Before hearing Graduals I was not at all familiar with ambient artist Ekca Liena, but Daniel Mackenzie has been putting out music under this name quite prolifically, with over 20 releases on bandcamp. It’s unsurprising then how good Graduals is, wielding drones and textures to create beautiful ambient music which borders on the dark and swells brilliantly between soft and intense, light and shade.
Ekca Liena uses electronic textures and swathes of guitar to create melancholic soundscapes. Pulsing electronic ambience and lush synths against warm bassy drones creating an enveloping atmosphere, aided by the fantastic use of dynamics. It’s not just the way the textures ebb and flow organically, drifting along with great melodic power; it’s the swells of volume, the crescendos of distortion, and the slow descent back to minimalism which make it such an engaging listen. There aren’t brash changes from soft to loud, its done tastefully and is well constructed throughout, such as the way the swathes of processed guitar swell and contract around the piano melody of Mattie Devore and the layers of distortion crackle in and out with heightened drama. Free Precipitation is the best piece here, the most experimental, a psychedelic wall of sound coming from the clattering percussive electronics, hazy wind instruments and the eastern sounding bass drones and guitar processing. It’s an exotic track, layered spectacularly and rich in texture from start to finish. Precip/Epilogue is more minimalist, haunting synths and slow melodies make for a melancholic piece, as is the relaxed sombre nature of closer Ky Ra.
Overall Graduals has a haunting resonance, organic flow and fantastic use of textures, all contributing to the engaging soundscapes and is a recommended listen for anyone who wants their ambient to embrace experimenting while remaining firmly centred on melodic sense and excellent song writing.