The only upside of living under impending nuclear annihilation and the destruction of modern civilization is its influence on artists and the work they create. There’s a John F. Kennedy quote I’m fond of that captures the phenomenon: “When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”
There’s power in the ambient poetry of Fredericton-based electronic artist Property// (aka Charles Harding). Spiral uses synthetic beats and textures as its starting point. Harding cultivates loamy, fertile soil with opening track “Full Circle”, a dreamlike instrumental that sets the tone and tempo for Spirals’s intense, low-key sound. The despondency gets ratcheted up to 11 on “Climatize”, with lyrics referencing hopelessness, fear, and dying trees. Emily Kennedy’s cello on “Conch Shells” makes the hairs on the back of your neck tingle in the way only a tension-filled horror movie scene can. Stabs of guitar feedback and noise punctuate another of the album’s instrumental interludes, “Tremors”, before Spirals finds some relief from the impending dystopian nightmare on closer “Sleep”.
While Harding’s orchestrations echo the seriousness of our current global situation, there’s an undeniable streak of optimism coursing through Spirals’s eight-song cycle. It’s not immediately evident, and it might not have been intentional, but the deeper Property// ruminates on the corruption and arrogance on display in our world, the more the music taps into a rich vein of artistic expression and beauty. “Sure, things look dire and desolate right now,” Harding seems to say, “but every storm must come to an end sometime.” When the fallout is over, and the dust settles, nuanced and reflective works of art like Spirals will remain to wash our wounds.