Minor Science -- aka UK-born, Berlin-based musician Angus Finlayson -- makes his Balmat debut with Absent Friends Vol. III, the third installment in a shape-shifting series across a variety of formats and platforms. And with it, he pushes forward his vision of ambient music as neither static vista or merely mood-setting atmosphere, but rather a dynamic matrix of textures, sensations, and even rhythms. The first two Absent Friends -- a 2014 set for Blowing Up the Workshop, and a 2017 cassette and web player for Whities (now AD93) -- were hybrid affairs, part DJ mix and part collage, mostly featuring music made by other people. Then, in 2020-21, Finlayson developed the project into a live show of his own material. Armed with hundreds of bespoke stems created in his studio -- idiosyncratic FX chains, feedback loops through cheap rack gear, heavily post-processed field recordings, found voices, etc. -- he would improvise on four CDJs, mixer, FX, and live synths, extending techniques he learned as a club DJ into a live context, accompanied by visuals by Stockholm-based artist Paul Witherden. Absent Friends Vol. III is an album of studio versions of the music developed for the live show. But in Minor Science's world, even a category as simple as "studio versions" is slightly opaque. Finlayson's organic process of ideation and realization might help explain the unusual coherence of the album, in which sounds and textures flow seamlessly from one to the next, sometimes seeming to stand still, and sometimes looping back. There are virtually no melodies, few recognizable motifs or riffs, yet the eight-track album nevertheless moves with a distinctive logic and a determined sense of purpose, from the frozen-in-time shimmer of the opening "Introduction" through the early cuts' studies of space and light; from the seemingly autobiographical "Summer Diary" through the rushing trance (yes, trance) arpeggios of "Contingency" and on to the dulcet denouement of the closing "Gather Your Party (Dispersed Mix)."
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