“Satu” is the fourth album by Igneous Flame (aka Pete
Kelly), and while not a complete departure from his earlier albums (Tolmon,
Intox (both 2003) and Oxana (2004)), it does suggest new terrain has been
mapped out along the journey. In terms of texture, structure and feel, “Satu”
shows growth, maturity, and confidence.
Texturally, “Satu” is a varied and beautiful album, thanks
to Kelly introducing recognizable 6-string parts into his usual palate of deep
resonant echoes. Many of these additions are Nylon-string acoustic guitar,
somewhat of a rarity within ambient music. In the ambient “soundscapes” the
Igneous sound has also undergone some changes: the whole album rings and
shines, yet there is immense depth and space. The contrast between light and dark
is a very strong feature of many pieces, “Anthracite” being a good example,
where the piece rotates between the detail of a piece of rough stone and the
dazzling brilliance of a jewel.
Compositionally, “Satu” is also more adventurous than its
predecessors. Each piece has its own unique structure, the addition of extra
textures has demanded new structures, and the forms twist and turn as the music
suggests. The form is guided by the sound, not the sound filling in the form.
This results in a very organic and natural feel throughout the album’s
While the album shows strong growth in terms of both
structure and texture, it is mood that shows the greatest change. The album is
only rarely ominous or foreboding, (though “Sky-Scraper” and “Magma”, the
album’s opener and closer, respectively, exhibit a darker feel), allowing the
pieces to explore new emotional terrains. Beauty is certainly in abundance;
“Stratos” is a gorgeous piece that lets the listener wallow in distant
memories, being gently revived acoustic fragments and refrains.
“Harbour Lights” is a highlight. Starting with a gorgeous
flurry of 12 string acoustic guitar arpeggios and e-bowed'electric guitar, the
piece gradually expands to a wide screen of the ocean, just before sunset. At
the end of the piece, the sun finally sets, and the sounds of seagulls flying
overhead, accompanied by mournful acoustic guitar fragments introduce an
element of uncertainty that has been lingering underneath, into the foreground.
“Celestia” is the catchiest piece on the album, starting
with a flurry of notes, finally to settle on a slightly melancholic chord
sequence. The melodies gradually dissipate into mist, with only the odd tone
here and there to remind you of where they all came from. It is somewhat akin
to a glass of brightly coloured liquid being spilled in slow motion. Your eyes
follow the different rivulets as they move unpredictably yet logically across
“Through the Veil” is the ambient masterwork of the album:
monothematic, texturally deep and varied, and the main melody a ringing guitar
that shines above all. Starting with resonant and distant chords reminiscent of
Budd and Eno, Kelly plays some excellent acoustic guitar, picking the perfect
notes to accentuate the drones, the gauzian haze, and the ringing theme which
holds the piece in static grace. Whatever it is that is through the veil, is
certainly a beautiful thing.
Satu is a solid album, with nothing negative to report. For
listeners who loved the darkness on “Intox”, some of this album may be a bit
too gentle on a first listen, but as always, perseverance is called for. “Satu”
does not reveal its secrets easily or quickly, but when it does, it opens up a
world of delicate colours and subtle textures, like a close up of a butterfly’s
wing, the wind gently blowing some of the pattern across the surface. One feels
that this album is the closest we have so far gotten to Pete Kelly’s true
nature, and I for one, hope this exploration continues in such a strong and
by Christopher Orczy for Ambient Visions.