The album begins with a softly unfurling chord of unclear provenance; in the background, there’s a faint metallic clanking, like the lid rattling on a boiling pot. A subliminal hint of melody stirs just below the surface of long, languid synthesizer tones. Things rarely get much more definitive than this, and every time they do, entropy quickly reasserts itself. In “The Dreamer,” a boldly declarative theme suggests a half-remembered film score before plunging back into the murk, shrouded by birdsong, crickets, and what might be the clanking of cowbells in the pasture. Much of the album, in fact, feels like it takes place behind a scrim of white noise and August ambiance.
There’s a worn, crinkly feel to texture of the music, as if the tape had been pulled from its reels, wadded up, and left in a dank basement for a season or two before being smoothed out and fed back into the machine. Repetition is at the heart of many of these tracks—the skipping tones of “Fantasie for Agathe Backer Grøndahl” vaguely recall Oval or Jan Jelinek—even though Lauvdal’s loops tend to morph as they go, mutating with every jittery repeat. Even in the absence of obvious melodies, Lauvdal’s meditative, softly rounded tones have a way of working themselves into your mind. The smeared pipe organs of “Darkkantate” evoke dusty beams of light illuminating mossy pews in a ruined abbey. The ruminative piano of “Clara” recalls Grouper but without such an intense feeling of despondency—it’s less morose than simply lost in thought.
Ultimately, From a Story Now Lost’s emotions are as ambiguous as its amorphous shapes. In “Xerxesdrops,” which taps into a similar affective register as Harold Budd and the Cocteau Twins’ The Moon and the Melodies, a watery, wandering piano melody traces circles over sluggish, detuned synths; it might sound sad if you want it to, but in another mood, it could also pass as airy, hopeful, or simply distracted, mirroring the toe-scuffing shuffle of an absent mind. From a Story Now Lost offers a provocative update to Brian Eno’s hoary maxim about ambient music: Forget about the balance between ignorable and interesting—perhaps ambient also ought to be as stone-faced as it is steeped in feeling.
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