A Last Picture From Voyager - Laboratory (Album Review)

The historic city of Avignon in France became a World UNESCO heritage site in 1995, owing to its importance in the 14th and 15th centuries. Its walls have contained hundreds of years of people and events. From the death of Louis VIII to the Massacres of La Glacière, Its walls have stood the test of time, and cordon off sections with mesmeric beauty. However, one modern resident, Vincent Taiani, makes ambient music unencumbered by tradition or barriers. Tiani goes by the artist name A Last Picture From Voyager, and his music is spacious and free-flowing. He uses rhythmic structures, but often with an end to dissipation and his creations more often than not have a galactic scope. Collecting sounds from various sources, ALPFV merges analogue and digital components for a comprehensive soundscape on their second full-length album, Laboratory, a deeply explorative and meditative collection of often challenging but ultimately soothing experimental music. 

There’s a foreboding energy to the opening track, “Music Major'' as it teases hope with rising melodies but ultimately becomes awash with sinister tones and droning gnarls. This introduction sets the scene well and prepares the audience for the time-shifting shenanigans that are to follow. It’s well-documented knowledge that LSD alters our perception of time, and while that may seem like an aside, there’s a similar effect to tracks such as “Drone 6”, with its sporadic drum hits and lingering blend of heavenly synthesis and analogue hiss, the cosmonautic flair of “Drum tape loop”,  or the tense dynamics of “The golden age”, with its pizzicato snaps and perception altering didgeridooisms.  

This is patient music, but adventurous and open-minded listeners will soon have their sense of time distorted enough not to notice. Suddenly, there’s nothing to wait for. “Asynchronous toy piano” moves with a sense of unpredictability and colours the environment around it with a visceral cinematic quality. “Data tape music” is perhaps the most experimental of all, its blips and bloops roam with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, “Golden Memories” juxtaposes aimless noodling with an epic crescendo that catches you off guard and inspires epicness. Though not exactly what one would call “trippy”, there’s certainly a mind-bending spatial grandness to everything. The closing track, “For Lili” is the most peaceful, and sees the listener off with a balm for the stresses of daily life. 

ALPFV has also produced a visual companion to the album, with each track given a beautiful video that captures their creation. These behind-the-scenes videos are like mini-documentaries and give us insight into how the artist works technically, from hand-making tape loops and feeding them through effects chains, to playing instruments and recording old children’s toys, but also how he works spiritually, displaying what inspires him,  the world around him, the trees, rivers, and various accoutrements; ephemera of the quotidian.     

Escapist in nature, Laboratory by A Last Picture From Voyager is a lush and therapeutic collection of experimental ambient music. Thankfully and imperatively, it straddles the fine line between being whimsically experimental and beautifully minimalistic. The intellectual aspect of the music’s production and arrangement doesn’t curtail the universally emotive aspect of this strange and mystical album.