It’s little surprise to see the name Leyland Kirby crop up on the Soundcloud profile of Alex Ives, aka Specimens. The sleeve of his recent Sculptures LP could easily be taken from the latest installment of Kirby’s Caretaker project. Sonically there are crossovers too; for example a shared interest in ghostly re-imaginings of orchestral music from decades gone by. However it would be wrong to characterise this debut outing from First Terrace Records as a mere pastiche, as there is plenty of nuance and originality to appreciate.
For the first release in the catalogue, its encouraging to see there have been no half measures taken. Alongside the stellar artwork, the album was mastered by Room 40’s Lawrence English, an artist who will be well known to those engaged with ambient and acousmatic music more generally.
For the most part, Sculptures is a rather serene, introspective ride. Graceful cinemascapes are layered with warm buzzes of distortion, calling to mind the work of Loscil, or Kompakt’s Simon Scott. Take the gentle guitar resonances of ‘VI.VI.MMXV’ or the depth charge echoes of ‘A Marble Hallway’. Both present their compositions through cloudy, aqueous textures creating an atmosphere both intense and reflective at the same time.
Ives also makes strong use of sound-design and otherwise organic textures. ‘Cerulean Forest Track’ suspends the listener in the ether with delicate acousmatic tremblings, while the LP’s centerpiece, ‘Touch’, emerges from a bed of electrical hums with ashen drones and hollowed out amp resonances. The use of foley is probably most fully explored across ‘The Wrestler’, a grunting web of overdrive backed by samples of Sudanese outdoor wrestling.