Alternative Matter Review – Subtle Movements Inside by Steve Brand

April 2012

Steve Brand is an electronic artist from the US who has been composing ambient music since 2003. A practitioner of Reiki, he views his music as an extension of his spiritual and healing concerns. Immediately such contextual information rings alarm bells for this listener that we are in New Age territory with the associated vacuous non-musicality with which the genre is synonymous. Thankfully “Subtle Movements Inside” does not lack substance and avoids such pitfalls.

Percussive and breathy noises herald that we are in “tribal ambient” territory. The ethnic instruments are treated to long delay and reverb producing the effect of a common human history echoing down through the millennia. The music evokes a primal gut reaction that is out of time, out of historical and social context. This is not a contemporary “Real World”/WOMAD type of ethnicity – geography and time are indistinct. Brand describes his intention is to create music which “connects us via it’s [sic] roots in our common ancient past with it’s [sic] wellspring in the depths of our larger selves”. The dichotomy is of course that such music would be impossible to create without this century’s technological advancements in audio engineering and sound synthesis but the effect of shedding off thousands of years of human history is profound. Despite the sophistication of the equipment required to create these sounds the sense is that Brand has eaves-dropped on a primal spiritual ritual – the soundtrack to which is organic, not synthetic.

Werner Herzog’s documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams brought to the public attention the oldest human art ever depicted, 36,000 year old paintings in the Chauvet Cave in the south of France. Those images came immediately to mind when listening to “Subtle Movements Inside”. Brand’s evocative sounds conjure up our shared ancestry. These ancient drawings deep within the mountain formed part of early man’s spiritual life. The slowly evolving deep, warm resonances in Brand’s music reflect what primitive instruments and vocal sounds must have sounded like when reverberating around the labyrinthine chambers of the Chauvet Cave. The sounds also resonate deep within the listener connecting him/her with experiences which have long faded from our consciousness but which are fundamental to our common beginnings.