Sean Curtis Patrick / Benoît Pioulard

Avocationals

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AllMusic Review by

After spending years intending to work on music together, longtime friends Benoit Pioulard and Sean Curtis Patrick found a project worthy of their talents. A set of ambient pieces inspired by the ships wrecked in the Great Lakes during the shipping boom of the mid-20th century, Avocationals makes the most of their ability to imbue their music with a sense of place and history. Pioulard's music frequently incorporates field recordings, while Patrick often builds entire works from them. Their approaches blend seamlessly on Avocationals, which they crafted with Patrick's vintage reel-to-reel tape machines and synths as well as guitars and vocals. The duo set the tone for the album with the eerily beautiful melody of "Zenava," which beckons listeners to follow Pioulard and Patrick further into its depths. Indeed, the way "Furia" blends flutey synths from a '70s documentary with warped tones suggests the pair had to salvage its waterlogged recordings. The underwater world takes over on the stunning "Marlen," where rumbling bass, submerged vocals, and chiming tones express the timelessness and gentle decay waiting beneath the waves. On each of its tracks, Avocationals offers vivid sound portraits with a remarkable amount of substance to their atmospheres. The cracking percussion that punctuates "Stonefax"'s luminous washes of sound evokes crumbling debris in its unhurried yet unpredictable patterns, while "Cabot"'s mix of looming drones and bubbling textures convey a deep-seated melancholy. Patrick and Pioulard take care to give each piece subtle and gorgeous details, whether it's the melody that sounds like a sunken, slow-motion sailor's tune on "Nordmeer" or the clearly delineated layers of sub bass, vocals, and electronics on "Sunek," which call to mind Loscil's output as well as their own work. By the time they bring Avocationals to a close and return to the surface with the elegiac drones of "Eaglescliffe," Patrick and Pioulard complete a somberly beautiful musical journey that demands a return trip.

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