Secondface - Wardens of the Mist

Secondface: Wardens of the Mist – Music Review

Secondface is a completely new artist to my burgeoning roster of ambient musicians I’ve taken a liking to and also do a music review of. Thanks to the musically consistent Exosphere music label (a division of Synphaera), I was pleasantly surprised to hear much of what I love from this label in this album, but with the usual subtle shifts and ideas that each artist brings to it.

Let’s get on with the review by taking a look at the track listing and release notes.

Wardens of the Mist Track List

1. Dawn Mist 05:26
2. Harbinger 05:40
3. The Gathering 07:23
4. Windblown 05:58
5. Rays of Light 06:05
6. Forgotten Path 06:49
7. The Depths 07:17
8. Entity 07:06

Album Release Notes

Ambient artist Frank Vilbæk Jensen, aka Secondface, emerges from the Danish landscape with Wardens of the Mist, his Exosphere debut. 

Inspired by the mysteries of the natural world, Secondface explores the silent beauty of mist at dawn as it envelopes field and forest alike into its sunless world of obscuring haze and vapor. 

Created in early 2022 utilizing a mix of hardware & software synthesizers and field recordings. 

The Album In Depth

Dawn Mist is a fine opening track to set the tone for the album, which is largely very consistent in its sound design and principles. This track has some tension in the opening ambient sounds, but the arrival of delicate synth sequences really offset that. It sounds on paper like it shouldn’t work, but surprisingly it makes for a very cohesive track.

Harbinger starts with a much more ‘cinematic’ approach to the ambient pads. Gradual introduction of deep basses, punchy booms that linger in the distance thanks to nice reverbs and mixing on this gradually shifting soundscape. Like the arrival of a dawn from a cold, moonlit night, I love the tones used throughout.

The Gathering starts as usual with some deep, almost resonant pads, but is interrupted with some lovely percussive effects that aren’t that intrusive. There’s a lot of tension again in this track, very reminiscent of the first track. Some nice synth modulation and sound design that almost reminds me of the Prophecy theme from the Dune soundtrack (the 1984 one). There’s also hints of a melodic structure to this track, compared to the more ‘freeform’ structures (or lack thereof) in the earlier tracks.

Windblown is easily my favourite track (more on that below). The melancholy and atmosphere that exudes from the simple sound design, the delicate, spacious reverb is wonderful. Subtle hints of field recordings dot the sonic landscape once more in a delicate way, almost like the sporadic leaf falling from a tree at the start of autumn. Wonderful sounds and a delight to my ears.

Rays of Light is very much a sonic continuation of the themes and tone set in Windblown. It’s not the same as such, but I feel it’s more an evolutionary next step. If Windblown was much longer, this would have been its outcome. Another great track.

Forgotten Path can easily be the most ‘drone’ style of the album. Deep, monotone and lovely bass tones resonate throughout this piece, with delicate synth pads coming and going throughout. It’s a lovely, gossamer track in nature, with less melancholic tone than the previous two tracks. Listened to in context of the rest of the album, the aforementioned melancholy feels a lot stronger than if listened to in isolation. I’m amazed how the artist has created this feat of perception when listening to their music.

The Depths is really odd. In a good way of course. For a track with such a title, the fact there is almost no bass sound for the first couple of minutes is perplexing. But there’s plenty of great nuanced sound design that keeps my ears interested until then. The pad sounds that come in roughly halfway through this track create a sense of frisson to me – my hairs stand on end with how well it’s all mixed together. The same happens again around six minutes in with another sound, distinctly more analogue pad in design but prominently placed in the mix.

Entity, the final track is probably one of the hardest to describe. Simple sound design, but elaborate structure and progression with the elements coming into the mix in their own parts. There’s some interesting delicate sounds adding a different feel to the track, subtly laid over the pads and showing it’s not just slow sound that can make excellent ambient music. A good fitting end to this album.

Final Thoughts on Wardens of the Mist

This is a lovely, serene album, and really fitting for the Exosphere music label. My favourite standout track is Windblown, a spacious, melancholic piece of ambient bliss with some subtle sound effects going on during the track. It betrays it’s short (for me at least) running time by sounding much longer than it actually is.

Overall, this album has some superb mixing and mastering – nothing felt out of place, everything was perfectly gentle. Sounds that, upon description, would probably not fit this ambient work actually do – they’re not intrusive because of the attention paid to how the whole mix fits together. It’s an ambient album that really sits more in the “background” than being listened to in a focused way. I’ve often played this while engaged in something like reading to great effect. Listening to it with focused intent for this review highlighted how much is actually in these tracks and again, how everything is mixed down to create subtlety over attention.

A superb ambient album in my collection.

Wardens of the Mist is available on Bandcamp, as well as many other usual outlets. Released by exosphere (exo33). More information on Secondface is here.

Read more of my music reviews here.

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