Restless Mosaic - Made by Thawing Ice (Album Review)

The history of mosaic art can be traced back to the 3rd millennium BC when temples in Mesopotamia were decorated with seashells and stones. While abstract, these primitive works birthed an artistic medium found worldwide and known for its intricate beauty. Seattle sonic-wizard Brandon Isleib, aka Restless Mosaic, approaches music much like a mosaicist approaches their craft, carefully assembling sounds, textures, and musical ideas to form a bigger picture. Their artist bio reads;

"Mosaics are intricate and beautiful and expressive, but they're stuck to where they are. If you were a sentient mosaic and everybody walked on you, wouldn't you be restless? And wouldn't you take in as much as you could when you broke free?"

It's an intriguing epistemological question; can the thing in itself exist independently within the constructs of time and space? And if the thing could break free from these constructs, would this enhanced perception lead to deeper processing? Isleib applies this philosophical sentiment to his work, with many tracks across his latest release, "Made by Thawing Ice", reaching a depth of complexity and thought that borders on IDM but finds itself more on the experimental side of electronica thanks to Isleib's whimsical and explorative nature.  

Opener "A La Cara Amarilla", featuring Chilean singer Lili Aqvq, sees Isleib build a foreboding atmosphere through siren-like hits and his unconventional approach to rhythm. Lili Aqvq is terrific here, quickly shifting from sharp spoken word to moody and alluringly melodic refrains. After the opener, Isleib guides the listener through an instrumental landscape marked by an appreciation of peculiarity that leads to moments of genuine beauty. On "Sandbags on the Flood of My Insecurities", Isleib lays a travelling melody of dulcimer strikes on a bed of eerie electronics, eventually adding percussion that elevates the track to epic proportions. "Polliwog 1 & 6 7 8" brings some improvisational elements to the table, while "Flawed Soteriology" features some ebullient piano lines and expertly sequenced drums. This is dreamy music, and one wouldn't be surprised if they heard it soundtracking a fantasy movie or video game. There are allusions to history in the baroque structures of the melodies and regal chord progressions. Guest vocalist Dear Kristin brings an expressive edge to "Multicam Behavioral Health", lamenting the claustrophobia one can experience in the overly social film industry. "In a room full of actors, egos manifest. How is time alone a lavish request? I need to process, but I can't in this excess," she spits in poetry-jam fashion. Her appearance lends to the variegated theme of the album, introducing conflicting though refreshing emotional contrast. 

The aptly titled "Alone for Ten Minutes" (the track is exactly ten minutes long) could be the respite Dear Kristin was asking for. Woozy pads and wandering organs gently ruminate before racing percussion takes the track through unexpected avenues. This is undoubtedly abstract music; there are little to no structures to hold onto while listening, and its textures are vague and exotic, unfamiliar in their eagerness to cover unusual ground in the sprawling electronic music landscape. The closing track, "Shadwan", is the most cohesive cut here and a clear album highlight to this reviewer.

If you find yourself on autopilot, your life nothing more than a series of routines, stuck to predictability like a tile on a mosaic, listening to "Made by Thawing Ice" could alter your perception, but a sense of adventure is necessary.  


Restless Mosaic - Made by Thawing Ice (Album Review)
Reviewed by Jay Honeycomb on 2022-06-07
Rating: 3.5