As Saleeha, the Australian-born, Vancouver-based Max Buchanan makes meditative, slowly unfurling soundscapes that, surprisingly enough, do not echo or mime fellow Vancouver-based ambient artist Loscil. I say surprisingly because, as ambient music goes, the five tracks on Saleeha’s new Come Wander Through The Pale Dark have a similar mission to Loscil: namely, painting narratives with expansions of sound. But, while Loscil navigates with subtle electronics and textured sound-beds, Saleeha aurally paints with a deep river of tracks that are pretty well-heated, the sentience oft provided by borderline-Earth-style, wall-of-sound guitars.
What’s even more surprising, though, is the little treasures Buchanan buries throughout the proceedings, which come to define its finest moments. Yes, I like the swells and washes of a song like “Ecstatic Crescent,” but the thing that sells the proceedings is that careful placement of a lost voice, behind a drone-veil, three-quarters of the way through it all. It’s like he’s beckoning to you through the noise he has created. (He toys with the trope throughout, also efficiently with reverb guitars and a trace of piano on “Sun Harmonic.”) By the time we reach the phantom-haunted “Gentle Light,” the third track and a ballad of sorts with almost none of the record’s defining drone-work, Buchanan sounds positively naked. Mission accomplished, indeed.
Closer “Through The Pale Dark” marries the drone work of the first half of the record with the plaintive lost-balladry of “Gentle Light” and while the result isn’t stunning – it’s a little pale (no pun intended), too imitative of some of the other drones on display – it is effective. 2016’s Chase The Spirit was a perfectly acceptable use of Saleeha’s palette, but, after Come Wander Through The Pale Dark, it sounds like that was merely a warm-up session.