Koen Holtkamp, one half of the bliss-inducing Mountains, has two solo records to his credit as Aero on the Apestaartje record label he started in 1998, but he hasn’t aligned a project with his given name until now, a decade into his career as one of the avant-garde’s more sublime performers. One can understand the decision after listening to the truly radiant Field Rituals. You don‘t let nicknames take credit for albums of this caliber.
Opening amid a flange-damaged guitar chords ("Half Light") and ending on a bed of whirling crystals ("Haus und spirale im regen"), Field Rituals‘ humming expanse of scintillating flux is pierced by leviathans of ice that crest and dip back into the mineral shimmer. These wrinkles might prevent your standard supine drift, but there’s enough atmospherics and acoustics that we wouldn’t rule one out. His headphone daze lingers, lustrous and evanescent.
As its title suggests, Field Rituals transforms the potentially mundane into the mystical. Raw "field" recordings and other organic components – such as the schoolyard cries and chatter of "Sky Flowers,” snippets of pattering feet and rustled objects throughout – become spectral signals leaking from cracks in the memory bank or the liminal edges of consciousness. The subaquatic resonances of "Night Swimmer" seem to buoy the ghost of Arthur Russell, turning the wordless pleas (performed by fellow Other Music alum, Queens a.k.a. Scott Mou) into a tranquilized blur. “Bear Bell,” a glistening marsh of radioactive fluorescence, comes limned with the same electric slipstream of phased throb that once fixated J. Spaceman.
Throughout, Field Rituals mixes soil and plasma, the rattle and creaks of handiwork with astral filaments and geodesic drones. Holtkamp’s guitars have a percussive ring – chattering, chiming, switching between metal, glass and wood – or they’re dissolved into analgesic billows of carbonated ointment. He, thankfully, never finds it necessary to challenge his audience with shards of hiss or distortion, to ensure that these bows of honeycombed incandescence aren’t perceived as laserium soundtracks. Holtkamp’s just comfortable being comforting, so bask in the balmy glow.