I’d never heard of Hotel Neon. I’d read about them in an end of the year album list. One or 2 people said ‘yeah we love that album by so and so but Hotel Neon Context….’ Turns out this is their 3rd album and they hail from my sisters hometown of Philadelphia. #knowledge
Context is a time-based drone fest. Time based as the tracklist reflects different times of the night. I’ve always thought there track names reflect someone awake during the small hours contemplating life, trying but struggling to fight sleep. That’s probably wrong but it’s nice to dream.
This is an album I almost solely listen to sleep to. Although I’ve heard it end to end a few times, I often drift off 3 or 4 tracks in. I feel like a charlatan writing about this album. There are filtered vocals later in the album but I’ve not heard them that often. Certainly, the first half changes are slight and the smallest additional layer can bring the listener back out of their stupor. Like minimal techno/tech house, a hi-hat can bring the biggest response. That is a craft, a skill that only the most confident of artists have. It is what Context is built on. Imagine long interrupted drones, only occasionally perpetuated with a string or a field recording repeated inconspicuously in the background but enough to merit interest and to root yourself back in the present time.
Despite the heavy reliance on drones, this is an album that doesn’t get heavy in the dark ambient sense. Not overbearing, never atonal and only occasionally a bit bleak, Despite the apparent simplicity on what’s on offer listen deeper and there are many layers carefully put together to make the whole. Pretty much the way i like it.
Track 2, 1.57am coming in at a respectable 9+ minutes is a particular highlight, A simple piece that incorporates one of those layers in the form of a horn, stretched out, filtered and repeated. Minimalism at its best.
A wonderful body of work the floats beautifully, certainly the first half of Context. If I could just stay awake…….