Huntley Miller is a slow, meticulous worker, and this can be beneficial for your career in electronic music, but it can also bring unpleasant side effects. The benefits are evident: what you do will almost certainly be memorable, of excellent quality –as long as this slowness and laboriousness also go along with talent, which in Miller’s case it clearly does. The side effects are also fairly obvious: if you don’t release regularly, the public will probably forget about you. Ask anybody reading this text: do you remember Cepia? Did you know of its existence? You’d have to be an obsessive digger or a listener with years of dedication to the congested space of IDM to be up on Cepia and that dazzling “Dowry EP” released on Ghostly International, a slice of ambient with a sound like a sandy texture, music that could have worked well for a film, sometimes interrupted by feints of rhythms and synthetic strings. That was, however, in 2004, and although Miller put out some remixes, his first album didn’t appear until three years later, and by then his silence had already cost him. Another question if you’re reading me: have you ever listened to “Natura Morta” (2007)? Not many people did.
Three years later, the release of a new album by Cepia is even more surprising because the production between “Natura Morta” and this “Cepia” has tended towards zero (the occasional song in compilations and not much more). Miller has let another three years go by to put out an album in which he warns that he has sought to make substantial changes in his sound. Outside of the Ghostly setting –which always helps, at least in terms of promotion– Cepia has put out a custom album and hasn’t released the result until he got it out of his head exactly as he had imagined it mentally. His idea was to move towards the format that most satisfied him, that of the song, and what there is in “Cepia” –and what was missing from “Natura Morta”– are melodies that aspire to be memorable, to soak their way into the listener’s memory little by little, like drops of water burrowing their way through rock. The gentle textures are still there, but an absorbing ambient is no longer the basis of his discourse, but rather a resource to add perspective to the background, like the landscape in a story. The centre of “Cepia” are those melodies that seem to want to head towards pop and which stand up elegantly, creating an emotional arc that one can follow naturally: one note follows the other and gives rise to the song. There are no lyrics, nor a structure of choruses, or repetitive themes that mark a climax: there is simply a continuity, as if the notes were the atmospheric gusts from before.
What Cepia seems to be stuck on is his intention not to ascribe to any genre. It’s true that “Cepia” isn’t a treatise of computer music, and it can’t be defined as IDM in the same way that we would define an Autechre album, but he hasn’t changed his production methods or his early palette of sounds. There isn’t space for the organic or for the voice, and one can’t understand the final result of his second album without considering the use of the laptop and software. So it is IDM as we would use the term to refer to an album by Lusine, Proem, Bola or Tycho: it might not be right for the Ghostly line –although it’s better to take that declaration with a grain of salt– but it is at the same level as those CDs that appeared on Neo Ouija, Merck or Benbecula. The problem is that all of those labels have disappeared and times are really tough for melodic IDM. This might answer many questions: why Cepia had to release the album himself, why so many years go by between one album and another, and why his music is out of fashion when it really aspires to be timeless. The best thing is to shoo away bad luck and set aside negative thoughts, and just jump into “Cepia”: shining melodies like those of “Untitled III”, “Hootenanny” or “Ithaca” –which might be valid for a label like Skam, and that’s saying a lot– deserve kind ears willing to give them a chance; in return, they might radiate to you all of the optimism that they have inside them.