I’m not generally a summer guy — I dig spring and fall with much more fervor — but I am a Seahawks guy. Of course, I don’t mean the Seattle NFL team, but the ambient/oceangaze duo of Jon Tye and Pete Fowler that has graced this publication multiple times for years. They’ve returned with a new album, Eternal Beams, and on it they ramp up their ability to craft blissful and ambient New Age synthscapes — going so far as to enlist the legendary Laraaji as a vocal collaborator.
Eternal Beams is less beat-driven than predecessor records such as 2016’s Escape Hatch, 2014’s Paradise Freaks, or earlier releases such as Ocean Trippin’ and Invisible Sunrise. The “psychedelic yacht rock, deck shoegaze, hazy beach pop vibrations, and marina drone” classifications they’ve assigned themselves and/or have been assigned in the past are present in some capacities, to be sure.
But a focus on the principals of inter-species and inter-dimensional interconnectedness makes for a rather different type of Seahawks album. The pronounced hypnotic qualities of the ocean — rain or shine, falling water from on-high or waves of water below, the raw joy that comes from embracing the ocean — drenches this record. As does the quest for other oceans far from our own.
Each of the album’s sides is devoted to different experiences of aquatic phenomena. Side A (or tracks 1 through 4 on digital) is the rain side — albeit a much more gentle storm than a squall. Your mind is expanded by crystalline and wet ambient synths that pulsate and swirl around often-sweet and always transcendent melodies. “Sweet Rain” and “Falling Waters” are certainly the most thematically overt — bathing their synthscapes in field recordings of storms — but the concept resonates through all the beginning tracks. The storm, whether within or without us, is here.
“Golden Ghosts/Awake,” the beat-oriented number on side 1, stands out for its use of rhythm as a representation of regular rain drops smacking the salt water. Title cut “Eternal Beams” represents the transition from the rain to the post-storm side 2, as sunbeams emerge from the clouds amid the last remnants of the rainstorm. No doubt a rainbow appears, paving the way for the dolphin-oriented next stage. Something special is happening.
Side B (or tracks 5 through 9 on digital) features legendary ambient artist Laraaji joining Tye and Fowler, and amid all of that is the dominant influence of dolphins, among the oceans’ smartest creatures. Specifically, as Tye and Fowler say it, they had been communing with dolphins that had been washed up on local beaches, and reading the works of metaphysical writer John C. Lilly, and Joan Ocean, who writes a lot about the connections between humans and dolphins. Tye and Fowler then created a collection they called Music For Dolphins. Then they asked the Brian Eno-collaborating Laraaji to join them, and to their joy he agreed to hop on board the good ship Seahawks.
“Music for Dolphins Parts 1 & 2” kicks off with a wash of synth pads and a swirling manipulation of a dolphin’s call, signaling a sort of gateway into the realm of inter-species understanding. With each swell of the synths, infused with the hypnotic incantations of Laraaji, we as listeners are given an ablution that allows us to proceed further into the record free of the spiritual and existential gunk of the past. It could be these sea mammals hold the keys to a greater truth.
By the time “Radiance Gateway,” the next track, emerges, there’s an overriding sense of weightlessness that is all-encompassing and prepares you for “Rest in Peace.” The latter opens with a low-octave chant from Laraaji that continues throughout the track, riding a wave of synths and electronics that craft a comprehensive sense of calm and resolution. It’s as if you and every other one of your selves from any lifetime or dimension are slowly tuned into each other, concurrently resolving all confusion, trauma, and suffering across space and time. Serenity now, serenity ad infinitum. This is the end of the vinyl version of the album, working as a great conclusion for the album.
But on the digital version, we have to wring ourselves out a bit more. “Ten Moons” represents the first instance of a percussion-driven track on the Laraaji side of things, with crashes of waves that smack up against the instruments and oftentimes hiding what seems like a rather ominous, minor-key development in this act of transcendence. Is the aforementioned gunk fighting to stay stuck? Are we required to shake it all off or just tie ourselves to the deck of the ship and let the waves do their work? After all, sometimes the closer you get to resolution the bigger the challenges become.
“Creation Tones” has distant, metallic sounds that grow larger and closer, accompanied by the encapsulating shouts of dolphins, locked in a sort-of Lynchian gateway. That all gives away to an all-encompassing onslaught of synthscapes and Laraaji-tones that represent the true return of all iterations of the self into a sense of oneness with each other and everyone else — and perhaps even the divine.
It’s as if this whole time dolphins were trying to lead our way to all of this, but we were dead-set on putting them in aquariums for our amusement, stifling them, thereby stifling ourselves.