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  Faded Photographs  
  Absent Without Leave  
  Sound In Silence Records  
Release Date:


Reviewed by:

I know that this is a two year old record, but George Mastrokostas, aka, Absent Without Leave, just emailed me a promo version a few months back. Turns out he had read my review of his split release with Port-Royal, and wanted to see what i think of this one. And i am grateful he did, because Faded Photographs is one of the best instrumental ambient guitar records that i have heard in a while.

And yes, this music is ambient. By that i mean it is quiet and unobtrusive. The songs move along at a fair pace, with lots of layers of instrumentation that manages to never feel busy. It is good music to have on in the background while you are engaged in some other activity. For example, i like to have this type of music on the stereo while i am cooking. I like for the air to be filled with yummy scents and mellow tones at the same time. This record does accomplishes the second half of that beautifully.

Absent Without Leave is a mostly Mastrokostas project. I say "mostly" because several of his friends to help out. It turns out that i tend to like the acts of the people he recruited, including members of Hood, Port-Royal, The Declining Winter, Epic 45, Stafraenn Hakon, and Millimetrik. Wow, really? It is like he has built a supergroup consisting of the mellower artists i have enjoyed over the past decade. (You can find all the info about the artists that have participated in each track here: And it shows, it really does.

The album starts off with a nice tinkling of guitars and drones in How the Winter Comes, which flows along merrily for six minutes. When it fades out, two acoustic guitars, one picking out a melody and another gently strumming come in. The song is called Old Memory Tapes, and eventually a drum machine kicks in along with a melodica. The percussion skips along and the song drones on, building to a really dense layer with chugging computer beats alongside the done. This is really lovely.

He kicks it up a notch for Dreams And Hopes, the guitars here are one faster tinkling layer and a deeper, slower, heavily tremoloed layer. The beat is a skittering little IDM refugee, and the whole thing moves along at a decent clip. The same general sort of thing continues in the title track, which is next, only here Mastrokostas adds a subtly rumbling bass layer to his guitarwork. The overall effect is a lot like what Landing do, specifically on their Seasons LP. Very nice.

Balloons In the Sky adds an insistent kick drum to the layers of guitar and subtle IDMish electronics, the constant beat drives the guitar, keys, and skittering noises along nicely.

And then we have the seven and a half minute Where the Birds Fly In Winter, which is the highlight of the record for me. The guitars are clear and lovely, echoing slightly, accompanied by a faint stuttering electro beat and layers of keys and synths. Eventually, a full drum kit comes in, and the song rocks. I asked Mastrokostas who played the drums, and he told me it was Pascale Asselin, aka, Millimetrik. Huh. He's a pretty good drummer.

A short interlude of backwards looped guitar is next with Daydream Lullaby, and then we reach the albums eight minute closer, Above the Trees. This is a slow burn song, the guitars moving slowly, inexorably towards a climax, dragging keys and synths along with them, all over a stuttering beat. A nice end to the record.

Overall, this is interesting stuff. Fans of ambient music and post-rock will find much to enjoy here. So thanks, George, for sending this along.

To the readers: the print version of the LP is sold out, but you can download the digital version for a measly 7 Euros! Is that a bargain? I have no clue what the exchange rate is at the time you are reading this, so it might be. It's really worth it though.

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Also on EvilSponge:
   Split Album: Magnitogorsk (with Port-Royal)


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