Daly typically makes by-the-books house music infused with a certain emotion—not quite euphoria, not quite melancholy. A good Daly production is both ethereal and earthy. On Listen, The Smoke Clears' first album, he floated above the framework of dance music to explore these feelings more directly. It was a pleasant little diversion marked by his usual sense of economy and musicality. With The Smoke Clears, the latest album under the alias, Daly wades even further into the deep end, getting lost in reverb and swaying beats.
The music on The Smoke Clears comes from a fairly obvious pedigree; it's difficult not to hear Aphex Twin and Boards Of Canada in the album's opening run of ambient techno. Starting with the dramatic "Fathoms," through to the rousing "Goose And The Moon," these first few tracks sound more like exercises than expressions. "Heaven Sent" is where Daly finally lets himself float away. Layering melodies in gorgeous, flowing cascades, the reverb and soundstaging is impeccable.
The album's back half ditches the early '90s obsessions. Daly zooms in on tiny bits of percussion on "Slipstream" and "In Time," savoring every clap as it rings out in a pool of reverb. On "Oh My Days," singer Cian Finn appears for a fantastic effect, conjuring a devotional mood that matches "Heaven Sent." A vocal appearance could be problematic for an album this spacey and atmospheric, but Finn sticks to bellowing the title, more like a hymn than a pop song.
There's something oddly reassuring about The Smoke Clears, which, like its predecessor, feels more like a mood piece than a defining work. The cozy familiarity of Daly's music has long been his calling-card, and that quality remains vital and lovely on The Smoke Clears.