On Air Library – A Lifetime or More

On Air Library
A Lifetime or More

For those of you who don’t know, here is the quick rundown: The Album Leaf, at least for writing and recording purposes, is one man: Jimmy LaValle of Tristeza fame. With this latest project, LaValle blends everything from classical compositions to ambient soundscapes, to drum and bass rhythms while creating some of the dreamiest instrumentals around. On Air Library is a trio from New York City that writes similarly dreamlike pop songs, but with the implementation of vocals. Now you know, so on with the songs…

The Album Leaf. “Another Day” is a perfectly beautiful way to open this split effort, and it is the perfect example of the sort of dreamy, bedroom instrumental pop that LaValle is capable of creating. You hear hushed chatter in the background that sounds as though it was recorded on the street next to an elementary school as classes were ending for the day and people were leaving for home. Keyboards, guitars, and synthesized effects swim all around each other in perfect symmetry, like the soundtrack to a nature film about the beauties of something unattainable like the depths of the ocean or the far reaches of outer space. The song bleeds into “Essex,” which introduces both live and electronic drums into the mix to bump up the tempo a bit. Those and the newly added bass give the song an almost danceable feel, but it still maintains the slightly spacey and dreamy feel that worked so well in the first song. Finally, there is “Lamplight,” which starts out slowly with nothing more than a few vibrating notes but gradually builds to include a simple drum beat, a pulsating bassline, guitar, and a handful of swirling effects. It gives the feeling of something trying to wake itself from a deep sleep without really wanting to do so.

On Air Library. Like the Album Leaf, On Air Library does a fine job of weaving subtle dynamics and textures into deeply complicated structures, with the most obvious difference being the additional of vocals. The band also tends to be a little more wandering in terms of musical structures. “Ex’s and Oh’s” features little more than keyboards, guitars, and a spattering of effects, but with both male and female vocals thrown on top. The song ends up leaving you sadly reminiscent of just a few moments ago when LaValle created something even prettier without the mildly abrasive vocals, as the ones here sound a bit like a sleepy and stoned version of Joan of Arc. “Pass the Mic (P, A, C)” is actually a three-part tune that begins with a heavy drum and bass meets abstract lyrical wanderings feel punctuated with grating guitar solos, works its way into what sounds like a futuristic circus soundtrack from some evil underworld and closes with a combination of the previous two elements that is more accessible than either of them. Finally, “Faux Fromm” emits the feeling of a machine-like creature with the vocal chords of a lovely young woman, making for the most interesting of On Air Library’s contributions.

If this were a competition, the Album Leaf has won it, schooling the new kids on the block about how to create truly ethereal soundscapes without even saying a word. The Album Leaf is more gentle and soothing, while On Air Library is equally spacious but much more dense and a bit more difficult to digest. This contrast is just enough to help these bands compliment each other perfectly, creating a cascading album that feels like the ideal soundtrack to quiet time alone or with a loved one.