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act 229 · l'ombre · letting go at the steering wheel · cd

1 humour me with pleasant conversation
2 in from the rain
3 reach for me
4 all bets are in
5 your refusal
6 despond
7 into brokenness
8 combustion chamber
9 wrapped around a telephone poll

stephen sawyer took his time with his recent release - more than four years have passed since simulations 2.0 was released and now the journey into l'ombre's aural cosmos continues. join him and let go at the steering wheel...

the music is personified as driving rhythmic foundations which range from slow melancholic trip hop and faster high-energetic breakbeats to syncopated triplets that emerge from mighty over amplified ambient environments - all created by acoustic and electronic sources. these cadences solidify the abstract collages, heavy low-frequency electro bass lines, sinister minor piano chords and harsh industrial sound sequences. apparently contradicting styles collide and melt into something new, f.e. the darkhop noise hymn 'combustion chamber'.

truly it took a long time to move from l'ombre's ambient oriented first works to what he represents now.
does fragile abrasiveness exist? join the ride, and be committed!

discography l'ombre 04.2k9:
2009. cd. letting go at the steering wheel. ant-zen act229
2004. cd. simulations 2.0. ant-zen act169
2003. cd. simulations 1.0. ant-zen act149
2002. cd. medicine for the meaningless. ant-zen act129

l'ombre websites:


a review in russian language can be found on the machinist's website:

l'ombre is the project of stephen sawyer and delivers his fourth album here, again on ant-zen, like all his other albums. it's been some years since his last release, which was 'simulations 2.0' in 2004. though, that album was more of a remix companion to 'simulations 1.0', which was created in 2003. so it's been since then for him to deliver an album with completely new material. the style of l'ombre represents the softer side of ant-zen projects. the music is a combination of idm, glitch, trip-hop, ambient and break-beats. it is however infused with an industrial flavor so that it fits well into the ant-zen roster, with sometimes some harder industrial outbursts. the album starts rather quiet with 'humor me with pleasant conversation', which has some nice trip-hop and piano sounds, very soothing. 'in from the rain' continues with this path and has some nice melodies. this one is also more glitchy and reminds me somewhat of the more melodic side of autechre. the next track, 'reach for me', starts with some beautiful and sad piano keys. as the track progressed, glitchy sounds en trip-hop elements flow in and out. with 'all bets are in' the mood changes with more funky sounds. it's quite a clubby track en very nice. 'your refusal' is again very glitchy, toward the end of the song some really good melodic sounds turn up and works really well for the track. 'despond' starts with some dark industrial sounds and as the song progresses, some pretty harsh sounds are mixed into the song. there are also some nice melodies worked in, which makes the track quite dark and beautiful. with 'into brokenness' we get some filtered piano sounds, which do sound broken. here and there the song has some nosier outbursts. then we get the nosiest track on the album, 'combustion chamber', which brings back some of the more funky rhythms and mixes it with harder industrial sounds. very great track and is the most powernoise oriented on this album. the closer, 'wrapped around a telephone poll', is more introvert, but also very dark and creepy. after a lot of years, l'ombre finally is back again with a great album. the album is very diverse, but does have a consistency that is unmistakably the work of sawyer. it contains a lot of idm and glitch work, but not in a cold and clinical way, but with a lot of deep emotions. it's also an album that should be listened to a few times to hear all the interesting and intricate layers of sounds. a great release and let's hope we do not have to wait years again for the next work. (fabian)

they fell
oh my, i knew this was gonna be a good one before i even hit play. opening up with the gentle and sublime 'humour me with pleasant conversation' this is the utterly perfect starter before the main course; an almost jazz like quality to the background almost translucent pad work is complimented with gentle glitches and broken, soft matted breaks and trip hop drum patterns. this is genuinely engaging work and i dare you to not get sucked in straight away. following this up the pad work and keys are simply beautiful and gradually float and glide into splintered and carved structures with melting bass as motion just goes from great to utterly absorbing with the minimal of effort. there is a lonely quality to 'letting go at the steering wheel'; a frank solitary melancholy that aches along in the background as a nod to the time when you ponder 'what if?' never overstating itself, and giving way to consideration and contemplation of the basic fundamental emotions that people tend to let slide and purposely forget about from day to day. mood swing alerts are also aplenty with this album, almost as if when pondering life's turmoil there is also the necessary 'me' time when you just need to go out and get it all out of your system; you will see exactly what i mean at various sections throughout this release when you sit back and listen; track four almost having a vegas night on the town quality to it, which put a smile on my face. this cd is nearly genre-less, and that's a surprise, toying with so many styles, sometimes in the same song and it's of no shock when sat reviewing at your computer this comes up as 'unclassified'; nodding it's head in the direction of many and none all at the same time. intelligent, rewarding and utterly brilliant mr sawyer has produced something that denies convention and has the ability to knock you sideways practically at every turn. could be a new favourite of mine. a stunning late evening listening experience. (tony young)

connexion bizarre
there are some pretty high expectations for "letting go at the steering wheel" (well not so much from me, but probably from someone), being that it has been five years since his last album. i will confess that i haven't heard many of l'ombre's older tunes, but the stuff i heard i didn't hate and probably even liked. anyway, i heard this record at a time when i losing faith with the seemingly new industrial/idm trend; the last couple tympanik and hymen releases did very little for me, however upon hearing this i was quite pleased. this sounds very solidly composed and very mature, something that was lacking in similarly styled recent records. it sounds like l'ombre has actually listened to idm before and knows how to make interesting and engaging compositions. i am a huge fan of the style portrayed here: that sort of sad-but-dreamy, jazzy and melodic idm with an organic edge. like walking through the city on a rainy saturday morning, with the city being a giant collective of small machines that click and hum quietly. there are only two comparisons i can make, because this is pretty damn unique, but they would be: 1. think of the most recent displacer album, but instead of trip hop-ish make it idm-ish, and 2. some of the grittier pleq songs. ok, maybe burial for the atmosphere (and i like burial's atmospheres a lot). another thing i like about this album is that although i keep saying 'idm', this is not rip-your-brain-apart-ultra-technical-digital-fuckery; this is sort of like smooth jazz idm where it's subtly complex but also smooth and groovy. anyway, what i'm saying is that it is calm and mellow but legitimately complex. about halfway through the album l'ombre decides to get a little noisier and adds some heavy power noise distortion in between the clicks and pops. personally i'm down with this type of noisy idm that is vaguely like older antigen shift. there are only two things i don't like about this album. firstly, there is the track "despond", where l'ombre tries to be converter, which is really boring and monotonous in my opinion. there are some half-decent melodic elements lost in there somewhere, but way too much boring slow wall-of-concrete noise. the lack of distinguishable beats bores me to death. "combustion chamber" has a cool name but is basically the same type of deal. it actually has a kick drum though. if you like converter, however, you will dig it... maybe. the other thing is, for some reason this album is sort of unmemorable. i can't quite put my finger on it, but i've listened to it in its entirety probably five or six times, but as soon as i turn it off i couldn't really tell you what any of the songs sound like. oh well. it's good while you can hear it. basically, if you like melancholy, jazzy, melodic idm-type music, and want to hear that occasionally mixed with power noise for some reason, then you will enjoy this record. (dan barrett)

le canadien stephen sawyer aka l'ombre, auteur de quelques disques chez ant-zen (medicine for the meaningless et les deux volets de la série simulation), revient aux affaires dans cette excellente maison avec les neuf titres de letting go at the steering wheel. un album d'i.d.m. éclectique, s'il en est. rappelant dans une moindre mesure le travail des maîtres actuels du genre - stendeck et ametsub en tête - notamment dans les jeux de lumière autour d'un piano aux accords plus ou moins accentués, l'ombre oscille entre clarté et obscurité (reach for me), œuvrant sur plusieurs tableaux, de la noise (combustion chamber, excellement bruitiste) à l'ambient en passant par de l'electronica plus absconse (all bets are in). optant d'abord pour le ciselage des harmonies et des mélodies, il crée ainsi un canevas d'émotions toutes à la fois touchantes et glaçantes (in for the rain), un panel de sensations tour à tour fragiles et rugueuses. ce n'est qu'ensuite que le gars de toronto semble s'être concentré sur les motifs, assez sommaires (le claustro et minimal wrapped around a telephone poll) voire carrément simplistes (l'introductif humour me with pleasant conversation nous fit craindre le pire), jouant des contrastes organiques/électroniques avec pas mal d'à-propos (your refusal ou le tellurique into brokenness), n'encombrant jamais ses compositions de textures alambiquées trop chargées. c'est indéniablement cette démarche qui, sans véritable originalité certes, lui a permis malgré tout de trouver une unité de ton et une certaine homogénéité qualitative. et ce en dépit de cette diversité de pistes explorées qui aurait pu nous perdre en chemin. connaissant maintenant un peu mieux la route, c'est en confiance qu'on y reprendra le volant. de temps à temps...n'exagérons rien! (yvan)

chroniques electroniques
l'ombre, de son vrai nom stephen sawyer est un canadien de toronto. quatre ans après son simulation 2.0, il livre ces jours-ci sur le label ant-zen, un album littéralement dantesque. a l'instar des jon hopkins, stendeck ou encore ametsub, tous auteurs d'exceptionnels albums parus cette année, il est probablement lui aussi pianiste de formation. on a affaire ici à un véritable illuminati des compositions électroniques. des sources acoustiques et électroniques en perpétuelle collusion, se marient sans tomber dans une schizophrénie de bas étage. l'album débute par le lumineux et génial humour me with pleasant conversation, idm luxuriante et enchanteresque. je ne vais pas faire l'apologie de chaque titre même s'ils le mériteraient tous. sa musique a une espèce de touche organique impalpable mais bien réelle. toujours borderline, naviguant entre ombre et lumière, le son est une véritable invitation à un voyage subjectif entre rêve et cauchemar. doté d'un potentiel visuel exceptionnel, cet album ravivera l'imagination des auditeurs les plus puristes. flirtant avec l'ambient et même par une fois avec le noise (l'exceptionnel combustion chamber), la palette d'intervention du canadien ne semble assujettie à aucune limite. j'ai pour ma part simplement eu du mal avec le très abstrait all bets are in, un peu plus indigeste que l'ensemble. le piano, à tendance mineure, apparaît fantomatiquement au gré de l'opus, rappelant à celui qui écoute que l'auteur est véritablement un humain. tous les titres sont merveilleux mais j'avoue avoir une préférence pour le ténébreux et terrifiant despond, où l'on est submergé par le sentiment d'être poursuivi par des spectres grouillants dans un tunnel sans sortie. bien des morceaux, mais surtout le génialissime into brokenness, m'ont fait penser à un monde proche de celui de david lynch, toujours entre rêve et cauchemar, proche d'une folie dont on se délecte de l'addiction qu'elle procure. après tant d'éloges, il ne fait aucun doute que tout amateur de musiques électroniques intelligentes se jettera sur cet album, qui fait déjà partie des meilleurs de l'année dans son genre. (ed loxapac)

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