For her formidable Fifty-Two Weeks project, Australian sound-sculptor Madeleine Cocolas composed and recorded a track a week for a whole year. Drawing from the best cuts, and rounding it out with some new material, her debut album, Cascadia, is a distinctly cinematic, almost synesthetic entry into Seattle's ambient/electronic scene.
Opening on the throbbing, oceanic synths of "The Sea Beneath Me," the album immediately establishes Cocolas's deftness with atmosphere and pacing, as the bass subtly morphs from amniotic warmth to ominous buzzing with her coos floating innocently above the fray. From there, the album moves on to "I Can See You Whisper," whose desiccated strings and insistent piano are redolent of Jon Hopkins's work on the Monsters soundtrack (never a bad thing).
Often the simplest moments work best: "Sometimes I Can't Hear You" is built on a single piano note, as chiming chords bounce off each other in waterfalling rhythms around it. "Echoes" recalls the opener's epic swell, with Vangelis-like synthesizers finally overtaking and burying Cocolas's looped siren song underneath their heft.
Though there's one track that veers a little too close to Windham Hill ("Moments of Distraction") and one that's just the tiniest bit Enya ("When I Knew I Loved You"), this is a remarkably consistent collection of unabashedly pretty electronic music, weaving together threads of electro-acoustic, neoclassical, and avant-garde into an ultimately cathartic whole.
While Cocolas draws obvious influence from a wide range of sources, her unerring ear for melody and texture, and her keen sense of dynamics and mood, prove more than ever that she's one of Seattle's most skilled ambient technicians.