26 Feb 2024
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Metanoia - EP Review: Green Peaceful Lake

30 Jan 2024 // A review by Michael Durand

During the pandemic some said that isolation, the loss of communal music experiences – and perhaps for some, the chance for reflection – brought about a growth in the supply and demand for ambient music. How else to relieve existential dread and balm the soul? Now the pandemic is over, but while many of us are still healing, does a return to hedonistic music and flesh-pressing gigs give us all that we need? Wellington artist Metanoia says No, and presents a new EP Green Peaceful Lake. Here is a collection of three tracks – on the face of it purely restorative, but then offering something else – of chiming, layered and spacious guitars, tape loops and distant voice interludes. It’s only 12 minutes long, and perhaps best listened to on repeat from your couch in the dark, and ideally from under your favourite blanket. Does it provide the relief that ambient music can often purport to be? The blanket may help bring you a sense of safety. 

This is the first major outing for Metanoia – a solo project of Shae McKenzie – since the 2021 single Sonder. From the first and title track Green Peaceful Lake, each of the three pieces flows organically with multi-layered guitar work and are backed by the most subtle and tasteful of airy blue sky synthesizers. Each riff stands on its own, but if you’re not paying attention the movement from one to another feels almost shapeless, as if we are travelling on some great drifting mass of sky and clouds – or, as the title suggests, watching or swimming in a beautiful body of water. The effect must surely be intentional and brings about a mediative force, far stronger than it might seem from the subtlety of the music. The guitars remind me of the latest work from Slowdive, just without the pop, while synths are something akin to late-era Pink Floyd – Learning to Fly, perhaps – but set in your lounge or bedroom rather than in a stadium.  

To begin with the meditation is uplifting and healing – but it doesn’t last. From the second track Swept Out To Sea, darkness begins to appear. This comes in the form of segments of reverse-sounding tape loops, unidentifiable ambient sounds and half-audible voices. One such moment is recording of a call to a dead phone number, with its automated message to go elsewhere. This number is no longer in use, and we might wonder why. Another, which closes the record on Death of a Whole House, seems to be a field recording or a sample of a speech. It has the tone of some authoritarian wannabe or a hack guru to their followers. The words, which are barely intelligible, are set against a haunting and heavily processed sound effect, perhaps originally a distant police siren or wind blowing through pylons. These interludes remind me of Deafheaven’s song Windows – in that case, a noise soundscape backed by the audio of a drug deal taking place. 

McKenzie has said the music deals with the emotions of a fine day as it turns sour when a drowning occurs. The lake, green and peaceful as it seems at the start, also has the power to take us away to our end. These contrasts within the music create introspection and balance, despite our admission of how dark the subject matter is. As if by a counterweight, the disaster presented towards the end contrasts with, and highlights, the positivity of life on a summer day that we find the start. It makes for a satisfying piece, and one that will be open to our own interpretations.

On a future and longer recording, McKenzie’s musicianship and writing could support more of that sort of narrative arc. For now, Green Peaceful Lake delivers on its own terms, almost like two healing medicines to be taken together: at first welcome prescription of relief and sanity, and second a necessary grounding. A recording that could go some way towards restoring you if taken with repeat doses.

 

About Metanoia

Metanoia released it's debut single Sonder in 2021, followed by the 3-part album Green Peaceful Lake in 2024.

Formed in 2020 by Shae McKenzie, Metanoia have a resonating soundtrack feel to their pieces, with layered guitars, samples and synths, and have been met with praise from early reviewers.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Metanoia

Releases

Green Peaceful Lake
Year: 2024
Type: Album

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