That Jonathan D. Haskell’s material originates out of Los Angeles, California and specifically draws its inspiration from nocturnal prowls through the Mulholland Hills area is entirely fitting, given the cinematic character of his headphones-friendly Seven Saturdays soundscaping. Haskell’s Love in the Time of Anticipated Defeat presents fifty-one minutes of ambient slow-burn that’s by turns and sometimes all at once celestial, beatific, and cosmic. He sprinkles his delicate soundscapes with occasional vocal fragments (a female speaking in French, for instance), electronics, and synthesizer swirls, and often roughens up the pristine character of his settings by spreading raw guitar-generated shadings across their smooth surfaces. That’s a wise move, as otherwise the material might start to sound too pretty, such as occurs when the three minutes of luscious ambient swirls in “If Looks Could Kill” come dangerously close to New Age, for example.
Working from a core of polished ambient moodscaping, Haskell maintains the listener’s interest by adding unpredictable sounds throughout, whether it be a music box’s chimes, the metallic swoop of an e-bow, cosmic swirls, static-laden voices emanating from short-wave radios (recorded on Mulholland Drive and at the Santa Monica pier) or a smattering of Rhodes, speaking voices, and encrusted guitar drones (“Broken Treasures”). Ambient sounds in “Shallow End” broaden out to include subtle percussive accents and e-bow, while the title cut finds the tinkle of a glockenspiel intoning the main melody amidst droning swirls and haunted presences. Though track titles such as “Drownings” and “Suicide Leap From the Hollywood Sign” don’t indicate that the album will be an exercise in life-affirming uplift, one shouldn’t read too much into titles alone, as the mood of the material is generally serenading and soothing—hardly music to slit one’s wrists by.