The consistency of Drew Haddon’s solo project Warning Light is as notable as his penchant for releasing albums without… warning. His latest EP Cosmic Meditation veers off from the techno inspirations of recent work in favor of more ambient territory, but it’s still firmly aligned with Haddon’s improvisational songwriting. Despite the title, the record’s scope is broader than a chakra alignment tool. Though it’s less structured than classical meditation records, Haddon revels in texture more than the average New Age CD on the Starbucks counter. This middle ground is fertile for the synth flourishes and spontaneous chord progressions which permeate Cosmic Meditation.
The two-track EP runs about 40 minutes, allowing Haddon to take each of the compositions farther than one might expect for an ambient record. Despite the expansive duration, he never wastes any time, constantly yet gently moving each track forward. Side A, “The Little Big Lonely,” crouches in pastoral darkness before exiting the temporal plane and surrounding the listener with cycling alien klaxons. The transition from cozy to woozy is jarring, but it accentuates the relaxing intimacy of the closing track, “Graciously Admiring the Star Ceiling.”
I’m not a big fan of stereotypical nighttime sounds in ambient tracks simply because they tend to overpower the musical elements which actually drive the plot and progress of the composition. Including insect noises simply so the listener will understand the song’s relation to the evening often seems vaguely insulting, as relaxing as crickets may be to some people. Haddon relegates such sounds firmly in the background so they pull the listener into the universe of the track without diluting the melody, but I imagine the tracks would be just as engaging without the omnipresent chirping.
Ambient soundscapes are often so delicate they collapse under their own weight, but despite an undergirding of simplicity, Cosmic Meditation doesn’t skimp on energy, even allowing the occasional rhythms to infiltrate the mix. Throughout the EP, Haddon invokes the playful style of electronica legend Susumu Yokota, but balances the more ecstatic moments of the record with pensive consistency and careful attention to melody. It’s easy to miss the beat-driven material of his last LP, Inland Empires Disregard the Sea, but the new material allows Haddon to challenge the one-dimensionality of New Age soundscapes and explore new sonic paths without sacrificing his delight in the most vibrant aspects of electronica.