I first encountered Future Museums at a Dallas Ambient Music Nights show. Their live performance was incredible, and I’ve wanted to see them play again ever since. So, since then, I’ve become a fan and have been paying close attention to their releases. Back in February, they dropped Rosewater Ceremony on Holodeck Records and I’ve been meaning to write on it since I got a copy. For those of you not in the know, Future Museums is the brainchild of Neil Lord who lives in Austin, Texas. Most of Rosewater Ceremony is Lord himself with Justin Sweatt (Xander Harris) guesting on “Hang Low Moon” and “Low Visibility Clearing”. It’s hard to describe ambient music sometimes but there is something majestic about Lord’s work. Melodies populate this album and sparse percussion creates boundaries alongside the brilliant guitar work for which Lord is known. So, in some cases, perhaps describing Rosewater Ceremony as an ambient album is a stretch since its experimentation leaks into other genres such as synthwave and various experimental guitar genres. Let’s just say that Lord creates a sound world that is ultimately compelling and captivating.
“Aura Display” kicks off Rosewater Ceremony with vibrating synths and beautiful drones. There is that sound like cicadas that shimmers in and out of the mix creating this wonderfully nostalgia for me. The combination of the layers are calming and soothing as they lead into “Orbit Collapse” which begins with a percussive, deep synth sound. Then drums echo in the speakers as they pan from right to left and subtle drones blow through the mix. Guitars shimmer in the foreground, playing wonderfully off the rest of the layers. I’m not sure what it is about the second track on albums, but artists seem to put some of their best compositions in that position. “Orbit Collapse” certainly meets that expectation for me.
“Natural Pulse”, well, pulsates into the speakers with a gorgeously lulling beat and subtle guitar accents. Laying in a dark room with this piece on full blast is glorious. “Cosmic Winds Reprise” is the shortest composition on the album and it has a cinematic feel to it. Picked guitar rides atop drones and flickering synths. “Rage into Progress” has a low floor as a bass beat plods under brightly revealed tones and textures. Guitars full of delay and fuzzed out edges emerge and disappear throughout. “Low Visibility Clearing” is a patient drone piece with a few, very simple layers that really work well together. Lord dots the soundscape with guitar work but he never overpowers the beautiful drones that flow throughout.
“Hang Low, Moon” has a varying beat that brings a bit of a different flavor to the mix. Synth melodies ring out as the piece has a stunning flowing movement. “Rebirth of Empathy” is really the finale of Rosewater Ceremony but it comes in two parts. This first part is serene and meditative, with entrancing modulated synth and spellbinding guitars. The synth appears to be slightly panned with great affect, giving the piece a rather massive depth in spite of its apparent simplicity. The finale to the album is a version of “Rebirth of Empathy” with guided meditation. It’s basically the same music track with a spoken word track over it giving meditation instructions. “Rebirth of Empathy with Guided Meditation” is a wonderfully purposeful conclusion to Rosewater Ceremony.
Neil Lord has composed a diverse and luscious album in Rosewater Garden. Moving from subtle beats to dreamy drones to sparse guitar melodies, Future Museums delivers what ought to become a classic album among ambient and experimental aficionados. Rosewater Garden is a soundtrack for our times, not in the sense that it comments on who we are, but rather it calls us to become who we ought to be.