There is a paradoxical quality to ambient music that never fails to fascinate me; how a soundscape so formidable, epic, and almost hostile come through as relaxing, enjoyable, and even magical. Listening to Drifting In Silence’s upcoming album Timeless, that question comes to mind again and again. Its awe-inspiring sound seems to carry a whole universe. Derrick Stembridge’s complex arrangement and magnificent ambient melodies instantly make the mind wander, going to a faraway place where the troubles of everyday life have no meaning. Given the current political and social climate, Timeless is an album I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone.
Timeless is now available for pre-order. You can listen to the first single, I Wish You Were Here, below – and you may sample every track on the album here:
Drifting in Silence is a music project by multi-instrumentalist and composer Derrick Stembridge. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. According to Stembridge, Drifting in Silence is “a description of the feeling evoked by the music,” intended to create the sensation of movement through regions of light and shadow. The first album in this project was Truth (2006), followed by Ladderdown (2012) and Place in Time (2013). His most recent single is Kings Cross (2023). See the whole Drifting in Silence discography on Spotify.
Each track on Timeless has a long long-fade inn, up to one minute. It is a nice effect since it gives the listener time to adjust and get ready to receive the album’s mighty message. Clocks is the first one out. It starts with delicate string pads before fragments of a rhythm are heard. Or rhythm is perhaps the wrong word; It is more of a texture. It is obvious that these clocks have a Dalieqsue quality to them, in the way they slouch away and no one can tell which time zone they are on. The lead synth is bell-like and awe-inspiring. I believe Clocks is a comment on the fact that time – or, at least, our human perspective of time – is meaningless in this far-away place. The ambient melody is sublime. Clocks is, in sum, a fantastic album opener!
I Wish You Were Here, featuring EJRM, is the album’s first single. It takes the album into a calmer and more reflective realm. A breathtakingly beautiful tableau comes to life before our inner eye as the track develops. The crescendo of strings makes this deep-space love story into something you have to experience to believe. The muffled sound and tasteful textures add a level of mystique. It is like getting a glimpse of something otherworldly and alien. There are some nice pop references here, with Coldplay’s Clocks and Pink Floyd’s I Wish You Were Here.
IX XV MMXXII
Next out is a track named IX XV MMXXII, the earthly date 15 September 2022. To say that it is dreamy is an understatement; it is shadowy and has a mood that will come through as eerie or downright scary if you don’t surrender to its mighty, godlike atmosphere. Resistance is futile facing the life-giving/life-taking forces at play here. The mind-blowing atmosphere aside, IX XV MMXXII is a mesmerizing ambient track that shows Derrick Stembridge’s impressive abilities as a composer and music producer.
My favorite track on the album is As You Drift Away. There is a terrific mix of happiness and gratitude on the one side and a bittersweet sadness on the other. As the “you” drift away, all these emotions come rushing over us. The midsection is fascinating; we hear some very sharp synth keys, almost like statics. Then it almost stops, and only light pads are heard. The melody is gone. There is no doubt that the “you” has left the building, or the universe or whatever. The only thing left is an empty, hollow silence.
The moment the title track starts, a vast and barren landscape comes to life. Indeed, it might offer a view into the beginning of time itself. It is so huge that it is a lot to take in. But, as I wrote above, it is also incredibly relaxing. In a timeless state, earthly problems such as paying bills or arriving too late at the airport vanish. Notice how it evolves and the many layers of nicely mixed textures. A hushed and muffled soundscape fades into clear and rich strings, giving the impression of an awakening. Timeless do have a length though; It is 8 minutes and 36 seconds long – but where that time goes while listening no one knows.
One of the best pieces is saved for last; Dreamcatcher. Its dreamlike quality is obvious right away; It seems so real and clear, yet there is something ghost-like and strange lurking in the shadows. It is not a nightmare though; The atmosphere is positive and warm. There is a ticking clock somewhere in the background, further underlining the album’s theme. Not too long and not too deep, Dreamcatcher rounds off the album in a terrific way!
In conclusion: “When you stand in the present moment, you are timeless,” Rodney Yee said. When listening to Drifting In Silence’ Timeless, that quote seems especially true. The present moment becomes a gateway to another dimension thanks to Derrick Stembridge’s immense, complex and rich soundscape. He has delivered great meditative albums in the past – like Away (2019) and Artificial (2016), which are both highly recommended – but Timeless has a fuller and richer sound. It is his best yet, and a masterpiece in its own right,
When reviewing Timeless it feels natural to focus on the striking tableaus created by well-crafted layers-upon-layers of synths and textures. But if there is something that we know from previous Drifting In Silence albums, is that there is a prominent melodic element to Stembridge’s music too. It is not so easy to pinpoint here, but listen to Clocks, IX XV MMXXII or As You Drift Away with the melody in mind, and you will be rewarded with three ambient melodic jewels.
It is tempting to ask; is it possible for a soundscape to be too big and over-powering? Perhaps, but Timeless doesn’t cross that barrier. That said, is not an album you can listen to on and off. It requires your undivided attention, and it is best enjoyed somewhere quiet.
In a rapidly changing world, Timeless feels heaven-sent. It is an eternity disguised as 43 minutes of music.