As a child I was lulled to sleep at night by the repetitive churn of a hamster wheel. When the final hamster died I decided I had outgrown owning such pets, but I also realised how much I relied on this hypnotic rumble as a sleeping aid. Looking to replace this I sought solace through music instead. In 2003 I eventually discovered the album ‘Wish For A World Without Hurt’ by abstract bass trio Rothko. It did the trick. I must have played this album most evenings for about two years. I must note that it didn’t make me fall asleep because it was boring! It fuelled an interest in texture and ambience that I carry with me to this day.
This brings us to the new album ‘About Minerals’ by The Leaf Library.
The Leaf Library have been releasing their brand of spaced out drone pop since 2010 and this new album is awash with hypnotic sound throughout.
With a paired down band on this record they’ve left the live drums and bass out of the picture. This lends itself to the constant dreamlike state that permeates from thee droney ambience of opener ‘Weather Wires’ all the way to the final track ‘Mineral Bloom III’.
The opener’s distant rumbles and repetitive pulses combine with short arpeggios that gently glitch and resonate.
There are a number of instrumental pieces that work to similar gorgeous effect. The Lynchian ‘High Light’ creates cavernous space like air blowing through pipes in an abandoned factory before a simple chord sequence builds beautifully underneath.
Tracks like the understated ‘Lichen and Moss’ and ‘Layers of Regret’ create a similar atmosphere. The former is far more minimal while the latter is in no hurry to get anywhere fast. It indulges in its lengthy synth chords that intertwine with and float around twinkling, percussive keys.
The band haven’t completely forgotten about writing pop songs (of sorts), of course.
The wonderful title track marries the pulsing loops with Kate Gibson’s Trish Keenan-esque vocal melodies. The backing vocals echo Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam cut ‘#1’ although The Leaf Library’s approach is far more gentile and subtle. The crunchy electronic beats, bird song and sea samples give the track a super organic feel. Through sound manipulation they show here that sometimes one chord is all you need.
‘Surface Decisions’ is dominated by a heavy, slightly discordant drone that provides a platform for shimmering forward and backward cymbals and another dreamy Gibson vocal.
Time seems to stand still when listening to ‘About Minerals’. The nine minutes of “Beach Loom”’s glacial and undulating synths would not be out of place soundtracking one of those long (and usually devastating) Black Mirror reveal scenes. It ebbs and flows so naturally that it almost feels like it came from the earth itself, rather than four musicians.
The album takes a dark turn on the creepy “An Edge, An Ending”.
The lightly distorted electronic beats and glassy high pitched drone create a sinister atmosphere while the guitar gargles below. Eventually the band breaks the growing tension with sweet harmonised vocals. This all combines to stunning effect.
This sets us up for the harsher sounds of “Blue Green Sequence” with it’s crunchy walk through snow (or a pebbled beach?) and the distant sound of children playing. We’re finally treated to a musical triptych in “Mineral Bloom” I to III, which could have been an album on its own.
Each of the three tracks range from 12 to 15 minutes long. The first is a drawn out drone piece, with subtle affectations. “Mineral II” is a glistening, blooping exercise that recalls the mock 70s science program soundtrack to Peter Serafinowicz’s hilarious Look Around You. Albeit this is more on the ambient spectrum.
The finale contains perhaps the most gorgeous textures on the album.
A fractured, distant and airy synth drone, that sounds like it is running through a fan, fades in and out of significance. Feedback-like drones harmonise and disorientate.
If ever there was a time that we wanted to be transported to another world, this is surely it. The Leaf Library have taken us there on this hypnotic and transcendental album.
They are experts in subtle majesty. Gibson and Ashton proved that on their recent album as Sea Glass and they’ve done so again with ‘About Minerals’.
You may enjoy this if you like: Pan American, Broadcast, Rothko, Fennesz, Sea Glass