Kicking off with opening track ‘Haus’, Bruce Cohen’s latest release Four BC hits out hard with a fierce beat that grabs the attention immediately. Without much hesitation, we are sent headfirst into a dizzying spiral of woozy ambient samples and an intoxicating melody made up of swirling glacial notes. There’s a slight tone of dread sitting beneath it all, while Cohen’s production keeps things wide and airy at the same time. His music builds gradually, adding various new elements to the mix as it progresses, constantly growing and holding the attention.
The underlying darker tones are maintained as we are led into ‘Luna’, with its sparse atmospheric pads that heave and groan under their own weight, giving a nod towards the soundtracks of shows like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things. Those earlier glacial notes return, adding contrast and atmosphere, with a sense of space that really pulls the listener in. As it develops, it becomes all embracing, reaching out and wrapping the listener into its own carefully constructed world of sonic mystery. Where are we being taken? Will we make it out alive? This is when the confident beat of ‘Lost’ kicks in, and we now find ourselves in an utterly alien landscape. Tones fly back and forth like an extraterrestrial language, trying to communicate but we are here without a translator.
Once you have made it a few tracks in to Four BC, you’ll begin to feel at home. It’s like being transported to another world but it’s not scary or overwhelming. Rather, it is entirely welcoming, where the listener is invited to relax and engage on whatever level they might feel able. It’s not the kind of ambient music where you can totally check out and let it wash over you – although it could quite easily serve that purpose – because there is so much going on that it really demands close attention and inspection. Sounds shift and change, never staying still but constantly evolving and reforming into new throbs and washes.
Whenever there has been a moment where things feel like they are really winding down (‘Rise’), suddenly we are headlong into a new sequence which takes us in a whole other direction (‘Seen’). In many ways Four BC is like being invited to a huge mansion and given the freedom to wander around to investigate its many rooms. As you begin to do so, you realize that every room is totally different with new things to discover. And further still, you begin to realize that each room has something in common with all the others. There is a plan here, Cohen has very carefully constructed a sequence of spaces that are totally consistent yet always offering something new. As a result, the album sits somewhere between chilled out ambient and cerebral EDM, making it the kind of record that can be listened to in a range of settings and for different listening purposes. It’s relaxed, but won’t send you to sleep. It’s engaging, but won’t exhaust you either.
• Chris Marsh • CrossRadar