Marsen Jules has been pumping out ambient music for a while now without me having paid much notice, but his new album Nostalgia is a beauty. Even better though is his contribution to Pop Ambient 2010, 'The Sound of One Lip Kissing'. It's the opening track, and traditionally I'd skip it in favour of the wispier, less abrupt music that follows, but that was a mistake. When I finally listened closely and got past those initial shuddering tones, it slowly envelops you in a hushed, gentle rocking motion, like a rocked cradle. It's the storm before the calm, of sorts, the opening assault disarming you for the subsequent lull.
'Once in a Moment' from Pop Ambient 2011 works similarly, but lacks that subtle violence:
I'm not sure how Jules constructs his tracks, but there appears to be classical instrumentation in there, strings at least, but they're obscured beneath layers of glistening processing. In Nostalgia they're often more foregrounded, as in the cellos in the titles track:
... and 'Kundera's Dream':
Here he's close to the deep strings of Deaf Centre, particularly their Pale Ravine in which strings joined gloomy Badalementi synths, the lot doused in reverb:
Their recent Owl Splinters eschews much (but not all) of the processing in favour of simple patterns and acoustic purity, and while I find this approach less convincing their arrangements do reach a state of droning beauty generally absent from the work of most pseudo-classical 'home listening' composers.