18 Oct 2021

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Stray Theories - Album Review: This Light

07 Oct 2021 // A review by Jamie Denton

Based in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australian musician/composer Micah Templeton-Wolfe has a long, successful history with crafting works that explore rich, lush melodies within vast ambient, cinematic soundscapes. While some of his works have become the soundtracks to independent short films, television and radio commercials, multimedia projects, art installations, and specifically commissioned sound design or compositional pieces, he has also maintained an interest in releasing material as a musical artist. To scratch this creative musical itch, Micah has been creating ambient music using the pseudonym Stray Theories for over 15 years, resulting in the release of three previous full-length albums and a string of EPs and singles. Following up on 2018’s All That Was Lost, Stray Theories fourth full-length album (entitled This Light) is due to release on October 8, 2021.

Album-opener A Moment In Time is a strong statement of direction for the upcoming 40ish minute aural journey. This track slowly builds upon itself, revealing layers and layers of lush beauty that are subtly interwoven. It ebbs and flows, playing with the listener, rising and falling gently to maintain both momentum and interest throughout, while also demonstrating the impressive compositional skills that reside beneath. There is a confidence here, a cinematic epic-ness (I am sure that word ‘epic’ is overused with Stray Theories, but it is a word that is incredibly apt) but also a playfulness and a sense of gentleness. Stray Theories knows exactly how to create emotional connections and reactions.

In The Shadow Of You is a slow, sombre, nostalgic trip through a minimalist, drone-based space that evokes (for me) sensations of vastness and emptiness, like giant mountain ranges engulfed in snow. However, this is the art in what artists such as Stray Theories do, my mental pictures and feelings may not be what Micah Templeton-Wolfe was expecting to evoke, they may not be what is evoked in you, but this is music that will evoke something. Rather than being a superficial 3 minute 30-second earworm pop-hit, this connects deeply.

Other highlights (for me) through this album are the near-trance-inducing album closer, Into The Fire, the slow-burning constant crescendo of Empath, and perhaps my favourite track (but the one I also find hardest to articulate what it is that I like about it without ranting about a ton of other ambient artists or about how music is how souls communicate) is These Mountains.

The overall sound of this instrumental, haunting album is stunning. There is a richness and shimmer to the separate instrumental layers, and a clear definition between them that is highlighted by masterful mixing and mastering. Nothing over-dominates, but rather different elements rise and fall in and out of the mix at different times, which provide ongoing interest throughout. Rhythm is subtly implied rather than explicitly hammered out, with drums and percussion instruments largely missing and instead groove being expertly implied through a clever combination of when notes are struck and the natural pitch variations that occur when a note is held. This Light is an experience that I will be coming back to many times.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Stray Theories

Stray Theories is the musical pseudonym of Micah Templeton-Wolfe, an Australian ambient producer/composer residing in New Zealand.

He has been composing and releasing music for over a decade and his ambient soundscapes have been released on many labels throughout the world. He also has many on-going collaborations and remix projects, in addition to his work composing music for film/media and performing his experimental/ambient projects live.

Heavily influenced by minimal ambient, post-rock, shoegaze & modern classical, his music is a fusion of uplifting melodic ambience & dark/melancholic soundscapes.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Stray Theories


This Light
Year: 2021
Type: Album
All That Was Lost
Year: 2018
Type: Album
We Never Left
Year: 2014
Type: EP
Those Who Remain
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Even Though We Sleep
Year: 2012
Type: Album

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