Mitch Welling, also known as “flatsound” released a new album last month, which is now available on his site, Bandcamp and Spotify. The relatively short, self-produced, ambient album speaks loudly, but in soft tones, about Gilmore Girls, love, depression, transience and the permeation of pain.
Track one, “hummingbird” opens with an ambient, cyclical track, blending seamlessly into the following “even the stars can be hollow”. This track is more lyric-based, like some of flatsound’s past work, especially songs off of the album sleep. The lyrics and melody are based on softness and repetition, creating imagery of breaking, contrasted with imagery of allowing for light to be let in, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”. The third track, “action scene”, is a song written about the pain of desire and disappointment. Flatsound’s lyrics are often centred around the theme of depleting mental health, and the debilitating aspects of this, and this song is no exception. “Action scene” is a song written about not only this but also the overwhelming pressure to “succeed” in human relationships: “you said that you wanted everything”. Following a similar theme, “when we met” focuses on this pressure, but past tense: “when we met, I was broken”. The synth-electro track added in the second half of the song encourages us to question if the fragmented sense of self and purpose has been resolved, or if wholeness is just a fantasy that relationships and “adult life” try to sell to us. This emotionally heavy song is followed by a synthy interlude, “oatberry”, quite reminiscent of the Stardew Valley soundtrack. The following track, “wash away” is a selfless one, focusing on recognising other’s pain and beauty, prefacing the track that is the album’s culmination, “you said remembering would feel too much like moving back home”. This closure to the album focuses on the attempt to move away from a place, in order to escape from a person and the emotional state attached to them, but instead, being unable to let go of their existence, and that connection to the past. Through rereading messages, and remediating memories, the protagonist of the song keeps the past close – perhaps too close.
In a recent blogpost, Mitch wrote, on his online interactions and presentation of his music, “I don’t want this all to feel so passive” (Welling,<https://www.flatsound.org/blog/2018/1/22/a-few-scattered-hours> [accessed 8/2/18]). Mitch’s heartfelt, short, subtle and self-aware album, available for free download on his website, certainly achieves this reduction of fan-artist space, in the emotional transparency it creates. Yet, I argue that this album is the best quality of flatsound’s in terms of production. Each track is balanced perfectly and framed with ambient sound’s reminiscent to those created on his recent radio broadcasts.
The combination of high production quality and touching lucidity makes this both a classic flatsound album, and a work of art astutely crafted to be something delicate and new.