It's 2017, and we're surrounded by noise. Phones and computers chime in thousands of different tones and timbres as social media streams flood us with more information than we could ever digest; there are times when even ostensibly fun activities like listening to music feel like a burden of excess input. But with Shadow Seeking Sun, its first "proper" LP, Durham trio Ama Divers uses some of the noises of everyday life to develop gorgeous, immersive songs that offer release from that prison of pandemonium.
The foundation of Shadow Seeking Sun is field recordings that Renee Mendoza Haran recorded on her phone while traveling away from home on work trips. She sent them to her husband, Brian Haran, who built out larger instrumental landscapes with guitarist Chris Girard.
The resulting songs land somewhere between structured compositions and ambient music. They're meandering and pretty, but hardly aimless. Renee's drawn-out vocals sound like she's beckoning you from a great distance, and her voice is so warm and comforting that it feels as though you have no choice but to follow her lead.
With two exceptions, all of the track's titles are GPS coordinates. The warm, gaping first track corresponds to Durham, with others based in San Jose, Houston, and Las Vegas. These recordings give the LP a strange sense of environment—the sounds, such as summertime cicadas, are all intimate and familiar, but entirely anonymous.
Each of the five GPS-titled tracks specifies whether the recording was taken at sundown or sunset, with two other songs titled "Sunset at Sunrise" and "Sunrise at Sunset." In every respect, then, Shadow Seeking Sun exists in the hazy edges between day and night, those hours when the world stands on the cusp of illumination or total darkness. Ama Divers revels in the ambiguity of those environments.
Though Ama Divers creates mini-biomes within each track, the band builds discrete environs on each half of the record. The first half is rangy and melodic, while the B-side, at times, is a bit more prickly and dark. New details within each landscape reveal themselves on every listen.
Shadow Seeking Sun is dense, but not in a way that renders it hostile or inaccessible. Rather, it's a soothing immersion that, for all of its details, renders ease and calm, a much-needed meditation in overtaxed times.