Ambient Review

Elinch – In Between Patches

Seil Records – Release: Out now

Seil continue their consistent output of mellow ambient releases, with a cassette containing 23 modular synth sketches from German artist Elinch.

Depending on where you read, a synthesist could be defined as a person (or thing) that either “synthesizes“, “plays an electronic synthesizer” or even just “uses synthetic methods“. The recent revival in modular synthesis, owing to the proliferation of the eurorack format, has in tandem seen a new wave of artists describing themselves as such. It’s a broad definition, as on one hand, keyboard players Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock are sometimes referred to as a synthesists and on the other hand, artists like Laurie Speigel or Brian Eno, known for their more generative approach to composition, are described as one and the same. By this example, many of current crop of modular synth artists fall into the latter camp.

Definitions aside, ‘In Between Patches’ from Elinch, is an extensive, well produced and varied assortment of modular synth based ideas. The 23 sketches are presented and cross-faded into 2 long pieces. The result being a semi-continuous ambient experience, different to how one would consume a regular album of ‘songs’ and perhaps more fitting to the long form nature of the genre.

There are successful examples of structure and style to be discovered here, some of which could have been fleshed out further into something resembling more of a narrative. My favourite moments are where Elich ventures into more unusual territory, such as the bubbling percussive layers in part 11 (side a), or the spooky, almost vocal quality to the lead in part 21 (side b).

I guess the risk associated with modern (modular synth) ambient music, is that generally speaking, it is easy for someone with no musical training to buy a few modules and create something that is aurally pleasing and has consonance. When you combine these results with some expensive DLR footage of equally expensive gear, it can detract from the musical substance and adopt a form of fetishism for the gear itself. Thankfully in this case, Elinch bypasses the lure of social media content and presents their raw sounds to our ears and it holds up well.