Mix of the Week 6/3: Abakus - Ambient Mixtape #01

Russ Davies is a London based composer and producer who has released a multitude of music under various aliases including Abakus. In his work, he has composed and scored soundtracks for films and this experience has allowed him to imbue his music with both the ambience and the grandeur of cinema. This week he has released the first in a series of ambient mixtapes, which he used the following words to describe: “Surreal, dreams, peaceful, relax and meditate”. Across the roughly 40 minute mix, he evokes every one of these thematic concepts through the emotive impact of his ambient music.

The various ‘tracks’, if they can be described as such, are sequenced so that they crescendo towards the end. The opening few, by artists like August Wilhelmsson, Rhian Sheehan and Cliff Martinez, are very minimalist. They are long, drawn out melodic drones that gently boom out to create a wide and vast soundscape, filling a broad space. These soundscapes are reminiscent of the cinematic scores by Hans Zimmer and in particular his work with Benjamin Wallfisch on Blade Runner 2049. Gentle synths are combined with soft vocals, violins, acoustic guitars and digital sound effects that add layers of harmonising complexity. There is no disenable rhythm, metre or pulse, allowing the listener to relax and lose a sense of time. It’s easy to let your imagination float out beyond your immediate surroundings and run wild, following the atmospheric music. As the mix goes on, the intensity slowly ramps up. This begins with Helios’ ‘Bless This Morning Year’, which has similar ambient instrumentation but introduces a beat that is slow, yet steadily increasing in volume. This momentum culminates in Chromatics’ ‘Yes’ (Symmetry Remix), a dark progressive electronica track that’s straight from the neon lit soundtrack of Lost River. While maintaining the surreal atmosphere, the mix becomes upbeat, energetic and intense. Coming back down to earth with one final track, the distant ambience returns to calm the listener down and release them from their state of zen.

This mix is so unobtrusively deep that it could accompany almost anything. Whether it’s accompanying an intense cinematic experience or a deep, personal meditation, Davies’ first ambient mix is an expertly curated aural journey that will leave the listener simultaneously relaxed and exhausted.