Review: Thaumiel Sonozaki – Amber Ethereal
National Music Reviews
Thaumiel Sonozaki = Lucid Sound Driver + Noveller + Michael Rother
After two albums honoring the shroud of evening (Scarlet Ethereal) and night (Violet Ethereal), Thaumiel Sonozaki (the ambient project of L.A.’s Demetria Maldonado) delivers Amber Ethereal, her ode to the new beginnings of dawn. As such, this set of tracks possess a near-perpetual sunniness. But this is far from a placated vision of ambient’s calming qualities—especially given its place in the Ethereal series, Amber Ethereal speaks to rejuvenation, both the metaphoric and literal light at the end of a metaphoric and literal tunnel.
If Amber Ethereal paints the analog equivalent to daybreak, a sonic awakening, then “ἡ χλόη” represents the sun creeping through your shades at dawn. With its cycle of major harmonies filtered through an instrumental array of sparkling synths and humming organs, the composition feels almost saccharine. Akin to waking up alongside a too-early sunrise wrapped in damp, summer sweat–saturated sheets, the brightness displayed on “ἡ χλόη” quietly stuns, a quality that fades away into the depths of the proceeding album.
Against this glean, the bulk of Amber Ethereal lives in a roomy, shifting expanse of sound. The third track, “αἱ νεφέλαι” builds upon wave-like swells of dense harmonies that layer over each other in an obscure, melting mesh. This, along with the sounds of Maldonado doing household work: sweeping, cooking, washing dishes, etc. The track paints a portrait of unhurried domesticity, a reclamation of the beauty of solitude anchored by the gelatinous synthesized web surrounding it.
The sense of movement presented on “αἱ νεφέλαι”—even if just small paces around a studio apartment—signals Amber Ethereal’s rejection of passivity. Despite what might seem like a shared stasis via repetition among these tracks, Maldonado imbues her work with a sense of patient perpetual motion; a drive lacking immediate direction. Her cycles read as autonomous pendulum oscillations: These compositions don’t erase or stop time, rather they reframe time. Every second is quintupled, stretched and accented by the spacious pull of each phrase.
Nowhere is this temporal alchemy more apparent than on Amber Ethereal‘s centerpieces, “τò ψῦχος” and “ἡ ἐλπίς.” Where “αἱ νεφέλαι” submerges, “τò ψῦχος” immediately asserts its buoyancy with springing, echoing synth hits. Across the subsequent 11 minutes, Maldonado subtly shifts filter frequencies and laces a delicate descending melody into these shots of sound. Within this otherwise free-flowing album, the force and weight of these textures provide a welcome vivacity—an ambient artist’s rendition of firecrackers.
“ἡ ἐλπίς,” the longest cut here, speaks through a constant rocking texture. For the most part, the 15-minute composition oscillates between two modal arpeggios, neither of which feel like an anticipation or a resolution. Even when the track finally dips into a new, lower harmony, these progressions retain a sense of ambiguous flow. Without the pull of tonality or a push to find the “next” place, Maldonado lets “ἡ ἐλπίς” glide along a river of sound. There’s nothing carrying this music other than the tide’s gentle wash.
After these lengthy excursions, Amber Ethereal dims away with a pair of relatively brief cuts. “ἡ ἀγάπη” offers familiar synthesizer ambience backed by an encyclopedia of bird calls, but “ὁ αἰθήρ” stands as the record’s most forward and rhythmically invigorating offering. The steady piano arpeggios jolt away the lull of the preceding 45 minutes, a drive eventually carried into an otherworldly optimism by a distant, distorted guitar melody. The joy presented here resembles that of “ἡ χλόη,” though the complex breadth of material that lives between these two bookends makes this finale feel earned. On an album dedicated to light, “ὁ αἰθήρ” grants a final acceptance to visibility and a rejection to the cloak of darkness.
Amber Ethereal has a relative sheen, but its gradual self-unfurlment reveals layers of precious metals beneath its glint. Maldonado’s morning meditations take pride in their sentimentality. She invites listeners to float along with her, finding sanctuary in the long-awaited sunrise. –Audrey Lockie