Russ Young‘s Cloak is a beautiful ambient album inspired by the environment surrounding the Western Lake District in Cumbria, UK. “Musically, my main strategy for Cloak was to work with groupings of processed samples and improvisations made over a long period of time,” Young explains. The result is riveting, abundant with haunting spacious soundscapes that linger with contemplative, sunset-friendly qualities.
Cloak unfolds with patient, tactful precision. The opening “Clara” compels with a glimmering assortment of aquatic-feeling drip-drops and gentle keys, resembling the feeling of emerging from a radiant pool of water as sunshine gently kisses your skin. The subsequent “Chancel of Living Trees” evokes ample intrigue with its enveloping layering alongside bird-chirping, akin to a stroll in the park in the mid-day afternoon. The album initially resembles awakening in its use of aquatic-like textures and nature sounds, enjoyably enticing with an accessible relatability.
Beyond, a ghostlier presence is evident on “You Don’t Know,” whose soft pulsations and more melancholic melody signal a shift into darker, forlorn territory. Echoed hints of vocal samples, like at 03:43, sound like echoes from a yearned-for past. Similarly, “Folding Valley” embraces the nighttime feeling further, with the whispery tones and nocturnal synths fit for a red-eye bus ride away from the bustling populace. Cloak is a captivating, grippingly atmospheric success from Russ Young.
In the Lakes District of northern England, where Russ Young calls home, the storied history of Romantic poetry is almost as sedimented as the literal ground that tourists now flock to in the hopes of resuscitating the nature that inspired Wordsworth, Coleridge, and their ilk.
Strange how a place can become an actual site of unfettered projection when it comes to the slippery nature of language, poetic or otherwise. Were the Romantic poets the first field recorders, anticipating the mode of capturing some semblance of a place's essence through passive documentation, before the technology for such endeavours existed? I say all of this because the confluence of source material, physical nature, and composition is very much at stake for Young on his lush but languid release, Cloak.
Over seven tracks, Young places us in a relationship to his environment that is simultaneously abstract and concrete. Far from a poetic meditation, the recordings that provide the foundational structure of Cloak are reanimated with what feels like the same air, water, and land that first brought them into being. As far as ambience goes, Young is not reinventing the wheel here, but the embeddedness of his compositions suggests a kind of assiduity to the tried and true methods of electronic composition that leave the question of newness or innovation stumbling over itself, wanting, as it should be. To listen to Cloak is to be submerged in its warmth and lissom waves of slow development, out of time because it is so close to the essential nature of the time of the recorded medium itself. This is the great achievement of Cloak: to bring us so close to a place and an environment that we can actually hear the technical apparatuses themselves. To abuse the Romantic allusion again, Wordsworth wrote in his Prelude that he found that "the sky was not a sky". For Young, nature is not nature if it moves through the recorded medium. Or, maybe it is only nature, and nothing else.
Cloak is for fans of warm, ambient compositions, which require a lot of attention, or no attention at all. Highly recommended! 5/5
Electronic Sound Magazine
Evoking rural tranquility without lapsing into cliche is a tricky line to tread for a sound artist, but producer Russ Young does it better than most. Influenced here by his Cumbrian surroundings, 'Clara' juxtaposes slabs of synth with daubs of watery textures, whilst 'Tápholl' uses soft drones and recordings of the breeze. Much of this album has a saturated feel, and Young has captured beautifully the shifting grey skies, crepuscular light and mizzling that anyone who has experienced a holiday in his neck of the woods will instantly recall.
Slow Music Movement
Drifting through the early 2023 void; staring at the rather uninspiring grey skies behind my screen, the formless, comforting ambient clouds seeping through my speakers from the new Russ Young LP on Audiobulb are the perfect adjunct to this limbo state, as I unhurriedly sharpen my pencil, contemplate the to do list & enjoy the calm before the storm.
A Closer Listen
Russ Young‘s Cloak fits the definition of calming ambient music. Inspired by “aquatic textures and underwater pianos,” the lulling suite may be just what one needs in the new year (Audiobulb, January 7).
Few areas of the world are as ensconced in local culture as England’s Lake District. Like many poets, authors, and musicians before him, West Cumbria based producer & composer Russ Young takes creative inspiration from this picturesque, well-watered region for his work, but his approach is rather distinctive in its focus on the textures of its landscapes. Young’s new album Cloak comprises seven ambient soundscapes exploring what he describes as a “preoccupation with aquatic textures, underwater pianos, a nocturnal atmosphere and fragments from [his] everyday life”.
Following an evolutionary process guided by intuition, Young developed the album by blending new improvisations with material culled from an assortment of archived recordings shelved long enough for their origins to have been forgotten and any sense of familiarity lost. It is a method he says gave him a sense of both freedom and mystery as he fit the pieces together in new and unexpected combinations.
All together Cloak presents a verdant, welcoming sonic mise-en-scène inhabited by languid melodies drifting through gauzy layers and aqueous textures that functions less as a portrait of a landscape and more as a compelling distillation of what it must feel like to be surrounded by and immersed in it.
L’album proposé par Russ Young est un somptueux mélange de plusieurs vibrations. Cette œuvre commence avec le son « Clara » qui ouvre le projet avec mélancolie et virtuosité. Le rythme du son est très régulier mais à aucun moment, le son n’est pas ennuyeux.
L’artiste basé au Royaume-Unis nous livre en 7 titres la quintessence de son savoir dans une harmonie totale. Pour tous les adeptes de nouveautés recherchant à la fois un style calme et tonique, « Cloak » est l’album qu’il faut. Cet album très instrumental se termine avec « Tápholl » un son très énergique.