REVIEW: Michael Hix - Aeon

Will Shenton

Ambient music isn't always the easiest sell. In the age of Pandora and other set-it-and-forget-it curation services, most of us don't seem to have the attention span for it anymore. I'm as guilty as anyone—the last ambient album I bought was Geotic's Mend, which I still mostly just listen to as I'm trying to fall asleep.

That's part of the reason Michael Hix's debut Aeon got my attention. For whatever reason, despite being as thoroughly in the gray area between classical and pop as one can get, the album seems gaining traction with people who normally wouldn't touch the stuff. All of my evidence is anecdotal, of course, but it led me to think that maybe Hix has picked up on something the rest of us haven't yet.

Comprised of six movements (I hesitate to call them "tracks") and lasting about forty minutes in total, Aeon was clearly meant to be enjoyed in a single sitting. "Intro" has perhaps a bit more punch than the other sections, but leads into "I" with the sound of an idling car engine—I can think of few things more soporific. The intent here, as with all great ambient music, is not simple entertainment. This is an album to play when you need to slow down, reflect, and even meditate.

I don't want to get too much into what I think Hix intends for us to take away from the record (because that's fairly presumptuous and, in my case, usually wrong), so I'll focus instead on the fact that it's utterly gorgeous. Aeon's soundscapes are sprawling and bittersweet, and capable of evoking a pretty staggering array of emotions in a single movement. The textures of Hix's synthesizers are subtle, but he's not afraid to bring in a bit of guitar and vocals here or there. When you're in the right mood, it's anything but boring.

To those of you who are hesitant about ambient music in general, I say give this one a shot. Aeon is approachable and impeccably produced, and as the simple movement titles demonstrate ("Intro" and "I" through "V"), it isn't daring you to "get" anything. This is abstract art, there for you to experience and project upon as you will, and I think we need more of that in the world of popular music. At the very least, it's nice to have something new to fall asleep to.