FOLLOW THE SOUND OF AQUARIUS TO AUTOMATED SYNTHESIS.
Prepare to cleanse, revive and paint day-glo your chakras, because Happy Meals are back with Optimo Music’s inaugural release on new ‘So Low’ imprint, Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony Vol IV-V.
Best listened to as a continuous experience from start to finish, the 34 minute, 5-track album requires a certain devotion of the senses, a willingness to close your eyes and embrace its shimmering layers of meditative sound.
‘432hz Resonant Activation Tone’ opens with a seven-minute drone, supported by swells of sultry feedback: this drone is a gateway of sorts, the transitional space between reality and a higher plane; with everything coated in the slick, trippy ooze, its shades of vibrant psych, of exotic percussion, the alluring stir of aureate arpeggios.
The rupture into this intensified world is marked by a muffled, roaring sound at the start of ‘May You Be The Mother – May You Be The Son’; it’s a thousand icebergs melting in their deep craquelure, something unhuman zoomed in, attuned.
In and out is maybe the appropriate description for this song; sparse beats build and fade with almost binaural effect beneath a canopy of intricate synth foliage, trills of woodwind and twangles of picked strings, marimba vibrations.
In and out: light dappled on translucent foundations, the deep house pulse resounding familiar as a nineties warehouse full to burst and yet among subtle blips there’s a distinct futurity to all this coruscating noise—as the cover proclaims, UTOPIAS IN SIGHT!
While synths imply synthetic, this record is all about getting back to nature; not the pretty green hills of Romantic dreams, but the strange, gooey beauty that flows by osmosis from outside to in.
Carving new environments: the stuck heat of a celluloid disc, turning in your player, filling the room with constellating reverie…think of oil spills, desert chimera, heat waves, whirlpools, imaginary galaxies.
Suzanne Rodden’s haunting vocals on ‘Full Ashram Emerging Theme’ is the silvery reverb of sirens, an underwater chorus luring you deeper within your mind.
If Aquarius is the great pourer of water, then Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony enacts this carriage of water in the listener’s brain: you can’t help feeling a ritual liquidity swirl around you; sometimes distant and cool, sometimes comforting.
It’s the power of the oddly cosmic to realign your reality: lay out a rug, burn some incense and sacrifice some time to the art of listening.
While previous releases, 2016’s Fruit Juice and 2014’s Apéro, prove Happy Meals are more than capable of mixing ambient with distinct dance tracks, Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony carries a fresh atmosphere, an openness to texture, depth and modulating mood.
Like every good meditative session, the record follows the satisfying trajectory of a cycle, closing on ‘528Hz Full Heart Vibration’ with a pulsing, psychotropic drone.
Whatever you imagine when you listen–be it the pixelated sway of LA palms or the sublime Brutalism of a Glasgow skyscape–Happy Meal’s deconstructed electronica frames the space for contemplation.
Flirting with the mystical isn’t just a gimmick here, but a genuine attempt to probe the soft layers of consciousness for the soothing jewels that lay beneath; to put into music the orbital pull of astral travel, the looped arabesques and resonant echoes from beyond.
Let’s hope it works this good on a dancefloor as it does in a twilit garden, a midnight bedroom, the virtual temple of a flat party at daybreak.
Words: Maria Sledmere