Emancipator’s “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough” goes down smooth much the same way albums like Metallica’s “Saint Anger” and Nirvana’s “In Utero” don’t. Perhaps the only aspect of the piece that makes it hard to digest, certainly for casual music listeners, is a lack of context surrounding the experience. The not-quite-techno, not-quite-electronica, not-quite-experimental rock album is the vanguard of a relatively new genre of music being called “organic ambient.” Listening to this release will, for most, be unlike anything you have experienced before. That could simultaneously be its biggest strength and its biggest weakness.
Don’t let the term “ambient” fool you, though. “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough” does not have to be background music. The 14 tracks provide plenty of climax, beats, and dynamics to keep the ear occupied. Do not expect the up and down, structured nature of most main-stream music being made today, however. Emancipator derives his own formula in “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough.”
Just like the esoteric nature of the track titles like “Periscope Up” and “Father King,” the sounds of the album will take the listener on an experimental adventure that challenges conventional understanding. Even progressive works such as “Dark Side of the Moon” and fringe artists like the Gorillaz can’t quite prepare one for Emancipator. “Dark Side of the Moon” challenges a listener’s intellect, attacking a fan’s cerebrum with deep and prophetic lyrics and asking questions whose answers seem to be just out of reach. The Gorillaz, meanwhile, try to break the mold with in your face social commentary, harsh beats and sounds, and a bizarre fusion of several mainstream genres.
But “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough” is not intellectual at all. It is emotional. The elemental sounds are raw. It doesn’t make you think, it makes you feel. It is those feelings that transform “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough” into a concept album. Whereas most concept albums are traditionally linked by thematic lyrics and psychological ideas, Emancipator unites his music with sonic motifs.
“With Rainy Eyes” resonates with sadness and mourning, as its creator was inspired by the loss of one of his mentors and musical influences. “First Snow” falls across the ear softly and sweetly, while “Anthem” resonates with the death and darkness that comes with a cold winter. “Good Knight” provides the most mainstream track amidst songs that are slightly inaccessible on first listen.
Douglas Appling, the man behind the name Emancipator, put this album out just three years ago, at the tender age of 19. Such an age seems young in the context as a piece of a larger band, but the genius required in solely developing a piece such as “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough” in its entirety is quite astounding. Appling incorporates both synthetic and authentic sounds, using instruments ranging from the guitar and vocals to the piano and glockenspiel, to say nothing of the percussive sounds that permeate the piece, dichotic in their subtlety and ubiquity.
Emancipator’s debut album will certainly provide most listeners with a trip off the beaten path. Don’t expect to be stimulated mentally—just sit back, turn your brain off, meditate, and let it happen. If your emotions aren’t completely evoked by Emancipator’s first try, just try playing it during the first snowfall of the winter.