They Glistened Sharply Through Morning Dew is the latest full-length album of Malta-based multi-instrumentalist Robert Farrugia, self-released on Bandcamp in March where it is available to stream and purchase (name your price) in a digital-only version. Nine tracks grace the treasure box, and although the topic would have functioned as a splendid inclusion in my annual Winter Ambient Review Cycle, I am actually better off with not linking it solely to wintry lands, even though transfigured coldness and glorified snowscapes are all over this release. I am not sure which – and how many – instruments the artist used for this release. Sure, I could ask him, but even though this is an in-depth review, the term neither implies a final erudition nor definite truth. Therefore, I could be wrong many a time while trying to pinpoint an instrument. Obviously, a piano is on board, and I sense violins/cellos, mallet instruments and guitars, but what do I know? It is the aesthetics and timbres that count, not the brand of the guitar. This is basically a Drone-focused electro-acoustic album, with enough crevasses and clefts left for perpendicular dots and an instrument’s decay to fade out in the synth-oid nebulae. The title They Glistened Sharply Through Morning Dew, meanwhile, is a bit jarring and rough, and that is all the more paradoxical if one considers the potentially elegiac poetry and elegant prosody that are both encapsulated in it. The title and blurred front artwork notwithstanding, the latter of which is tastefully transformed into lush aural airflows, here is a meticulous look at all nine tracks and the album’s overarching concepts.
Even without a single note reaching the ear, the opener Everglade makes sure that the listening subject’s cliché-laden expectancy is matched. What sounds like a letdown is in fact a cleverly thought out prelude to the dewy, partially frosty dioramas that are to be built and erected in the coming minutes. What is surprising, however, is the tendency of Everglade to feel like a tentatively called everglide. This provisional term may not properly pinpoint the harp-like vitreous blotchiness, but does fittingly describe the legato string aorta which pieces the pointillistic devices together and spends warmth despite being almost torn apart by its calcined state. Everglade feels limewashed and pristine, but this purified state does not imply a piercing Glitchfest; Farrugia instead imposes a silkened, more veneered moiré of melancholia. The long-winded The Snow Began To Fall Again, Drifting Against The Windows connects to the wintry atmosphere in a benignantly cinematic way. The lead piano is covered in nostalgic echoes, but otherwise presents itself unprocessed, playing in higher tone regions in order to emanate glacial scintillae amid the string-based adjuvants of helical transcendence. The last third sees the violin or cello protrude the veiled atmosphere, now towering elegiacally above the nature-given wasteland whose stabilized fugacity is ended with spectral superimpositions of reversely played specks in hatched colors. Speaking of colors: from the outlook, the following Fluorescent seems to serve as the momentary counterpart, but this dubious state is at first exuded by its track title, then excluded by its shape. What is emitted by the textural layer entanglement is quite different, namely an amalgamation of wondrously bleached sinews moulded into a lacunar Drone corset of lachrymose tone sequences. Glistening glissando breezes flow through the ether, and it is up to the listener to decide whether the implied forsakenness carries gravitas or radiates solace.
The title track They Glistened Sharply Through Morning Dew is the magnanimous revelation of Farrugia’s hibernal capsule, offering a U-turn from the severely snowy sequences right into eloquently ecclesial erethism, or what else should one think of the elysian aurum that unfolds within the pipe organ-resembling drones, the rhizomes made of orchestra bells and the infinitesimally recognizable vestiges of guitar chords? This piece transmutes into a shelter of bliss, and while it is not the truly elating one which insinuates true happiness, the solemn weight of the composition is all the more important in the given context, as it spawns thermal heat. Another kind of – now clearly verdured – warmth is unleashed in Gust Of Wind, a decidedly rural-bucolic field recording of chirping birds and said aerose gust, male recitals as well as New Age-inspired piano formations which let the scenery speak for itself… or intervene with nature for dramatic purposes. WhileTranscend is hued in argentine contrasts due to enmeshed glockenspiel sparks, elasticized piano prolongations in tandem with vesiculating blebs and the cautious equipoise between crystalline fragility and intersections of restorative vigor, Sun Is Low; Breezes Fall delineates a fairy tale-compatible imagery with a bokeh of music box flickers and piano-based polka dots. The afterglow of the strings sends out the perception of a sylvan sundown in this aeriform-ligneous drone synergy. The penultimate Lavender is actually the last unique composition and enchants with its multiplexed sybaritism of twinkling glitters. The multi-instrumentalist creates a mystical antrum in blue colors, the finish of each tone becomes diluted and changes the former attack rate into a mellowed zone-out state. The finale is an encore or alternate version of the title track. Robert Farrugia doubles its length, emaciates the golden shimmer in favor of a whortleberry aroma and injects seraphic organ washes that are close to the original, but much more keen on the New Age concept. A progressive track with an increasingly feistier physiognomy, it is here where the album reaches its astute culmination point by dropping… real elation and rapture.
They Glistened Sharply Through Morning Dew offers exactly what its title implies: a collection of nine compositions that are centered around the notion of coldness, or to be more precise, one of winter’s long frosty mornings. It is not as easy as that though, as Farrugia offers a braiding of chirping birds, fuzzy warmth and New Age arcana that are not necessarily one’s first thought regarding this particular season, let alone the depiction of it by means of electro-acoustic Ambient music with Neo-Classical implications. One thing Farrugia does very well is to fathom a stable nucleus, probably not the greatest compliment an artist in this field can receive, but I mean it the way I phrase it: instead of succumbing to eclecticism and a convoluted mélange of textures and surfaces, the instrumentalist from Malta carves out the tone sequences and overtones and then purposefully diffuses them with post-processing effects. The interim result in each and every arrangement is a melody that is based on clarity and potentially open to scrutiny, but willfully embellished and altered. No surprise, for that’s the electro part of the electro-acoustic movement. Still, Farrugia manages to let his conglomerates and superstructures work not for euphony’s sake, but their interstitial interdependencies. The somewhat short moment of sudden dissonance in the title track or the trips to New Age surroundings in Gust Of Wind and Lavender, the latter of which suddenly transforms Farrugia’s classic piano to a delightfully chintzy Italo version thereof, They Glistened Sharply Through Morning Dew features dedicated compositions without any histrionic gravity or unnecessary showroom of prestidigitation. Gaseous drones and coruscating plinks draped in the cold air of winter; if this is what you are seeking, Robert Farugia is more than happy to be your multi-instrumentalist and weaver of pipe dreams.