27 Nov 2021 - Pat O'
Ambient/Post-Rock/Cinematic | Release date: 29 Oct 2021
Salt Lake Citys’ Death Stare has released one of the best “ambient post-rock” releases of the year. Without any drama or commotion, Haze was dropped to Bandcamp back in late October, and is a majestic and soul-stirring journey that will transport you through vast open skies and wandering mountainous terrain. It ebbs and flows from beginning to end. This simply has to be heard.
The debut EP from Death Stare is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Matt Wigham. Haze has been inspired by Matt’s own battle with a neurological condition causing constant dizziness and vertigo. Ironically, through hard times can come something beautiful, and this is the case with Haze. For me, this is one of the best Ambient Post-Rock releases of the year. Death Stare’s music has something magical about it, something bigger than I can explain in words. Its great cinematic soundscapes can transport you anywhere your mind wishes to wander. It can lift one’s spirits to the heavens, creating a euphoric moment in time, and equally break and mend an aching heart with its fragile melodies and glorious crescendos.
Matt describes Haze as “a rich and cinematic musical journey, bringing you into a dream world of monumental highs and contemplative lows, hopefulness and frustration, beauty and fragility, with hints of post-rock, shoegaze, and ambient soundscapes”. There have been some stunning ambient inspired releases already this year, but I honestly believe that Haze is as good as any of them. As debuts go, Death Stare has justifiably nestled himself comfortably amidst the Cinematic Post-Rock connoisseurs and craftsmen.
It all begins with “Reverie”, a soaring and majestic opening track that feeds off the spirit and beauty of Ranges’ Ascensionist album. Wind swept synths breeze through the opening passage accompanied by light, wistful guitars and solemn brush stroked percussions. Heart-warming base lines underpin the beautifully patient climb to the summit, as delicately shuffled tambourines add another layer to the cool, thin air above. Hazy guitars finally open the door for a glorious swell of Post-Rock grandeur, as the atmosphere becomes saturated in rich synths and rolling guitars. It’s that moment when you reach the crest of the mountain, and a dreamscape of endless peaks and valleys fill the vast landscape below. There really is nothing to fault on this track! The build-up is patient and humming with energy, while the climatic finale is simply spellbinding.
The second track, “Isolator” is a beautifully patient piano piece, that gently caresses those slender ivory fingers, sending the mind into an introspective trance. More of Matts soothing guitars join in, and between them, create this other world that has your body free and weightless, soaring through vast open skies, stretching to infinity, with nothing but a glistening blanket of deep blue ripples below. It’s a short but sweet track that radiates warm, emotive currents that you can feel run from your fingers through to your toes.
“Junesy” is another rich synthesised cosmic journey that opens with a rich warm melody that instils images of a cool, crisp morning, just as the sky changes from a dusky haze to a warm orange glow. A glorious soaring solo along with crashing drums erupt as the giant fireball breaks the horizon with its beacons of light piercing the dry frosted air, bringing life and energizing everything it touches. It’s a glorious thing to hear music reach these emotive highs, before being gently brought back the earth by calm, serene piano keys.
The final track on this short but epic trip is aptly named “Gigantica”. Jakob-influenced atmospherics gently sway and flutter through the first few minutes with all their celestial glory. The layers on this track are like building blocks that bring strength and structure to the track as each one creeps into view. As the track gradually opens, warm fuzzy guitars, coated in glorious, stirring melodies exhale, ultimately reaching the albums zenith, that high point in an albums journey where the hair on your neck stands rigid in sheer elation.
Haze has been a constant for me over the last few weeks. It has sought its rightful place as an album to wind down to and an album to drift off to, only to wake as the final chords fade out. If you enjoy your “post-rock” and “ambient” music rich in emotion, this must be in your collection. It has, without any fuss or drama, made its way into my AOTY list. I’m really looking forward to hearing more from Matt and Death Stare.