Marshmallow Sea by Jonathan Snipes

Ambient wit is something which should be an oxymoron. Delightfully, Jonathan Snipes didn’t get that memo. One third of the hyper-talented, fiercely creative Clippng, Snipes has just released a solo album defined by that exact indefinable; ambient wit.

Opening track ‘Laundromat’ starts out as a near field recording. It opens out and out into a small, precise and actively happy electronic melody that hits many of the same inspirational beats for me as The Martian soundtrack. It wraps you up in images of room-sized computers and a future just a heroic gaze off camera away and then finishes with someone parking their car and using a public bathroom. The flush of which becomes the ocean sound bed of ‘House’ the second track.

See? Ambient wit.

That gentle ocean surge gives way to an equally gentle, but far less restful bass pulse that becomes the track we prowl along through cut up dialogue samples and more field recordings. All of which builds until suddenly…night club! Or at the very least clearly identifiable dance music as ‘Hotel (Source)’ kicks the album doors in and strikes a pose. It’s great pounding stuff that builds and suddenly fades and slows down as the album moves out into the hotel’s other spaces, all trapped in the thick, slow moving time that only exists in public buildings late at night. The uncertainty is coded into the music, sometimes driving, sometimes distended and curdled and seconds from horror.That builds and pushes the album through to ‘Hotel/Shower’, where the walls of distended hotel noise war with, and lose to, a gentler, more determined and harmonious line.That in turn spreads and absorbs the other sounds here, turning into something far calmer and bigger and almost religious in scope and then? It all fades back down to a woman singing in the shower. Ambient wit, yet again, Massive performative spaces filled with people to a single person alone in their room.

Then things get really interesting. ‘Sync’ is a poem, recited by a woman and endlessly rewound and dissected, chopped up and edited and somehow still serene and restful. The voice is more important than the message here. As it slowly sinks away, replaced by almost Hans Zimmer-esque roving notes, that becomes ever clearer. Those notes form the basis for ‘Hymn’, the next track we slide into. Organ music comes to the fore and again, there’s the sense of immense space, just this time without the noise nearby. A tiny hint of the distention returns as the piece fades into ‘Hymn(version)’, which sees Snipes approach the same idea through an EDM lens. Because human brains demand narrative and closure in equal measure it plays a lot like the reserved tones of ‘Hymn’ combined with the driving beat of ‘Hotel (Souce)’ and the quiet humanity of ‘Hotel/Shower’. Regardless it ends the album definitively and on a note that’s as undeniably hopeful as it is ambient, witty and memorable.

Complicated, ambitious and daring you to tell it’s story, Marshmallow Sea is out now. You can find Clippng here and DeathBomb Arc, who publish Marshmallow Seahere.