Underlining a stylistic shift as per the breadth of influence and experience of Robert Dilemma (The Soft Parts), 2020’s EP Lost Horizon, under Equatorial, presents a dreamy array of soundscapes. Still delicate and emotive, yet consistently devoted to the electronic realm of ambient expression.
We begin with the looping embrace of a mildly retro yet ethereal Charmed Life, promising a calming, thought-provoking listen, not too far removed from the soothing nature of binaural beats. The various textures utilised feel decidedly unique – short lines of melody brought to life by versatility of sound and design.
The near fifteen-minute opener evolves unexpectedly in sections, shifting to what seems like a second track after a few minutes of familiar patterns, and reinventing itself further still as the inspirations for this Charmed Life continue to emerge.
Openly influenced by electronica and IDM, the project works to highlight the connections between musical traits – between sonic and rhythmic layers, as described by the artist himself.
“At the time I made this I was reading a number of Graham Hancock’s books postulating the existence of a previous advanced civilization in our deep prehistory that was wiped away by some unknown planet-wide cataclysmic event… The sensation of remnants of a lost civilization erased by catastrophe is constantly hovering just beyond the horizon in the album.”
For the title-track, this background influence falls perhaps more notably into play. Minimalism takes the reigns, a soft and spacious arrangement to begin with, growing through various dashes of subtle implication and intrigue.
Inspired by the avant-garde textural composer Gyorgy Ligeti, the piece again provokes a sense of vastness that lures you in and swiftly prompts the imagination to roam. Its intensity grows slowly but surely, with the final section finding its rhythmic depth and drama in a fascinating manner.
Changing traits again is The Dying Embers, suddenly immense in its cinematic reach, ambient by nature but boldly emotive nonetheless. At the half-way mark we get a trip-hop-style rhythm for further eclecticism, and the groove that ensues helps make this one of the most inspiring and awakening tracks of the collection. A personal favourite for its unique fusion of styles, and the pure emotion of that sinking chord progression.
Closing down Lost Horizon is the pastoral meditation track The Buddha In The Mirror. Simplicity and vastness join forces one last time, as the chime of descending bell notes presents a post-sixteen-minute journey; potentially into the depths of hypnotism. As ever, the rise up into new realms is slow but striking, with fragments of voice and nature intertwined for a humble fusion of the familiar and the outright unknown; the closing choir a creative nod to the ending of Holst’s The Planets.
As with all of his work, Dilemma indulges in historical context, contemplation and skill in equal parts. This too is a passion project, but one gifting the listener a sense of powerful escapism, and a desire to build upon their knowledge or understanding of art and humanity throughout time.
Grab the music via Bandcamp.