Echoes is the third album to be released this year by the prolific Apta - description "one man, many machines, some strings" - following in the footsteps of WF24 - Vignettes and Rainbow Islands. Across eleven tracks we're taken on an atmospheric trip through the thought processes of the creator.
One issue we often have with purely instrumental music is the tendency to throw the kitchen sink at it, to compensate for the lack of a voice with too many different things going on at the same time. It's where Apta's work to date, and Echoes is no exception to that, is so refreshing. What's almost as important to the impact of these tracks is the space that goes unfilled, allowing the uncluttered yet still intensely complex-sounding synths and other instrumentation the room to really hit home.
Whether it's in moments that are so sparse that you fear the whole thing might disappear if your attention wanders - and the first three tracks Swell, The Slide and Ripples fit that category - or where Threads gradually winds its way into your conscience, seemingly starting far away and drawing closer during its four minutes, Echoes is an enthralling listen, best taken with no distraction in a dark room where you can fully concentrate on its subtleties and intricacies.
Polar (+) sits as its centrepiece, the taut tension ratcheted up by the repetition of sonic snippets, beavering their way into your brain a little deeper each time it comes back to the same point before moving onto the next segment and utilising the same technique with different sounds that then drift out to be replaced by new ones. It's a fascinating journey that gives you something new each time.
Same As It Ever Was (Bokeh) is a ninety-second prelude to The Same As It Ever Was, the parenthesis recognising the track's more blurred vision than what succeeds it - shimmering synths that unfurl in front of you as the song moves forward, subtle nuances coming to the fore as it does, the most widescreen vision of Echoes so far.
It's an approach that's carried forward into DSI, the sound now so sharp that you almost feel like it's pricking your skin, which leads into Paraesthesia which is to all intents and purposes just that. The second half of the album feels more expansive than the first as other instruments are added to the pallet and the music edges closer and feels like it's slowly surrounding you but without any hint of malice or menace just soothing the senses.
Wander is a little diversion from what's gone before, deep synths in the first half of the track before it blossoms out of nowhere into something that feels both celebratory and funereal at the same time, a real bipolar moment in the record. The album finishes with a long brooding intro into We Tire under which the rest of the track slowly builds and emerges out of the fog with sampled undecipherable vocals then sitting underneath it as Echoes comes to its conclusion.
Echoes is a fascinating piece of work. It can be enjoyed in the background of whatever you are doing, but you'll very quickly get drawn into its spell if you allow yourself the time to be immersed in it. It's best listened to though with your complete attention so you can capture the detail and thought that has gone into every single note.
Apta is on Twitter.