The panoramic landscape photographs adorning Max Corbacho’s Nocturnes serve a purpose that goes beyond mere decoration. In this case, the images, captured by the artist himself, are intended to reflect the emotions he felt and the impressions gathered during many recent sessions of night photography; in his own words, “The most vivid memory of these nights is silence, stillness, the twinkling light of the stars, and the sweet fragrance of thyme that impregnates everything in these regions of Aragon in Spain.” That the two images stretching across the inner and outer sleeves of the CD’s package could pass for photos taken by a space shuttle on the surface of a neighbouring planet isn’t insignificant either, given the style of deeply atmospheric space ambient the Barcelona-based producer specializes in. With a starlit sky shrouding the landscape in semi-darkness and blurring its details, the cover image could just as easily be showing a location on the moon’s surface as one on our own planet.
Using synthesizers, samplers, and looping devices, Corbacho has fashioned three connecting soundscapes on the seventy-four-minute recording to evoke the awe-inspiring and otherworldly stillness of the natural world during the night hours. Though three tracks are indexed and titled, Nocturnes plays like a single-movement soundscape wherein long trails of murmuring synthesizers overlap. The most immersive track of the three is “Dark Sky Opening,” whose fifty-three-minute duration can’t help but overshadow the other two. That said, the dramatic, cavernous undercurrents that darken “Stellar Time” and “Ghost of the Moon” provide a subtly contrasting counterpoint to the largely serene mien of the opener.
If it seems expertly done, there’s a reason: influenced by artists such as Brian Eno, Robert Rich, and Steve Roach, Corbacho has been crafting electronic soundscapes for almost two decades and has progressively refined his space ambient style since his debut, Vestiges, appeared in 1999. Album releases have appeared with regularity ever since, with two, Splendid Labyrinths and Future Terrain, preceding Nocturnes by two years. Like time-lapsed photography, the new collection’s slow-motion material drifts serenely, the music shimmering and radiating like the gentle exhalations of a sleeping body. Exploiting the efficacy of looping and reverb, Corbacho strengthens the oceanic character of his album’s material and intensifies its time-suspending quality.