Big sounds do not always mean big emotions. Misplaced grandiosity can suck the meaning right out of a piece of music, and this tends to go doubly for electronic music. Creating a sense of ownership over a completely synthetic production can be a lot more challenging than it might seem at first blush, and it's exactly here where Throwing Snow shows his highest level of accomplishment. Ross Tones' command of space and atmosphere is on full display with Embers, his second full-length release on the Houndstooth label.
Dark, brooding, and propulsive in equal measures, Embers is the kind of album that just dares you to remember title applies to which track. The album's artwork serves as a bit of a tipoff: Embers arrives seamless, smooth as a weatherbeaten stone. You could easily start it on any track and just let the thing keep playing with the loop setting engaged: songs dip and blend into one another, ambient droning interstitials (that more than once prompted my roommate to pop his head in my room and quizzically ask what I was listening to) bleed into thumping grooves effortlessly. Embers is an album of masterful movement, and at an hour long it's one that rewards a good bit of patience. Even its incredibly strong opener requires that you sit through an extended introduction track, but the resulting effect is a rewarding one. The ambient rainstorm and slow arpeggio of "Cantor's Dust, Part 1" (named for a mathematics concept that you're welcome to pick through) slowly surges into the swelling, growling motors of "Cantor's Dust, Part 2," which functions as both the album's first proper track and first real highlight.
What follows is a tightly-controlled display of both groove and ambience as Tones carves out an interesting sonic space for himself; think a ramped-up Burial by way of Boards of Canada. Embers (not unlike Gesaffelstein's equally-cinematic post synthwave masterpiece Aleph) is best taken in as a whole. It's an album of movements, with most tracks lacking even a moment of dead air separating them from their neighbors. Tones clearly meant for it to take the listener on a bit of a journey, and it's definitely one worth taking at least once.