The centrepiece of Gaussian Curve’s new album is a track called Suspended Motion. As well as being one of the group’s prettiest productions to date, the title also comes close to describing an ineffable quality of their material. On each track the trio throw a few carefully chosen sounds into the air – they hang there, crystallised, only suggesting movement through the play of light and variations in the atmosphere.
It takes a special mutual understanding for three artists to come together and do something so simple so well, but that’s exactly what Gaussian Curve do here for the second time. There’s an evident symbiosis to the trio of pianist and synth wizard Gigi Masin, guitarist Jonny Nash and Dutch producer Marco Sterk (known to many as Young Marco). Like their gorgeous first album, Clouds, which was the first original material released on archival label Music From Memory, the music on The Distance was recorded in just a few days – hard to believe considering how soothing and polished these songs are.
There are few surprises on The Distance. Masin, Nash and Sterk continue the sound of Clouds almost exactly where they left off, creating frictionless pieces of ambience that gesture towards subtle moods and hues. Nearly everything is tasteful and subdued, from Sterk’s feather-light drum patterns on Breathe and The Distance to the liquid, exploratory guitar figures Nash sketches across each composition. Masin’s piano and keys mostly bear a refined sensibility, but sometimes stray into slightly cheesy territory, as with the rousing chords of Four For You.
Occasionally these mood sketches can feel too pretty, as if there’s nothing moving beneath the glassy surface. This makes the occasional stylistic shift a welcome change. The gently revolving keys of Ceremony are joined by a reedy synth that rises in beautiful harmony with cascading piano notes and drifting guitar, as if the three artists found a perfect sweet spot between their individual contributions. T.O.R. also has a different feel, a stately cyclicality not miles away from Steve Reich, a wafting trumpet adding a touch of melancholy to the arrangement.
On repeated listens, The Distance offers less variation in style and tone than Gaussian Curve’s debut. Apparently the artists’ focus was different too, reflecting on “spaciousness, distance and time.” This can be heard in the sensitive interplay of each musical element, but there’s a sense that these tracks are less intimate, less personal than those on Clouds. Still, the group have never claimed to offer diversity or overt emotion – they specialise in a supremely gentle form of musical meditation. For any fans of the individual artists, their last collaborative effort or the Music From Memory sound, there’s lots to appreciate here. Like a precious stone held up to the light, what you hear in the depths of these sounds depends on where you’re listening from.