You get the sense that it was only a matter of time before Spectrum Spools and Motion Sickness of Time Travel’s paths would cross. Since its inception last year, the John Elliott (of Emeralds/Mist/etc.)-curated Editions Mego imprint has served as one of the more conspicuous focal points of a fertile American synth underground. Through a series of reissues, re-releases from tape (No UFOs, Driphouse), compilations of previous works (Bee Mask’s Elegy For Beach Friday), and new editions (Fabric, Forma, Headboggle), Spectrum Spools has offered valuable insight into a scene’s psyche: its history, its oddball inspirations, and the rich musical possibilities that are constantly being explored within it.
Rachel Evans’ work as Motion Sickness of Time Travel perhaps best embodies what is so eminently exciting and vital about the music Spectrum Spools embraces. Evans has released a plethora of Motion Sickness tapes and LPs over the years, including one on the impressive Hooker Vision tape label co-run with husband and Quiet Evenings bandmate Grant Evans. Ranging from outsider-electronics to cosmic ambience, her sound is marked by idiosyncratic electro-acoustic atmospheres that ebb and flow graciously between cathartic highs and lush, meditative stills. It is on the self-titled Motion Sickness of Time Travel, however, that Evans reveals the full scope of her compositional force, reassembling the disparate tones, sounds, and spaces that have interested her previously with a new sonic energy that dazzles from start to finish.
Still, what separates MSOTT from Evans' previous efforts is its structure. By contrast with her 2011 effort for Digitalis, Luminaries & Synastry, which explored the shorter-song format, the record consists of four, side-long tracks, each clocking in at over twenty minutes. Harking back to the longer tracks that made 2010's Seeping Through The Veil of the Unconscious such a voyage, each side feels like a wide-eyed exploration of a distinct sound-world, gradually unfurling over the course of the song: hidden harmonies lurk under the bubbling and murmurs of synths; crevices between minimalist throbs and drones lie waiting to be pried open. Fortunately, the added space has not lead to misdirection or a lack of focus that frustrates the listener; hidden under the interplay of sounds burns a core energy that never wavers.
With an album as sprawling as Motion Sickness of Time Travel, it is difficult to isolate particular standout moments. There's the soaring arpeggios that recall the work of Emeralds, Florian Fricke or Klaus Schulze at their most transcendental, but they are always counterposed with minute gestures of rhythmic interplay, or a synth line that seems to fade away before it even arrived. One of the most rewarding features of MSOTT is its spatial construction; the listener can zoom out to take any moment in its rich totality, or zoom into the intricate microfeatures of the landscape.
Ultimately, this is less an album about what is being said, but how. We recall how the opening tension of “The Dream” is stretched apart to reveal an inner glowing warmth, or spots where the mechanical lurch of the synths in “The Centre” are overcome by the tingling drones. Although it is clear a master is behind every move on this album, it almost as sounds as though Evans has simply conjured up the separate elements and released them into the world to play out, dance and intermingle of their own volition. One is left with such an immense sense of freedom when listening to this record. But it is a freedom that is mirrored by Motion Sickness of Time Travel herself, who has always had the vision, but on this record is given the space and time to keep on chasing it to the very end.