Describing music as 'good to read to' need not necessarily be taken as a criticism. Some music manages to successfully inhabit the plain that exists between conscious and unconscious appreciation, inviting the listener to combine the experience of listening with other activities. Just as 4/4 dance music is typically good to exercise to because it carries a regular, insistent beat, Ethernet's second collection of ambient soundscapes, Opus 2, could carry a sticker advertising it as 'perfect to enjoy alongside a Magical Realist short story' or 'good for sculpting to'. Ambient can be extremely interesting, even overwhelming. Opus 2 shows glimpses of brilliance, before reverting to mediocrity.

Often suggestive of Stars of the Lid's organic orchestral pieces, Tim Gray allows only minimal percussive arrangements; rhythm is restricted to just a pumping heart of a beat, freeing up his howling, reedy synths to hover cloudlike over each track. The album opener 'Monarch' builds from a pulsating mass of Nord keys to something like the structure of a Boards of Canada piece. Gray uses mid-range stabs of organ to break-up the slowly amorphising nature of the track, allowing the textures to develop naturally, at one point adding a hi-hat to the mix to startling effect. The entwining, tube car-ish wind rushes of 'Correction' border on the sublime; providing the familiar 'pumping heart' beat as a compass bearing, the track once again unfolds along similar lines to much of the album, swirling, cascading, and generally doing everything to suggest movement and radiation while sustaining its steady momentum.

The downside of sticking so rigidly to this formula for much of the album is best illustrated by 'Cubed Suns', the ten-minute long mid-point of Opus 2. For much of the track the momentum is barely maintained by that interminable beat, dragging the listener through the randomly rising and falling blocks of sound. It is unfocused, dull, and at times actually offensive to listen to. I've been told that ambient music should not be listened to, it should be experienced. When the producer is offering a rich map of different soundscapes (see Keith Fullerton Whitman, Stars of the Lid etc) the experience can be transcendent, requiring only the good will to engage with long and on the surface formless pieces. Opus 2 fades after the opening tracks into dirgy, loveless territory.

The stronger moments of the album are those that allow the listener a signpost; the unexpected woodblock that appears in the midst of 'Dog Star', and the occasional diversions from the inescapable rhythm track. It's incredibly difficult, however, to see much of the record as anything more than an exercise in synth-widdling. Take 'Dodecahedron'. Ethernet actually breaks up the overbearing feeling of repetition by allowing us some ride cymbals with our grey, tasteless beat. These choppy cymbals are then drenched in reverb and invited to chatter to each other across the higher frequencies while the producer tries to coin several new terms to describe slush. Seven minutes later, the track fizzles out. There's no sense of narrative, nothing is allowed to breathe, or to describe its own journey; synth is layered over synth, collapsing into a morass. For ambient music, the worst sin of all is producing something that seems aimless. Ethernet veers dangerously close.