Boomkat Product Review:
Ex-Emeralds synthesist and Spectrum Spools boss John Elliott steps into his Imaginary Softwoods slippers once again for an atemporal and emotional outpouring that's part psychedelic shoegaze and part kosmische trance. RIYL Klaus Schulze, Pub, Huerco S.
Elliott's Imaginary Softwoods project has provided keen-eared synth fetishists with a regular drip of high-potency atmospheric sea foam since Emeralds were still belching out split CDRs and hand-stamped 12"s at a prodigious rate. His latest set doesn't deviate from the established pattern, but weaves together Elliott's long-held interests in fractal Deutsche electronix, basement-dwelling DIY experimentation and misty-eyed British dubtronica. Basically, if you're interested in hearing where the Artificial Intelligence set might have ended up if they'd sustained themselves on a diet of West Coast new age tapes and Sky Records LPs instead of Future Music cover discs, this album gives us, at the very least, some blunt-addled vapor trails to follow.
Elliott's restrained composition is matched only by his mastery over his arsenal of instruments. Real gear botherers have slipped into precarious territory in the last few years, not helped by overexposure on Instagram reels and bearded accountants showing off their expensive modular rigs. But Elliott doesn't concern himself with vapid aesthetic posturing, he uses the synths he chooses because he's aware of not only their potential but their provenance. At this stage in his career he's signaling a knowledge of German pioneers like Schulze, Deuter and the recently-departed Manuel Göttsching, alongside his own back catalog and that of his kosmische-reviving peers. Elliott and his close friends provided a welcome respite by mining a seam that was vitally lysergic and comparatively sensitive.
Over a decade later his music still inhabits its own creative sphere, and despite the popularity of Ambient music, and the fatiguing overuse of analog synthesis, Elliott's skill separates him from any popular wave. He's able to bring to mind early Arovane and '80s Tangerine Dream simultaneously on the elegiac 'Parterre', and cross epic Schulze-style pad work with Slowdive-esque emotional weight on 'Diagram of the Universe'. Brief, noisy miniatures like 'Portable Void' and the glorious 'Mr. Big Volume' (which some of you might remember from 2020's brilliant "So Extra Bronze Lamp"), provide breathing room between weightier compositions like the gossamer 'Almond Branch' and faded 'Air Statue'. It's music that provides you the space to float outside of yourself for a moment and consider the world outside - the space in between. God knows we need it.