Shunyata is Toby Wiltshire’s chapter in the ongoing Cue Dot Records story. Simon Tucker reviews.
Release Date: Out Now
Label: Cue Dot Records
Format: CD / DL
One (of many) ugly things to emerge during the last 18 months has been the weaponisation of mental health. The phrase gets slung around by people using it to turn an emotional screw in those who hear it so that hopefully that person will then take your side and spread your point of view via social media or just plain old chit chat. The irony is that all of this talk by those with no qualifications in the subject helps heap anxiety and depression onto those already struggling. Then in swoop the “wellness” gurus with their “happiness guaranteed” phone apps and their soothingzzzzz sounds which normally leave you irritated even more and twenty quid a month down.
Why mention this? Well with the press release that accompanied Toby Wiltshire’s Shunyata, it was mentioned how Wiltshire is a “medidator” whose “work is predominantly in audio-visual art installations and ‘beatless’ electronic music.” Now, anyone who has a fondness for the esoteric and has scrambled around various apps or websites looking for something to help soothe their racing mind knows that sentences like this can raise a red flag. Is this yet another musician who believes that just because their music is slow and beatless that they are heirs apparent to your Cluster’s and Harmonia when really it is just listless and lacking in ambition. Another element in the greedy grab for the mental health pound.
Thankfully, within the first five minutes of Shunyata, you realise that not only are you embarking on a listening experience that is set to be full of twists and turns but also you are in the hands of someone who genuinely cares for their craft.
Throughout Shunyata, Toby Wiltshire displays a love for the minutiae of sound and of someone who really understands how to weave an aural tapestry allowing for peaks and troughs and smile inducing nuances. The details are there in the distorted and fractured vocals that seem to chatter away during The Wave and the Water or the mixing of the sound bowl with the drizzling synths in Glimpse which shimmies beautifully never once sitting still so you float around within its frame.
Shunyata’s biggest gift is its melodies marking Wiltshire out as someone who not only works in the field of electronic music but who is someone that is helping create a new form of Folk music. Shunyata tells an obvious story and you can follow it from beginning to end without any fear of losing your place as Wiltshire takes each step gently and at the exact right pace. Deeper pieces like Karuna that tap into the sounds of the forest blend into the more film score like sounds of Orange Light never once jarring or removing the mind from its trajectory.
So here it is. An album that actually does what it says on the tin. This isn’t snake oil or illusion. This is music created by someone who is an expert in their field. Shunyata does have the power to remove yourself from the world for a while and absorb its message. It is beautiful and it is rich and it is easy to say that with it Toby Wiltshire can indeed sit at the table and break bread with the greats of the genre that have gone before.