It feels rather odd to review just one release by the enigmatic London-based ambient composer known only as oliviaway. To date, she’s recorded and released over 200 titles since 2017, with four new releases in August alone. At her current rate, I expect she’ll release several more before month’s end.
Furthermore, all of oliviaway’s releases seem to emerge from the same mold, containing long, slow songs composed entirely of lush, gently melancholy washes of sound that evoke Steve Roach, vidnaObmana, and Celer.
(Of course, given her discography’s size, I’ve yet to listen to every single one of oliviaway’s releases. For all I know, there may very well be some death metal blast beats, folksy twang, and/or pop punk riffs lurking somewhere in those 200+ releases.)
Mind you, none of the above should be taken as any sort of slight or criticism. Indeed, it’s commendable for an artist to devote themselves to exploring such a focused and minimalist sound palette for 20 releases, never mind 200. And personally speaking, oliviaway’s contemplative sonic palette — and elegant, minimalist design aesthetic — lands pretty squarely in my wheelhouse.
When I think of my ideal ambient music, I imagine the sort of tones and atmospherics that drift through songs like “Sequoia” and “Soft Eyes,” i.e., rich synth chords that slowly unfurl, evoking a sense of vast (though not overwhelming) sorrow that fades away just as a slowly, making way for the next wave. This is ambient music that’s serene and composed, but still moves at an inexorable and emotional pace.
When I listen to Origin Glow or oliviaway’s other recent releases — like Somewhere Only We Know or Endless Light — I’m reminded of when I first discovered darkwave artists like soulwhirlingsomewhere and Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and how I spent many late nights stretched out on my apartment floor while their sounds washed over me. It was just me, the music, and nothing else. Oliviaway’s music evokes a similar sense of looking inward, and seeking peace in the midst of solitude.