This might be my first and last chance at reviewing a Water Lily Jaguar release. This is because the dude I e-mailed from the package (whom I now know as MAX CHILL) is currently focusing on another (much weirder) project called DJ Ecto Cooler . So read/listen close: It’d be a damned shame for him to quit this stuff.
I’m getting ahead of myself here. Before Water Lily Jaguar, there was Dream Safari. Between the deep, dank, and darkly whooshy ambience of that project and the tripped-out slo-mo, gauzy ‘n’gooey beats of DJ Ecto Cooler, we have this: This gorgeous, compelling and calming, relaxing and soothing, tape-blissy wonder of a release that gently rubs those super-sensitive spots like behind the temples or at the small of the back; exactly where you want a massage, but never do for yourself (either because you can’t reach or you just didn’t realize you wanted it). I have to admit, this is probably the best work MAX CHILL has dedicated his time to (that I’ve had the chance to hear thus far). Not to say the other projects weren’t worthy of exploration by any means (in fact, both are fantastic)—WLJ is just a lot different, more instantly-pleasing to the ears, accessible, and these drones here are just too damned pretty in general.
Both “Voyage of Hope” (tape 1) and “Voyage of Discovery” (tape 2) don’t actually feel very much like voyages. These don’t travel forward linearly as much as they sit stationary while you sink into them. Slowly and softly, the music surrounds you as each of the four pieces starts with a synth droplet smack-dab in the middle of an electronic lake, letting simple motifs ebb outward in micro ripples as the listener begins to submerge into a deeper, warmer environment. It doesn’t seem like many new sounds, save for some effervescent bubbling on occasion, are added to the mix after the music has been initiated. Rather, the bare-boned beginnings morph, tones smooth out or bunch up over short periods of time that seem to stretch for eons, eventually painting vivid, naturalistic imagery—crickets, small animals…?—living things at home in their oceanic habitats of silky drones and shimmering vistas.
Water Lily Jaguar fits in nicely with other like-minded cassette-mongering ambient artists like Sparkling Wide Pressure or Sean McCann. The first tape’s first side runs a little short on the cassette, making for a small flipping nuisance. Easily forgivable. I actually thought a 2x cassette would be a lot of work for some reason. It’s not. This tape is easily the most beautiful music on any format I’ve had the chance to review yet in 2011, and it’s always a joy when one tape clicks to stop… because it’s just time to put the next one in. Great for the last thing of the night or the first thing at dawn’s break. A gleaming, glittery gem that comes complete in a beautiful package from the UK’s Soundholes imprint. 1 of the 52 copies available for this release is sitting in my tape deck and probably won’t be leaving any time soon. Read: grab one now.