Lisa Bella Donna’s Mourning Light is an ambient masterpiece

5 Mag is sent about 50 ambient albums a month and we write about maybe 5 a year. And 5 might be an overstatement.

Get used to it, friend, because the atrocities that unleashed AI has done to the most thrilling experimental music genre is going to be done to every genre you love sooner or later, too.

We never tune it out, though, or put up a warning, or close submissions altogether to stem the overflow. Music like Mourning Light from the acclaimed composer Lisa Bella Donna is why. At a time when the CD format is being relegated to Christmas comps and charitable tchotchkes, Behind The Sky is releasing this “already deeply edited” composition on CD, “as we couldn’t bear to chop it down any more for vinyl.”

Recorded at the second of two shows in collaboration with visual artist Alicia Jean Vanderelli, Mourning Light captures that feeling of every human as a chrysalis emerging from hibernation — what Lisa Bella Donna calls “an intensely cathartic and poignant journey” of their first performances (and probably the audience’s first shows) post-COVID-19 lockdown. She characterizes this as “survival at the last stages of a long journey.” Mourning Light reflects this complex tangle of emotions — the celebration of the survivors and the mourning for the lost — that words or actions can’t adequately express. A friend of mine once told me about living on the street — how every sunrise from under a bridge was the most beautiful thing in the world, a vantage he’s never captured ever since, because it meant he’d survived another night among so many who hadn’t. I think the feeling is something like that.

Technically speaking, the music was performed using a Mellotron (!), tapes and a Moog Synthesizer system (for which Lisa Bella Donna has recorded several demos over the years) mixed live to Tascam DA20 2-channel DAT. To be honest I find this surprising: the music fills up the room and often evokes the fury of a string quartet, if not a full orchestral section of stringed instruments. Aesthetically speaking, it’s gorgeous — by turns a dirge and a celebration, and it manages to feel like something intensely personal, but shared in communion.

There’s been a tremendous surge in ambient releases lately (and not just in our slush pile). It’s music that I would describe as “ambient music for people who never listened to ambient before March 2020.” If you were an electronic music producer sitting in front of a DAW and a keyboard and told you couldn’t make music for clubs for a year, I suppose some version of “ambient” is what would come out. Some of it is actually quite good — there’s an outsider art quality to it that I really appreciate. This, on the other hand, is the sound of 2020 to me. It’s a joy and an emotionally exhausting ordeal at once.

Lisa Bella Donna / Alicia Jean Vanderelli: Mourning Light (Behind The Sky / August 2021 / CD)
1. Lisa Bella Donna: Mourning Light Pt. I & II (40:16)
2. Lisa Bella Donna: Mourning Light Pt. III (30:07)
3. Lisa Bella Donna: Mourning Light Pt. IV (09:36)

⚪️ Disclosure Statement: This record was submitted as a promo on behalf of the label.

 


 

 

 


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