Album Review: Villages ‘Procession Acts’

Villages Procession Acts
(Bathetic Records – March 31, 2015)
(Instrumental, Drone, Ambient)

Sometimes an album cover really does give some insight about what the music will deliver. Villages recent album Procession Acts displays what looks like a giant, lumbering beast emerging through the mist on its cover. There is a sense of both beauty and mystery in this image, and it perfectly fits the music on the album. Despite recording under a name that invites imagery of a collective, Villages is the work of one man, Ross Gentry. It makes sense that such a clearly realized and cohesive sound would be the result of a solo artist.

Procession Acts is a wonderful, accessible ambient album that should appeal equally to fans of both highly abstract, technical ambient as well as listeners who prefer more classically grounded, aesthetically beautiful compositions. Villages use piano, guitars, various classical string instruments, xylophonic chimes, and subtle percussive samples. Other than some almost metronomic background clicks, there really aren’t any beats on the album, however most of the tracks are structured by layering subtly shifting repetitive musical phrases over a droning element. Often the drone is built from either strings or a sample from nature, such as the wind through leaves on “Coat of Arms” and “Pillars in Half Light”.Gentry structures his tracks so they have a strong rhythmic, pulsing quality that elides any need for a traditional beat. When a drum finally does appear late in the album on “Out of the Mines”, it is a revelatory sound that immediately demands attention.

This is an absolutely beautiful album. Even though it is divided into eleven tracks, it is really one piece of music. As a listening experience, it is almost impossible to tell where one track ends and another begins, and that’s a good thing. Villages use this aspect of Procession Acts to fully engage and transport the listener into a fully immersive world. The only noticeable transition is between “Pillars in Half Light” and “Open in Reverse”, but that is logical since it is approximately the mid-point of the album, and reasonable divider between side 1 and side 2. Procession Acts cohesiveness does not mean that each track sounds the same; it’s just the album is well constructed to function as coherent whole with mutating movements throughout. This may be ambient, but it isn’t background music. It’s the type of ambient album that will keep you engaged and alert while on a solo road trip.

Procession Acts offers continual rewards upon repeat listens and the album easily invites returning to it. This is not difficult ambient music, and truly shines because of its accessible nature. With Procession Acts, Villages show how a talented musician with a clear vision can create beautiful, engaging ambient music. This is the kind of album that gets listeners interested in ambient music.

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