In the Treeeees
Lush orchestral swells. Beautiful musical phrases. This album carries the banner that SOTL handed off after their last album. It's really that good. Don't pass this one up. See also Kemner's work as a part of Hotel Neon.
Favorite track: Even Now.
Little Notes is a love letter from a time long ago, a series of ambient, handwritten notes personalized and addressed to someone special. In 2018, instant messaging and FaceTime have invaded, and something of the quiet, handwritten letter has been lost in translation, its deep-running intimacy substituted for ultra bright screen-glare and a yellow emoji. A loved one’s handwriting can instantly make one remember the person, the long lines and ‘y’ tails somehow transcribing a little scent of that person, writing it into the amygdala. So too can handwriting reveal a personality, unclothing the person from the penmanship. It flows from the heart to a specific series of letters, shaping words out of feelings. There are only a limited number of words, but that person still comes alive, and they’re easily recognizable through their words. Likewise, there are only a limited number of notes, but every artist, through their music, carries an identifiable signature. Little Notes is an ambient album of intimacy and tiny details, its tones unravelling in a soft and pleasing calligraphy.
Steven Kemner (one-third of Hotel Neon) frequently leaves notes all over the home for his wife to find. While cleaning the basement, Kemner found a note, written by a child and addressed to their father, dating back to 1940, from the previous occupants (and the first residents), a soul preserved on a page. The family had long vacated the house, but the letter, so personal and so heartfelt, remained, replaying in secret its printed history, where uneven-but-perfect lines of writing are made all the more special for their handwritten, intimate codes. Streaming, in love, from a child to their father. The music is soft-skinned, swelling with the heart of a romantic without going overboard. Kemner’s music is ambient done right. The notes appear more as tendrils of light that stretch forever, going way beyond anything else, never seeming to expire, like the positive emotion of love itself.
This artifact is a leak from the past, and Kemner’s music digs into the past, too, reverting into the letter’s emotions and summoning up a host of antiquarian feelings that never die. The house, by and large, may be the same building, occupying the same plot of land, but its activities, the footfall, and the general aspects of daily life are a far cry from the 1940’s. The discovery of the letter acts like a bridge, linking decades as well as occupants. The music itself has an almost-royal tone, its strings seeming to recall a time that was once decent and proper in spite of the spectre of World War II, but the drones, with their emotional heft, stir up feelings of deep love, too, and it’s made all the more innocent thanks to its young author.
Letters and drawings, especially made by someone young in age, and handcrafted by someone you love, are instant keepsakes, safely nestled away in either an attic or a basement. And that’s what happened. - Steven Kemner
This is just some of the best ambient stuff out there. Inward shows Hotel Neon channeling a bit of what makes Nest's ambient tracks so good. Dusky drones, sweeping strings, and a smattering of scratchy textures make this album worth every minute listened and more than worth every penny spent. In the Treeeees