When I learned that The Seven Fields of Aphelion -- like her Black Moth Super Rainbow bandmates -- was releasing a solo album, I naturally expected some cool rhythms from this talented drummer. But no: Periphery, out Feb. 16, is a series of slow-moving, ambient pieces for synths and piano, with nary a beat to be found.
The 12 tracks mainly foreground the piano, both sonorous grand ("Slow Subtraction") and clanging, imperfect upright ("Mountain Mary"), as Aphelion picks out sparse melodies drenched in delay. On the brooding "Pale Prophesy," touches of resonant vibraphone suggest Richard Wright; "Sunburst Chemicals," with its echoing synth brass, brings to mind Stars of the Lid. On "Saturation: Arrhythmia" and "Starlight Aquatic," Aphelion dips a toe into Vangelistic soundtrack-prog.
For the most part, the atmospheres are stark, yet emotionally compelling -- probably equally great in combination with an early-morning walk, yoga/meditation, a planetarium show or some good weed.
The artwork is similarly contemplative: A series of 14 loose photographs by Aphelion, any of which can be used as the album cover. (Some of these multiple-exposure shots are available as prints on her Web site, www.sevenfieldsofaphelion.com.) My copy came pre-loaded with a photo called "oil field (sacred ground)", taken in 2005 in Indiana. "I drove all night to get there in time for sunrise and spent all day running from oil refinery security guards," Aphelion's Web site notes. "They tried to take my film away. ... I drove all night to get back home."
Periphery could be said to take the listener on a similar journey: a series of musical pursuits and escapes bookended by tranquil sunrise and eerie nocturnal synth.