Review: Ivory Trade – Atlas (A R C H I V E, Jun 24)

Little is known—or even can be known—about the obscure Belgian project Ivory Trade, whose modest discography is allegedly concluded by this latest release on A R C H I V E. The familiar elements are still at play on Atlas, a “grief settlement in familiar surroundings”: the muffled, fuzzy, marred bits of woozy keyboard ambience and field recordings are as sullenly detached yet beautiful as ever, trapped in languid enclosures of tape hiss and distortion. Most of Ivory Trade’s releases feature covers that frame a simple design with a pronounced white border, a visual representation of the profound claustrophobia evoked by the presence of the music. But it’s not always an unpleasant sense of compression or imprisonment; the more sublime tracks often seem to begin to drift beyond their bounds, faint beams of warm light slowly breaking through a shell of shadow. Atlas, though all in all a quite minimal affair, runs the emotional gamut, touching on murky uncertainty with the title track, bewilderment and queasiness with “Feinting Around the Furniture Like Dog Handlers,” and soothing comfort on “Crystal Dogs”… and that’s all within the first ten minutes of the tape. As it progresses, the music begins to reveal more and more pieces of humanity, and by the end Atlas presents a wonderful summary of Ivory Trade’s work.