Church of the Last Epoch by State Azure (Review)

For a single ambient piece that runs over 90 minutes, there’s always something going on… should you choose to listen close enough.
Church of the Last Epoch - State Azure

The UK-based producer State Azure specializes in longform ambient pieces. That is, ambient compositions that unfold over the course of an hour, and often, much longer. And he’s quite prolific at that. My first State Azure release was 2020’s Streams (itself containing four hour-long pieces). Since then, he’s released about a dozen similar longform titles including Navigating a Latent Space and Nova Sonus, as well as thirty some other releases (including an ambient cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”).

Church of the Last Epoch is his latest longform piece, consisting of ninety-four minutes of chilled electronics and moody-yet-meditative soundscapes that, in my case, prove to be the perfect background music for late-night coding sessions and reading Tsutomu Nihei manga. And given the piece’s cyberpunk inspiration — specifically, the Syndicate and Syndicate Wars video games from the ’90s — don’t be too surprised if you hear traces of melancholy, Vangelis-esque melodies occasionally drifting through.

It’s sometimes tempting to dismiss longform ambient like this as musical laziness. When a piece starts droning on and on and on, you can’t help wondering if the musician just weighed down their synthesizer keys before walking away for fifteen or twenty minutes to make some coffee or get the mail, leaving us listeners none the wiser. Church of the Last Epoch does move very slowly and subtly — after all, it has ninety-four minutes to work with — but it’s never really static.

There’s always something going on… should you choose to listen close enough. It might be the aforementioned Vangelis-isms, some gently swelling synth pads or mournful strings, or some distant rain that evokes dystopic cityscapes and arcologies. Even just the manner in which State Azure combines and layers these elements together can be an interesting dynamic in and of itself.

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