Textura, October 2014
With Cloud.Not Mountain, San Francisco-based electronic musician Tim Arndt continues a relationship with n5MD that began in 2006 with the release of his second album and first for the label, Of Soft Construction. L'Eixample (2008), Music for the Forest Concourse (2010), and Japanese for Beginners (2011) followed, setting the stage for his latest, the forty-seven-minute Cloud.Not Mountain. The sound and style of his Near The Parenthesis project has naturally undergone a number of changes over the course of that eight-year stretch, though melody and texture have remained focal points throughout. The changes in the case of the new release are multiple: an increased deployment of synthesizers, broken beat patterns, and blurry textural treatments. Melody is still key but the sound design within which it appears has changed since the last album. That's especially apparent in the second piece, “Virga,” when he embeds simple electric piano figures within a dense field of shoegaze-like guitar washes, fragmented beats, and crystalline synth textures. In similar manner, the title track undergirds its chiming keyboard melodies with broken beat patterns that lurch and stumble. The warm splendour of “Neume” is so soothing the track begins to feel like Arndt's take on Windham Hill-styled New Age. Here and elsewhere, the producer entices the listener with the promise of a retreat free of turbulence and turmoil. More dynamic by comparison is “Conductor,” which, breezy in flow, uplifting in spirit, and luscious in presentation, might be the album's strongest cut. Admittedly there's a potential danger in emphasizing understatement and restraint to the degree that Arndt does on this new collection: like prototypical ambient material, the impact of the album's tracks is subtle, at times subliminal, and therefore easy to underappreciate. But with a little effort, the attentive listener begins to hear the artistry that Arndt brings to his bright, ethereal productions. With that in mind, one might be better to think of the ten pieces on Cloud.Not Mountain as moodscapes rather than instrumental songs.
Igloo Magazine, August 2014
San Francisco based Near the Parenthesis unleashes his sixth album with Oakland-based n5MD and boasts the grammatically-intriguing title of Cloud.Not Mountain. It’s an album that bears a dualistic identity, one of beautiful, floating melody, and another of tribal, rolling rhythm. This is particularly evident in the first track on the record, “Madrean,” which starts the album off powerfully, forcing its odd-yet-entrancing almost arrhythmic beat that supports airy, long notes that form chord changes over time. It’s really quite extraordinary. The pace is somewhat calmed as the album hits its stride, with persistently present round synth sounds that conjure clouds lazily moving along a bright sky, and creatively-executed minimal drums that straddle the border of polyrhythmic, with excellent subtle panning that makes the experience of listening to the record on headphones decidedly enjoyable. The album is a sine wave. It climbs and drops in smooth, regular intervals, and carries the listener through a calming journey supported by grand pianos traveling a two-note polyphony, which drops further into high-reverb sequences, smoothly rising again to take us to an arpeggiated wonderland in the title track. We even get a dose of the classic Mac robot voice, which I thought I could have done without initially, only to find that a pleasing effect is generated when he chops it up and opens up the melodies in the background. At six minutes, the track hits several different arenas, briefly touching glitch, lingering on more two-tone polyphony, and reminding us that a drum track can definitely benefit from bar-to-bar modulation. An idea is never allowed to grow stale in Cloud.Not Mountain, rather, each piece of each song comes and goes as part of an elaborate and lengthy transition, making the album as a whole a very smooth ride. Some themes return, and make the album feel like a singular vision, composed of yet complementary sounds, and not shying away from hitting a quick groove before it takes back to the skies. Not having heard Near The Parenthesis’ previous work, I can’t comment as to this album’s place in reference to the artists’ past, but Cloud.Not Mountain has made me a fan of the artist, and I’m eager to listen to his other work which, if this album serves any indication, will be excellent.
Cyclic Defrost, September 2014
San Francisco-based electronic producer Tim Arndt last graced us under his Near The Parenthesis alias with 2011’s ‘Japanese For Beginners’ album, and three years on this sixth album ‘Cloud.Not Mountain’ sees him continuing to push his approach to production into new areas, whilst also retaining his signature melodic sensibility. From the very outset the ten tracks collected here come across as some of his most synth-dominated material to date, with the familiar piano instrumental elements of his preceding work blurred away in favour of gauzy, frequently woozy-sounding textural treatments and pitch manipulation. There’s also a newfound looseness to the rhythmic programming, with the beats sounding far less quantised and crisp, something that certainly suits the often dreamily delicate atmospheres being conjured up here. ‘Madrean’ opens this collection with spidery broken rhythms picking out a treacherous path against a background bleed of wavering detuned synths that slowly builds up into one of this album’s most majestic and detailed soundscapes as icy melodic keyboard progressions rise into focus alongside a brooding bass presence. If the aforementioned track sees Arndt getting maximalist and cinematic, ‘Virga’ sees him paring things right back as delicately optimistic sounding clavinet keys float against an ambient backdrop of swelling bass drones and what sounds like distant treated horns, only for the sudden presence of chattering broken rhythms to drag things back into sharper focus amidst the dreamily trailing synths. Elsewhere, ‘Conductor’ sees Arndt injecting an almost jazzy swing into the stuttering broken rhythms as wandering bass runs and glimmering vibraphone tones add a sense of groove beneath the refracted melodic synths that float above, before ‘Pass’ sees the fleeting presence of dark synthetic bass sequences adding a sense of foreboding that’s shortlived as a wash of brightly treated piano keys bleeds out into the foreground, sending everything off into a blissful haze. An excellent sixth album from Near The Parenthesis that sees Arndt continuing to push his working methods into ever new directions.
EtherREAL, October 2014
Avec la sortie de The Near Pairing Thesis EP, on avait pu souligner la forme de limite atteinte par Near The Parenthesis dans son utilisation du clavier comme outil de travail principal. À croire que l’États-unien s’en est également rendu compte puisque Cloud.Not Mountain le voit se diriger vers une electronica pure, sorte de retour à la musique qu’il a pu privilégier par le passé (sur L’Eixample), à base de rythmiques non agressives, de nappes et des mélodies suffisamment belles pour immédiatement susciter émotion et adhésion. L’ensemble navigue alors dans des contrées assez vaporeuses, presque caressantes, et assurément touchantes par leur simplicité apparente tandis que le musicien ne déteste pas se risquer, parfois, à une certaine emphase contenue (le final du caudal This Way et ses montées chromatiques frôlant avec le lyrisme). Techniquement, la tessiture des notes de Near The Parenthesis se pare d’une rondeur qu’on ne leur avait pas forcément connue par le passé (Vapor, l’un des deux morceaux tournant autour des cent secondes du disque, formes d’intermèdes entre des pièces plus longues). De même, à la différence de ce qu’il a pu produire sur d’autres sorties, il ne s’agit pas, pour Tim Arndt d’offrir des titres de post-rock électronisé ; de fait, même quand une guitare fait son apparition (Neume), elle reste très loin en arrière-plan, préférant laisser le devant de la scène aux composantes synthétiques. Celles-ci peuvent alors tisser des morceaux extrêmement caractéristiques, parfois même quasi-caricaturaux tellement ils savent agencer idéalement des matériaux parfaitement connus de nos oreilles (le morceau-titre en est l’exemple typique). Il n’empêche, se replonger dans de tels morceaux continue d’être un réel bonheur !