probably horrifyingly familiar. “Lakes” is a carbon copy of Mono at their most emotionally orgiastic, with gentle guitar notes and repetition swelling into an epic, cinematic soundscape. Channel One also put me in mind of the much under-rated Appliance. Eventually, vocals do return on “Not for the Last Time”, but function mainly as contrast. A few of these tracks could seem two-dimensional if heard alone, but together they make really powerful listening experience, a true progression and something that is becoming a rarity: a proper album.