Archives, the Spanish ambient label run by Agustín Mena aka Warmth since 2015 is quite possibly the most visually satisfying thanks to the work of Alexander Kopatz. Coupled with the mastering jobs of Rafael Anton Irisarri, Taylor Deupree, Ian Hawgood amongst others, as well as artists such as Warmth, Hotel Neon, David Cordero, Pepo Galán to name a few, makes Archives a label to investigate. Coming up to his tenth full length album as Warmth, Mena describes “Life” as “the fifth ambient album by Warmth, with a closer sound to his first works ‘Essay’ and ‘Home’, but with the darker approach of the most recent ‘Parallel’ and especially ‘Wildlife’.” Mena is also active as SVLBRD for his Faint sublabel.
Straight away Mena cocoons you in a soundscape which is equal parts warming, dreamy and mysterious. There is a grittiness that is apparent which rather than being a misplaced sound source, adds an earthiness to the pieces. You get a mixture of influences that come through the tracks and it makes me think that at some point in time Mena stumbled into a chill out room at a rave and never looked back. Rolling walls of synths, field recordings, dub techno skeletons, healthy washes of ambience and a soundscape that is as enveloping as it is dark draw you in.
Not everything is comfortable with the middle third of the album – “Life / The Mourning / Passage” definitely residing in more squally, darker territories. It’s almost as if all the colour and light that was experienced in the opening two pieces (“Breathe” and “Living”) have been sucked out of these tracks. It certainly provides a contrast in moods and feeling even though the techniques that are used through out the album still remain. “The Mourning” in particular feels extremely cold and glacial. A piece like “Roads” is the kind of track I am drawn to as it balances the elements mentioned above and wraps them up in a blurry haze. In these times you want to listen to something that is as comforting as it is challenging, as sweet as it is gritty and something that you can put on that takes you away from wherever you are and “Life” does just this. There is something about the way that the elements changes and evolve. Mena doesn’t stay too long in one particular terrain but the pieces have a consistent sound and feel giving the album a coherent feel.
“Life” is available on Limited LP, CD, Cassette and Digital.