This planet is teeming with motion, and not all of it is propelling us forward. Sure, we’re seeing unprecedented advances in technology (that are not without their own troubles) and breakthroughs in medicine, wildlife conservation, and humanitarianism, but it can often feel like that same idea of ‘motion’ is not bringing us closer together, as depicted in the form of people being driven apart by divisive rhetoric and action. Hell, some days feel like the only movement I’m making is downward – digging the early grave that a relentless workload and apathetic overlords are seemingly setting me up for.
However, that cheerful little intro is where the blissful work of Ned Milligan comes in. I ventured here out of sheer curiosity for the name – check my own above if you’re still unsure why – but I stayed for the music. While we share a surname, if you were to compare the demeanour of this sonic outpouring and the restlessness I’m currently experiencing, you’d find very little in common. Maybe that’s its greatest draw for me personally: my day-to-day world at the moment revolves around flurries of activity, something diametrically opposed to the tranquillity found on Considerable. The album marks a sixth solo release from Milligan (who also heads up the label Florabelle), and while the New Yorker’s music has no dire need of me and my exertions, it would appear that I most certainly need it.
Approaching his music with a tendency towards the mysterious and sometimes unpredictable presence of wind chimes, Ned Milligan has a proclivity for constructing recordings that invite you to share in their space as a welcome guest. But hey, don’t just take my word for it:
‘My work in the past five years has been grounded in recording and playing outdoors, trying to communicate the meaning of being in a particular location and finding meaning in interacting with whatever sounds or elements are equally present. I’m still excited by all of it! This sense of purpose continues with Considerable and the most I could wish for is that the specificity of what I am doing and where I’m doing it manages to evoke something in anyone listening–a connection to their own environments and spaces.’
This becomes readily audible through the initial glassy tones and growing crackling of fire that welcome us courtesy of the album’s reposing opener, “Sky Smokes & Electronics”. It possesses a heartwarming drone that lulls, relieving frustration and tension to instead instil an air of serenity. There’s also a delightful sense of inclusion to the record, with “Mailbox Walk” serving as a prime example: we’re taken along for the walk, natural ambience entwined with the crunching of gravel underfoot. This is all tied in nicely to a plethora of clanking, rattling, scraping, and the soft clattering of those recognisable chimes. Despite their potentially jarring connotations in some contexts, these components are wound together into the peripheral space here in a way that doesn’t overload the senses, but rather softens them, further enfolding you into the exact place Ned Milligan wants you.
It doesn’t end there, either. “Firefly Symphony” epitomises its title, a mild yet intriguing dissonance inhabiting its nocturnal soundscape. Is that the distant passing of cars? Maybe; they lend the track a familiarity and universality – something that I must say does not sufficiently prepare you for the comforting, acapella rendition that awaits at the start of “A Crack In The Sky”. It’s our first glimpse of any human voice on Considerable, marking it as a special sort of moment, but it’s a passing presence tinted with warmth and happiness that bows out to more of the washing tapestry of soothing sounds we’re now fully accustomed to.
That quick settlement and familiarisation is also a key point of endearment for me. His songs vary dramatically in length here, from two minutes to as many as eleven, but none of the compositions overstay or lack integrity. They simply exist, inviting you to do the very same in stepping outside of time to accompany them. Take the likes of “Landscape Duet” – with its rustling, rummaging noises that offset the chirpy birdsong and scattered guitar – or the open moonlit vibes and ringing string plucks of “The Path You Took To Existing”: here (and elsewhere) the persistent focus remains on tying together elements both melodic and percussive into compositions that populate Considerable with charm and character, and reward both active and passive listeners alike.
Perhaps it was fated that I would encounter this latest album from Ned Milligan, but regardless of this I consider it fortuitous that I did. The appeal of this record (and his work in general) lies in an impressive ability to breathe life into the sounds and spaces that we might otherwise take for granted when caught up in our daily lives. What I can say for certain is that, in a world where the powers that be seem content to work us to our limits and beyond just to make ends meet, the weight of a gentle and minimalistic album such as this – one that longingly permits you to stop and breathe or reflect – is considerable at the very least.