Ariel Storm proved to be a place outside of time
Before the night of November 6th began and the music had a chance to kiss me on my forehead and lay me down in a blanket made of the present moment, I had to overcome a slight obstacle: my mind.
The show was held at The Triple Door in downtown, near Pikes Place Market, at five p.m. You can imagine my frustration when I arrived on the scene and had to spend over 45 minutes trying to abandon my car on a street — any street — that would allow me to watch the performance uninterrupted. After driving far and wide, only after the show had already begun did I find a parking garage nearby that could accommodate me.
Missing the beginning, I rushed into the venue, grabbed a seat, and began listening intently. Still feeling like I was trying to find a parking space in the middle of traffic, I wrote my notes vigorously, forgetting to sit back and let the music flow through me, and, perhaps, if it was any other band, that would have been the mindset that lingered throughout the night. But it wasn’t, and it didn’t. Every song was delivered like a gentle punch to my consciousness, bringing me back, closer and closer into the present. I could feel my shoulders release their tension and my heart’s ears perk up until I found myself floating in the music, eyes closed, chasing the scenery inside my head.
Ariel Storm, a folktronic, ambient, dream-pop duo composed of Kai Ariel and Aria Storm, explores the limits of simple folk instrumentation like the guitar, keyboard, shakers, a rain stick, djembe, and kalimba by modulating timbre and adding delay and echo effects until any edge between instruments gets ironed out into a smooth, continuous, flowing sheet of silk.
During their first set, Ariel and Storm were both hopping in between different instruments, making new combinations of sounds that really showed off their talents as multi-instrumentalists. The second set was a good mixture of instrumental and lyrical songs from their newest album, Spellbreaker (2016), and some from the older Ariel Storm (2006). The last set had a lot more instrumental pieces in which a whole novel was written just though the keys or the kalimba, while the rain stick or the djembe softly tingled the ear into submission. In one song that really stood out, Ariel fingerpicked a nice low melody over and over as Storm danced on the keys in higher octaves, creating the perfect contrast for successful separation.
Storm would occasionally modulate the pitch, which emulated an alien wailing and screaming and somehow felt so familiar, like the alien was trying to say something, trying to communicate with me. There was a push and pull in my stomach; I wanted to wail, to howl, just to get out this pain that I was hearing in the keys. It was emotional. It was breathtaking.
There were only a couple items I would change: the first was technical. Ariel was using a headset microphone, which allowed him greater freedom when moving around the stage, but also muffled his voice, which at times would blend together with the instruments, losing the words and the meaning behind them in between the waves of sound. Storm didn’t have this problem and had a clear projection with a regular microphone, making her voice stand out from the background melodies.
The only other thing that stood out to me was the length of some of their songs, which rarely break four minutes in length. With their style and capabilities to construct such immersive melodies, ending these songs so quickly is a tragedy. So many times I would fall deep into a song, let my attention wander from the guitar to the vocals to the keys, then take some time to play with the melody in my head, and just as I would get familiar with it and want to get more intimate — cuddle with the melody so to speak — it was over and on to the next one. I wanted more wailing keys, a bigger dialogue between the instruments, and time to explore the soundscape, but I didn’t get it as much as I would have liked.
With that said, Ariel Storm is a truly talented duo capable of swallowing you whole in the sound of their souls so much so that you don’t want to leave, just fall asleep in their embrace. Their melodies are fresh, and just when you think you figured it out, they switch keys, gifting you with the sense of excitement and fulfillment we feel when our expectations are positively shattered. Their smiles radiated across the stage, and their music lingered in the air even after they stopped playing.
If you want to know the secret to time travel, visit their next show, because three hours went by faster than you could snap your fingers; yet, when I close my eyes, I am stuck mid song.
-written for Dan's Tunes Seattle