flowers bloom, butterflies come – observatories [review]

As I sit in my small studio room with the last of the spring sunlight streaming through the window I’m acutely aware of how much I need this album in my life right now. It’s been a crazy year for all of us and this album is the perfect antidote to help bring a little perspective to the awful situation we all find ourselves in.

Observatories is a collaborative project between Ian Hawgood and Craig Tattersall, two artists who need no introduction. Ian has been at the forefront of the modern ambient scene releasing some of the most beautifully crafted minimalist ambience through his own label, Home Normal, and through a multitude of other labels — too many to mention here. Craig has consistently pushed the boundaries of electronic music with his work in groups such as The Remote Viewer, The Famous Boyfriend, The Boats and his most recent solo alias The Humble Bee. Craig’s experiments in dusty tape music have seen him release some of the most moving ambient pieces of the past 10 years on labels such as Dauw, Laaps and his own imprint, Cotton Goods.

This is the artists’ first collaborative effort despite being long term friends. The artists clearly have a deep appreciation for each other’s music and it’s this deep appreciation that has laid the groundwork for this beautiful album.

Soft, warbling melodies weave within a bed of subtle textures moving and contorting within the open spaces of the tracks, slowly evolving into deep atmospheric tape drones full of rich harmonic saturations. The sophisticated layering and looping of piano, guitar, synths and various other instrumentation blend together creating hazy melodic structures that underpin the whole album. Beds of beautifully captured field recordings help create warm atmospheres that bring with them the overwhelming feeling that things will be ok. Decaying tape reels remind us of the fragility of the things we hold dear, helping us to focus on what is important whilst transporting us into a dream like state, riding gently across a wave of intoxicating drones. 

It’s difficult to tell exactly who did what on this album, and that only feeds into the magic of it all. This album feels like a beautiful dialogue between two old friends. They talk about their hopes and their dreams and they remind each other that although there are plenty of reasons to be upset with world right now, there is nothing like sitting back with an old friend and watching the beauty of spring unfold.

The album is exquisitely paired with the photography of Japanese artist Miho Kajioka. Miho’s enchanting photographs blend the lines of photography and illustration creating hazy amorphous scenes that pull the viewer in. The beautiful use of negative spaces mirrors that of the music, giving the viewer the time to bathe in the subtle imagery that hides within the pages. 

Flowers Bloom, Butterflies Come is available now via Mathias Van Eecloo’s imprint IIKK. The album can be purchased in a variety of different formats to suit any listening needs. You can check out the full release on the link below but be quick as all formats are selling out fast.

Reviewed by James Osland

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