Rachel Evans could well be the figurehead for the new profligacy movement – last year alone, as MSOTT, she released 4 albums, 2 EPs and a couple of splits. She was also part of 3 releases with Quiet Evenings and appeared on numerous compilations. That’s a lot of stuff. One thing this kind of release pattern does is belie the notion of an oeuvre – there’s nothing so neat a form to study and ponder. Instead you have something closer to a splayed web the strands of which fly further and further apart. Consequently, you don’t tend to search for coherence, instead you find yourself submitting to the flow, more a passive observer. Which may well be the point, and certainly works as a descriptor for the experience of listening to this massive self-titled album. There’s the best part of 90 minutes of music here, set across 4 tracks, all of 20 minutes or more; and the best practice in terms of listening is to totally surrender yourself to it. There’s an odd element of trust with such a strategy, which is partly borne of a sense of past work, and partly of the process of listening itself, as it soon becomes apparent, notions of profligacy aside, that Evans is totally in control of this.
I didn’t really want to fall back on the tired metaphor of a journey, but the fact is that Motion Sickness of Time Travel is a journey, a journey where the destination is mostly irrelevant. The overall tone is very warm and bright, and very kosmische, both in the sense of a vast astral journey and in the background sound palette Evans is using. The reference points are Tangerine Dream (especially Phaedra and Zeit) the Klaus Schulze of the mid-to-late 70s and the ‘brighter’ end of what Liz Harris is doing with Grouper, though, overall, there’s probably less introspection here, and less tension. What there is is gradually unfurling synth figures, that are given time to work themselves out in what feels like an organic way, or allowed to reach some logical conclusion before suggesting a resolution or new jumping off point. On ‘The Dream’ for instance, the centre section is little more than a series of synth droplets and a soft layering of Evans’s voice, but it never feels laboured; and when it gives way to a beautiful series of drones, the transition is perfect. ‘Summer of the Cat’s Eye’, the most minimal thing here, flirts with almost entire obliteration in places, but again, in context, it never outstays its welcome.
The truth is with Motion Sickness of Time Travel, far from sounding like she’s spreading herself too thin, Evans sounds in a place of total creativity and capable of a good deal more. She seems to have found a new alchemy, a way of splitting the fine waves between layers of sound and opening up new possibilities. And the biggest compliment I can pay such a huge album, is that at its close, I’ve regularly returned to the beginning, to look for clues, to find a way of drawing everything together. An exercise in my (mostly) missing the point, but there we are.