According to Discogs, Craig Vear was a member of lounge-pop group Cousteau and worked as a session musician in the '90s, appearing on albums by Tom Jones and Wolfgang Press. "Summerhouses" is his ambient solo album, but don't expect any sort of laidback Ibiza chillout music here. Contrasting with the album's title, the cover shows a beach covered in thick, glacial ice. This is deathly still drone, akin to Thomas Koner or Francisco Lopez, and not something to relax to.
Opener "Cravasse Blue" barely moves an inch during most of its nearly ten-minute duration, except for the part around the six-minute mark where it gets a bit distorted, almost resembling some doom-metal chords. Track 2 is titled "Jolene (After D.P.)," but trying to find any similarity to the Dolly Parton classic will likely make your head hurt. It brings to mind Fennesz's interpretations of the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, but at least those deconstructions retained some sort of mood relating to the originals. If anything, this feels like Dolly's world once she realizes that Jolene has stolen her man for good.
As titles like "Intertidal Pool," "Ice Esk," and "After The Sinking" indicate, there's a vast, empty feeling to these pieces, the aural equivalent of being surrounded by nothing but ice or frozen sea for miles. A few moments almost sound like they could even be field recordings of such scenario, if it weren't for some obvious digital processing.
The album ends with "After The Sinking," the longest piece on the album at ten and a half minutes, and the most musical-sounding one, with its very subtly shifting synth-strings. Somehow the most synthetic-sounding piece on the album ends up being the most human, as the rest sounds like nature at its coldest and most devoid of life. 6/10 -- Paul Simpson (8 September, 2010)