My dearest readers, I wanted to make sure you knew about the newest, most exciting development yet here at Pound for Pound. Yesterday we kicked off our newest feature here with the first volume in the Pound for Pound mix series, a 43-minute journey to a musical oasis courtesy of Mist Connections, aka Sean Conrad of Inner Islands. Head over to the Mixes page, where you can listen to Sean's mix, download for mobile bliss and read a short interview with Sean. I know that there are like a billion mixes floating around the Internet, but I hope to make this one a unique series that offers something a little different and well worth your time. Feel free to get in touch at mixes at poundforpound dot us to submit or to let me know who/what you would like to hear. More to come. In the meantime, go listen!
The remainder of this week and some of next is dedicated to Sean Conrad and his music world. As long-time readers will remember, Conrad is the man behind both the Ashan, gkfoes vjgoaf, Orra and River Spirit Dragon projects and the Inner Islands label, the Oakland label at the forefront of the New New Age. Today we are looking at Arden Tapes, his newest release as Channelers, which appears to be his main project these days. This, along with a new album from softest, is part of a summer digital-only batch that everyone should grab immediately, if they haven't already. Per usual, I say way too much below about the music, so let me just say upfront that this is a beautiful, contemplative album of solo guitar explorations. These are not fiery pyrotechnic jams, but slowly unfolding meditations, where the smallest chord change provides an enormous impact. Highly, highly recommended, grab a copy now for the insanely cheap price of $3. Like, seriously, 3 bucks, let's do this!
There are moments where I feel like the universe gives me exactly what I need when I need it and Arden Tapes is a perfect example of this phenomenon. As I have gone through a rough stretch and anxiety levels have risen to threat level red recently, this 15-song album appears and re-centers me. I forget sometimes the power of music, how it demands that we be present, the way it brings us to appreciate the tiniest gestures, how it can remind us that a single person can create something beautiful from nothing. Sean's music, in particular, brings these concepts to the fore, while also helping us envision new inner and outer spaces.
Sean informs us about the album emerged out of a "taking time to feel my song of the moment. a brief practice largely explored through the first months of the year." As always, he captures perfectly and succinctly his work, as this 15-track album features Conrad unaccompanied, playing his guitar to create a stripped-to-the-core ambient folk music. I think there is something inherent in solo guitar that evokes practice and spontaneity, an artist alone sketching out ideas and working on technique; while this album evokes that, it doesn't feel rough like a demo or unfocused like a jam session. It feels like each track sits on the border between planned and spontaneous, like there was a map for the hike, but an openness to explore the unexpected trail or sight. I don't have any immediate reference points, which has been a wake-up call that I need to step up my solo guitar work. While Robbie Basho comes to mind, Arden Tapes feels more peaceful and measured, less cascading notes and more ripples in still water.
"night brings a new energy" captures this dynamic well, as it unfolds so patiently and minimally that it feels like you are hearing the effects of each musical gesture as they expand outward and grow fainter. There are these beautiful moments, like right around the 1-minute mark, where the border between sound and silence is erased. There is also a lovely textural dynamic at play, as fuzzier, more resonant chords are played off against sharp notes, evoking that general sense of nighttime haze and our strengthened awareness of all the things moving in that darkness. Normally with Conrad's music, nature and the natural world never feels far off. This release, though, more than anything else I have heard from him, suggests a distance, a remove. This album, like Forest Moon's A Northern Star A Perfect Stone, evokes images of retreat, home, sanctuary; stems from the solo guitar, which evokes interior spaces for me, of bedroom lessons and living room jams, and the intimacy of the recording, which at times captures Conrad's body and its movments. While there are no field recordings, no forest visions, no clearings in the woods, the looping, cyclical guitar patterns of "taking time to pray for more love in the world" reminds us of the seasons and natural time, giving a sense that this is only a temporary retreat inside.
Finally, the highlight of the album for me sits at its center, "calm rainy window." As I have said before, his music, more than any other, has clarified my own thinking on music, space and politics. I have occasionally spoken of lowercase sound, picking up on Steve Roden's concept. As Roden wrote of lowercase, "“It bears a certain sense of quiet and humility; it doesn't demand attention, it must be discovered... It’s the opposite of capital letters—loud things which draw attention to themselves.” With each new album from Conrad, I see this idea as more and more powerful, part of his project of activating quiet places. I know that the fact that the song titles are all in lowercase is probably a coincidence, but this is my blog and I am going to pretend that they are not a coincidence at all! THEY ARE CONFIRMING MY WRITING! Seriously though, it is a great lens to view this record through, as it has a sense of quiet and humility; more powerfully, if you can give it the attention, if you can find the right spaces to hear it, it will enrapture you. "calm rainy window" confirmed the power of this idea, as I became almost obsessed by a few notes in the song. It comes in for the first time around the 30 second mark; after a pattern of gentle strums has built up; suddenly these bending notes emerge and it is like a bolt of lightning. They sound so beautiful and melancholy it leaves me speechless. It deserves your $3 alone.
As always, this is the part of the post where I ask you to buy the album. I consider Sean and his label like Pound for Pound family, so it means a lot to me to learn that my readers are supporting Inner Islands. Skip the morning coffee and instead head to the Inner Islands Bandcamp and buy Arden Tapes for $3. You will feel less anxious from the lack of caffeine, then you will put this on and fall into a state of pure calm and bliss. Win win. You can also find out more about Sean, his music, his photography and his upcoming gigs at his personal site. Find more info on Inner Islands at their site and become a fan at their Facebook. Thanks my friends, big surprise coming tomorrow, so stoked!
Astralasia, "Genesis - The Spark Of Life"
Astralasia, "A.N.D.E. Part 1"
Astralasia, "...And Finally"
Astralasia, Whatever Happened To Utopia? Bonus Disc
I feel like the beginning of the week demands chill-out music and who am I to fight time? We're going to get all rhizomatic here as we take a path off of a path out of the Freezone, highlighting Astralasia's Whatever Happened To Utopia? You will remember the name Astralasia from our recent post on Voyage 34, as the group remixed "Phase III," the album's third track and highlight. There are times when I feel like earlier music was made just for me, like artists on some Terminator shit found out exactly what I want to hear today and were sent back two decades to metaphorically kill it. This 8-track album from 1994 is definitely one of those times. I mean, DO YOU SEE THE ALBUM TITLE?!!?!? Friends, this entire site is essentially me typing 5 million words that add up to this very question: what ever happened to utopia? Add in the fact that this is a chill-out record, confirming my belief that that that space is one of reimagining the world, and it is love at first sight.
How does it sound, you ask? Good question. The group describes itself as "Early creators of original Euphoric Trance, Psychedelic Trance, Astral Dub, Trance, Experimantal Techno, Ambient Dance" (nice to know the boys are as concise with descriptions as I am). Most seem to place them on the trance continuum; I must confess that I am probably not the person to be speaking about trance or what particularly subgenre this record falls under, but speak I will. The original LP and 4-track bonus disc feature 12 tracks that move between downtempo trance, kosmische flights, dubby techno and space-y ambient expanses, occasionally all within the same song. I'd say the closest comparison sound and vibe-wise, in terms of artists we have discussed, is the work of Spacetime Continuum, as I can't help but think of Jonah Sharp when I hear the slow, didgeridoo-like 303, the mystical vocal samples and complex drums on "Genesis - The Spark Of Life." At just over 7 minutes long, it is nonetheless the album's shortest track; these extended times and complete lack of peaks and drops confirm that this was the band's re-imagining of trance.
Check out the album's 9-minute closer to hear just how far that re-imagining went, as this one is stripped down to static-y bursts, a deep, pulsating bass drone, a repeating percussion phrase, intermittent feedback squeas and haunting synths that sound like ghostly moans. This is some serious, heavy music that could either lull you into peace or scare the shit out of you. Me likey. Finally, there's "A.N.D.E. Part 1," the first of 2 parts and the heart of the bonus disc. To me, this sounds like the tranciest, with its upbeat arpeggios, lush keys, build to a climax structure, and its melodic beauty. However, all of that isn't backed up with a kick drum 4/4 beat, but instead an ethereal ambience and angelic female singing. It's a nice song, perhaps a gateway tune to become a full-on trance addict.
I did want to return to "Genesis - The Spark Of Life" one more time, as you couldn't possibly think I would pass up the chance to blab about utopia. As it turns out, the vocal samples come from Dr. Carol Marcus, a character in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. While Star Trek might be the only area further my skill-set than trance, I was interested in the use of this character and that particular quote of hers. Astralasia have taken a sample of Marcus discussing her Project Genesis, a scientific research project whose goal was to develop a process whereby uninhabitable planets could be made suitable for humanoid life." I'm especially interested in this within the context of an album pondering the status of utopia and would like to connect it to some key utopian thinking. First, in this idea of reclaiming the lifeless, I hear echoes of Buenaventura Durruti. As he responded to an interviewer's remark that even if the Left won the Spanish Civil War, he would be sitting on "a pile of ruins":
You must not forget, we also know how to build. It is we the workers who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America, and everywhere. We, the workers, can build others to take their place, and better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth, there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.
It's a quote that has always inspired me with both its confidence and its imagination. There's a tendency towards pessimism on the Left these days, so to see someone so defiant is exhilarating. More importantly though, Durruti counters the notion that utopia only emerges from a clean slate; that desire for a tabula rasa has lead to utopia's greatest tragedies. Instead of looking for new lands or planets, what if we began to create another world from the ruins of this one? This vision of envisioning the new from the outdated and abandoned suggests a connection to David Harvey's spaces of hope and his dialectical utopianism concept. While this is not the space to try to summarize Spaces of Hope, I do want to highlight this one passage in which Harvey discusses the difficult leap from the present into an imagined future that often paralyzes us in inaction:
It is on this point that we need to mark well the lessons of capitalist historical geography. For that historical geography was created through innumerable forms of speculative action, by a preparedness to take risks and be undone by them. While we laborers (and philosophical underlaborers) may for good reasons ‘lack the courage of our minds,’ the capitalists have rarely lacked the courage of theirs. And, arguably, when they have given in to doubt they have lost their capacity to make and re-make the world. Marx and Keynes, both, understood that it was the ‘animal spirits,’ the speculative passions and expectations of the capitalist (like those that Zola so dramatically depicted) that bore the system along, taking it in new directions and into new spaces (both literal and metaphorical). And it is perhaps no accident that architecture as a supremely speculative and heroic profession (rather than as either a Platonic metaphor or a craft) emerged in Italy along with the merchant capitalists who began upon their globalizing ventures through commercial speculations in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It was that speculative spirit that opened up new spaces for human thought and action in all manner of ways. [Harvey, 254-255]
It seems counter-intuitive to look to capital to imagine something different, but this emphasis on speculation strikes me as essential. We must imagine and we must invest and build those imaginations,, regardless of the risk of failure. No matter how small-scale, even down to the size of a chill-out room.
Here is a quick post, as I wanted to keep the Epoch Tapes momentum going while I work on a larger post about another one of their releases. I know that it is often tough to take the leap with new labels and sounds, so it seemed like a good idea to highlight these two digital releases, which are available free from the label's Bandcamp. While they are clearly just the first inklings of what the label is working towards, I think they are nice sketches to get a sense of their direction, their philosophy and their sound. In the spirit of both releases, this post will be more sketch of future thoughts on Epoch Tapes than any final statements.
First up, Winterfields is a free, end-of-year compilation that the label dropped to celebrate their first year of existence in 2015. As the labels describes it, "Here we have collected some choice pieces of sound for you to explore and download for free. Some are the building blocks of our young collection, while others are unreleased demos of future projects: a private look into our creative processes outside of monikers." 11 tracks + 3 bonus surprises. Folk, classical, ambient, indie rock, even New Age emerge over the course 51 minutes. Opener "Spirit Radio" is a stunner, as a rocking krautrock rager erupts halfway through out of static-y ambience. The crackling, static-y percussion, heartbeat bass and guitar strums of "Prelude [to a Poem]" evoke friends jamming around a fireplace, while the music box instrumental of "Belldanser [Fleeted Minds]" suggests a return to a childhood bedroom.
Notes for future thinking: Bedroom, hearth, warmth, creaks and crackles, ghostly vocals—a music about home and the spaces we inhabit. Winterfields as inspiration? Or motivation? This is not the sound of arctic house or dark ambient, but the sounds who have found refuge from the harsh environment. Jam sessions, late-night covers of Bon Iver and The Smiths, no names necessary. "Thank you to our families, to our brothers and sisters in sound, to the memories of our betters, to you: our supporters." Again, not a music of retreat, but one of turning inward to create our own spaces and sounds. No artists listed for the tracks, just the label. Group before individual. Lowercase sounds. Lowercase politics. Microutopia.
3-song EP, "a series of collected acoustic sounds, guitarwork, and choral samples. " The work of C. Ballantyne, it is the label's most ambient release to date. Short songs bursting with pulses, haunting voices, guitar noodles, like looking at a classic orchestra work under a microscope. Or perhaps more accurately, we are looking under the winterfields, where life is teeming, repeating, morphing, growing, buzzing. I want more; what happens to the 1-minute "Idir" when it becomes 10 minutes long? 100 minutes?! What new lands emerge then?
Notes for future thinking: "Landscapes became textural, softly transition to voices." Ambient music creates a liminal space between nature and human. Ambient music as a landscape/urban strategy? New Lands—a utopian impulse becomes explicit. What would a world of ornament look like? Must we give up our belief that ornament is crime?
Porcupine Tree, "Phase II"
Porcupine Tree, "Phase III"
Porcupine Tree, Voyage 34: The Complete Trip
I feel like it hasn't been very weird around these parts lately, so let us fly the freak flag again here at Pound for Pound. This means following Another path that emerges out of the Freezone, Porcupine Tree's "Voyage 34"; an excerpt of that song appeared on that excellent compilation and was reputedly "a big hit in the ambient/chill out club scene of the early 1990s (when it was originally issued as two 12 inch singles)." It turns out that it is actually an excerpt of 1 song in a 4-song suite, so obviously I had to explore the whole shebang. This is definitely more of an acquired taste, combining prog rock and ambient techno, so it may not work for many of you. It seemed worth sharing, as at the very least it showcases just how unexpected and strange the chill-out room could get.
For those like me that don't know, Porcupine Tree was an English rock band, which began in 1987 and disbanded in 2009. For a band that I didn't know much about beyond this single, they have an enormous discography, with 73 official and 75 unofficial releases. The group actually began as a hoax by British musician Steven Wilson and Malcolm Stocks, as they "fabricated a detailed back-story including information on alleged band members and album titles, as well as a "colourful" history which purportedly included events such as a meeting at a 1970s rock festival and several trips in and out of prison." From there, Wilson began to make music to back up the story, releasing his initial home recording experiments as Tarquin's Seaweed Farm on cassette in 1989. In 1991, Wilson would sign with Delerium Records, who would issue the band's second LP, Up The Downstair, in 1993.
Up The Downstair was originally intended to be a double album, with the second disc being a 30-minute track called "Voyage 34." Instead, it was released as a 12" later that year, with a second 12" coming out the following year that featured a remix by the trance group Astralasia and one by Wilson himself. It is the latter two tracks that became popular in the chill-out rooms, which makes good sense, as they have a dreamier, more ambient sound than Parts I and II, which center more on Wilson's guitar flights and rock grooves. In a 2012 Rolling Stone India interview, Wilson gave the background behind Voyage 34:
The whole point about Voyage 34 was it an exercise in genre. In that sense it stands apart from the rest of the catalogue. I don’t know what it was like in India, but back in the early Nineties, there was an explosion in ambient music, a fusion of electronic music and techno music with the philosophy of people like Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream. I thought there was an interesting opportunity to do something that would bring progressive rock and psychedelia into that mixture. I wouldn’t say Voyage 34 was a technical exercise, that makes it sound like a science project, but I was a one-off experiment in a particular genre in which I knew I wouldn’t be staying for very long.
It's an odd, off-putting quote to be honest, which is only made worse in the second paragraph, where he states about ambient music that "Even at the time, I think that sort of music was already passing. Music that is too attached to a trend very soon starts to sound very dated. I was always interested in existing outside the bubble of whatever was hip, and that kind of music was very briefly hip. Voyage 34 sits inside that bubble. I’m still very proud of it. It was a unique piece of music, but of all the catalogue, it’s one of the pieces which relates most closely to the era that it was created in." The mixture of opportunism and arrogance is not a good look, but I will put away my personal feelings and stick to the music!
In short, if you can imagine someone mashing up those Tim Leary records we posted awhile back with cheesy prog guitar solos and The Orb, you have a good start on what to expect. Like the Leary stuff, there is this running thread of a guided journey through an acid trip, which is made explicit by LSD-referencing vocal samples. As Wilson tells it, "I was given a tape of a guy having a bad trip in the Sixties. It was an anti-LSD propaganda album and it was perfect to from a narrative around which I could form this long, hypnotic, trippy piece of music." For those interested, you can check out the anti-LSD documentary that Wilson sampled, which is narrated by Dr. Stanley Cohen and, bringing it all full circle, features Dr. Timothy Leary, as well as Allen Ginsburg, Ken Kesey and Aldous Huxley's wife Laura. The trip concept extends to the music structurally, as the first half is more aggressive and turbulent, much rockier if you will, while the second half is calmer and more expansive, trancier if you will again.
Above is the 2004 remastered edition of the 2000 release on Delerium Records that compiled both 12"s onto a single CD. The samples cover both the rock (Phase II) and trance (Phase III) sides. While "Phase I" feels like a prog number with the occasional ambient passage cut and pasted in, "Phase II" more successfully combines the two. This one builds out of a droning soundscape with water drop-like percussion, over which our boy Tim Leary and an anonymous head discuss the LSD pilgrimage. Around the 5-minute, guitar, bass, sequencer and effects come in to give some form to the proceedings; the best moments come when the guitar chords are left to hang in the air, creating a dubby, expansive space rock sound; when the guitar takes center stage, soloing over the synth background, it sounds like more like a cheesy kosmische number. It drops and peaks over the course of 17 and a half minutes. That earlier quote captures the problem with these two songs, as it feels often like someone who thinks that their genius can overcome their complete lack of understanding of genre. Wilson didn't really know about ambient, but wanted to take advantage of its hipness. Truthfully, I feel like the closest the dude has come to an LSD experience was listening to that documentary; the music is so controlled and composed that the acid comments feel like they are meant for another song.
"Phase III" shows that Wilson should have actually tried to understand the ambient bubble, as the trance group Astralasia produce a wonderful 19 and a half minute drift into the cosmos. What really stands out on this track is the treatment of the vocal samples; as opposed to the untouched, 50s science lecture ironic vibe, the group chops up, echoes, repeats, morphs them, creating a truly haunting and psychedelic space. Especially cool is the way that closing line of Phase II, "Is this trip really necessary?" emerges at the beginning of "Phase III," fragmented and whisper-y, as if we are about to truly find out if this LSD experience is worth it. The first 6 minutes or so are a hesitant stretch, as repeating bell phrase, vocals, chimes, keys emerge out of a droning black hole background. When the hi-hats kick in, you start for launch. Again though, the group lets this tension stand, not rushing to bring the kick drum and sequencer in. Once they do though, it feels so good and you can just sit back and chill the fuck out. Good stuff.
Solar Quest, "The Belle Of Atlantis"
Solar Quest, "Awaken Kundalini"
Solar Quest, Orgship
Solar Quest, Orgisms Disc 2
Ok, I lied. We are going to postpone that focus on one of my current favorite artists/labels for a week. I feel like this is the second lie in the last few weeks and I feel terrible; please know that it is not you, it's me. I hope that you will accept my apology and continue to put your trust in me, as we continue to build the hacienda together. In the meantime, as you ponder all of that, let's head down some of the paths that emerge out of the Freezone.
The first path that presented itself was that of Solar Quest, aka George Fleming-Saunders, and his first LP, Orgship. I have been unable to dig up much info about the man himself or how he fit into the UK dance and chill-out worlds, other than a reference to his setting up tents powered by solar energy at Glastonbury Festival. What i do know for certain is that two Solar Quest tracks featured on Freezone 1: The Phenomenology of Ambient—"Cherchez La Lumiere" and "Save The Whales"—with the latter featuring on this solo record; Fleming-Saunders was also tasked with editing and sequencing the compilation, so you know that he knows what's up. I forgot just how much he knew what's up, as re-listening to this 1994 album is mind-blowing, like someone made a record that would be exactly what I wanted to hear 20+ years later.
Right from jump street, Solar Quest makes it clear that this is a retreat from the club, as the album's opening track, "The Bells of Atlantis," begins with the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shore. More than any of the other chill-out records, this one has a New Age consciousness; it's not just spiritual song titles like "Awaken Kundalini" and "The Open Path," but the sounds themselves. The 11 and a half minute opener takes the sounds of that meditative music—flute, nature field recordings and what almost sounds like a singing bell to me—and adds in a laconic bass and minimal drum click to create the most dreamy, relaxing ambient techno you will ever hear. As opposed to the more typical celestial/interstellar vibes of this genre, this one feels very grounded to me
What makes Fleming-Saunders and his Solar Quest alias such an interesting project is that it had two faces; while there is stuff like this blissful ambient work, he is actually best known for his acid tracks, in particular "Acid Air Raid," which was released on Choci's Chewns the very same year as Orgship. Obviously for us it's exciting to have those genres, two of our favorites, connected, but I've been trying to think if there is any connection between the releases, if the acid informed the ambience. On "Awaken Kundalini," one begins to hear the slightest of connections, as over a tribal beat, this twisting, swirling, humming drone unfolds over the course the track's six and three quarter minutes. This might sound weird, but that drone reminds me of a Tibetan singing bowl in its continuous harmonic hum; even weirder, it struck me as a similar effect as a nasty 303 line in the way it sorts of sneaks up from below and morphs around you. In this case though, instead of anxiety and dread, it produces relaxation and serenity. Phenomenal.
How good is this album? I haven't even mentioned the album's finest moment, the epic, nearly 16-minute close "Flying Spirals." And because I love you, I have also shared the continuous mix of the album, released as a bonus Disc 2 of his 2000 Orgisms LP. It is definitely the best way to listen to this, as it gives you that feeling of a journey into bliss that is essential to the best of the chill-out room. Oh and before I end this, let me just say that I don't really know what the music business is like these days, if curated compilations still have any place in it, but I seriously hope so. Freezone 1 is a perfect example of their beauty, as its snapshot of a particular sound that opens up so many threads to trace and rediscover. In an age when record stores are dying off, these sorts of releases are more important than ever for that act of digging. We'll keep digging over the course of this week, so check back for other interesting Freezone trails.
Avalon, "New Frontier"
David Byrne, "Machu Picchu"
The Arc, "Orphic Mysteries"
Terre Thaemlitz, "Hovering Glows"
Freezone 1: The Phenomenology Of Ambient Disc 2
There is only one answer when it is this miserably hot out: MORE CHILL. With that in mind, let's take a look at another classic mid-1990s ambient mix that is the perfect soundtrack for weekend fun on the dog days, or if you are like me, for passing out early while watching swimming on the Olympics. This 2CD mixed compilation, Freezone 1: The Phenomenology Of Ambient, has you covered for 2 hours and 25 minutes either way with a "selection of sonic objects from the ambient interspace..." It's actually the first volume of the excellent Freezone compilation series from SSR Records, which released pretty much every genre of electronic music for nearly 20 years; all told the Belgian label would release seven volumes of Freezone over the course of seven year (1994-2001). We'll dig into a few other volumes down the road, but in order to satiate my obsessive need to starting from the beginning, we open with Freezone 1.
Released in 1994 on SSR Records as both a 4LP and 2CD compilation, the music was compiled by label boss Marc Hollander, while the sequencing was done by Solar Quest (who not surprisingly is the only artist with two tracks on the record). I really like this first volume of the series, as it sits in a nice sweet spot between mix and compilation. What I mean by that is that there is a flow between tracks and consideration of juxtaposition, but each song is allowed to play out to its entirety, so the part is not sacrificed for the whole. The best aspect of the record, though, puts it firmly on the compilation side of the ledger, as it offers an amazing introduction to the spread of ambient in the early 1990s. this first foray is pretty amazing to look back on today, as it features so many now-legendary figures that you start to think that ambient is the new rock'n'roll. There's the straight-up famous people (Moby, David Byrne, Robert Fripp), some ambient gawds (Susan Deyhim and Richard Horowitz, Bleep aka Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere, Pete Namlook) and some voices better known for their work in dance music genres (Terre Thaemlitz, Ken Ishii). Add in all the tracks from artists I had never heard of and you have yourself an essential compilation. Future, more popular volumes were mixed by DJ Morpheeus, which are the ones to seek out for your deep space journeys.
Rather than bore you with my guesses as to what the phenomenology of ambient means and erroneous Husserl references, I figured that we would just take a brief look at the music. To my ears, there isn't any discernible themes dividing the two discs; both cover a ton of ground, giving you a nice sense of just how far-reaching the ambient turn was in the 1990s. My highlights reflect the value of any great compilation, the discovery of new artists and the reminder of the brilliance of familiar names. On the new to me side, there were three exclusives on the compilation, each of which shines brightly. Avalon's "New Frontier" takes us to a sonic border, on one side of which is bird chirps, flute and peaceful ambience, while a tribal house number is on the other. The Arc's "Orphic Mysteries" builds a cosmic house track out of the depths of deep space drones; this one just feels made for sunset, with the tranquil beats, lush synths and screwed vocals.
On the reevaluating the familiar side, it was initially a shock to see David Byrne of Talking Heads fame listed. While his collaborations with Brian Eno have come to light again recently, he wouldn't be the first name you would expect to see on a mid-1990s ambient techno compilation. "Machu Picchu" sounds nothing like Eno, the Talking Heads or ambient techno; the song comes from his 1991 album The Forest, which featured the music he wrote for a theater piece of that name with Robert Wilson. The best description I can give is that it sounds like you took a classic 19th century orchestral piece and slowed it down 10,000%; the strings are drawn out, coming in long waves that give you the feeling of being immersed in an orchestra. There is also a track from another insufferable New Yorker, Moby. I must confess that I forgot how talented he once was as a producer, as the compilation features the effervescent "Myopia," which takes flight on the strength of an unforgettable and unstoppable bubbling synth bass.
Finally, two tracks from two of the most creative minds in electronic music who are still going today, Geir Jenssen and Terre Thaemlitz. You know Jenssen better as Biosphere, but before he became the dark ambient god, he made sleepy techno under the pseudonym Bleep. The Boomerang mix comes from Syamese, a Norwegian producer probably best known as Mental Overdrive. This closing track ends Disc 1 on a darker note, as splashes of hi-hats and clanging percussion accent a bed of ominous, twisting drones. There's more darkness of Disc 2 with the highlight of the compilation, Terre Thaemlitz's "Hovering Glows." This one feels like it was a decade ahead of its time, as it serves up a clicks + cuts track in 1994. This one is all about bleeps, clicks, bells, rattles and snares that produce a reduced techno. I am embarrassed that we have not mentioned Thaemlitz before, but I hope that we can get to her music as soon as possible; there might not a more important figure in establishing the political nature of ambient music.
Enjoy this fantastic compilation. The week ahead is going to be devoted to one of our favorite artists and labels today, so much exciting stuff to get to. Talk soon.
The search for great music takes us from the chill-out room to a cabin in the forest. This journey introduces a few new voices to the Pound for Pound world—Forest Moon and Epoch Tapes—two entities that I think are creating some of the most exciting and unique lower case music today. Epoch Tapes, which we will say more about over the next few weeks, is a relatively new label straight outta Barrie, Ontario, Canada, founded by Connory Ballantyne and Will Crann. Billing itself as "a microlabel curating experimental, intimate records," it has begun to develop an Epoch sound and suggest themselves as an essential label despite having just nine releases so far. It is the seventh release, Forest Moon's A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone, which showcases both that developing sound and their impeccable quality control.
Forest Moon is the alias of the Ontario-based composer and experimental folk musician Tom Meikle. Meikle is the lead voice and guitar of Whitby, Canada's finest indie rock band, Small Town Lungs. It appears that the Forest Moon project developed as an outlet for Meikle to explore the acoustic guitar and more atmospheric music, or the label describes it, "Meikle takes a softer, more solitary stance under the moniker of Forest Moon." While there was a solo EP in 2013, this appears to be the first fully realized Forest Moon album and it is an impressive opening statement.
When I first wrote this (and some of you may have actually seen the rough draft that I accidentally published), I spoke mainly of how much this album evoked the work of Bon Iver, both sonically and conceptually, in the guy and his guitar heading out to a cabin to find himself and his sound kind of way. That still holds to some extent, as I think that Justin Vernon's music provides a nice touchstone for those wondering what this album will sound like. In its indie folk sound, the falsetto vocals, its stripped down instrumentation, its sparseness, its introspective lyrics, the magnificent build and release/quiet and loud strategy, A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone harkens to the two Bon Iver LPs. (I write that as someone who loves Bon Iver's music for the record.)
But, on repeated listens, I think that shortchanges Meikle's music too much. When one hears his phenomenal guitar skills and the beautiful sound that he plucks from his nylon string guitar, you realize that this is the work of a serious musician. Not surprisingly, he put me in mind of the work of American Primitive Guitarists like our man Robbie Basho, who was also a technical master; like Basho and other masters, he never gets lost in noodling or ostentation, but rather is able to make the complex sound simple and restrained. In the way the music sits between acoustic and electronic, in particular with the manipulation through layering and echoing of his vocals, it brings to mind other Pound for Pound favorites like Julianna Barwick and Liz Harris' Grouper. I assume that you all know that I do not throw these comparisons around lightly, as these are some of the Mt. Rushmore figures for this blog.
Likewise, I cannot urge you enough to listen to the tracks above, as I think that they give you a great intro into what to expect from the entire album—beautiful songs that deserve an enormous audience, fragile folk numbers that speak of ghosts, loneliness, searching and home. "Nimbin," the second track, captures everything great about Forest Moon: Meikle's lovely voice, his exquisitely subtle guitar playing, a hazy mist of synth chords, a leisurely but focused rhythm, and a perfect sense of tension and release. You need to check out the passage halfway through; more strings and drums have come in and Meikle's voice rises to be heard above and you are lifted up on to this peak, only to have it all drop away into silence. Into that void, his falsetto voice and finger picking gently emerge for 20 seconds, before picking up steam and more instruments for another wave of intensity. Brilliant.
I'm sure many of you have figured out that I am not the biggest lyrics guy. The funny thing is that I actually am, as anyone who has ever had to deal with me discussing Bob Dylan as an oracle knows all too well. It just happens that it takes a lot to capture my attention on that front. Ironically, while my first pull towards A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone was the guitar, it has become the vocals. As Epoch Tapes writes of the album, "With our frozen Canadian landscapes comes a sense of winter-longing: that intrinsic northernly knowledge. Meikle's voice resounds across a sky of velvet, the flash of wonder in soft places, that distant cry of longing in the deep. It is the memory of old lights- Aurora meeting Boreas." One hears this sense of longing, of searching, of frozen distant landscapes, of soft hauntings on nearly every track. It suggests what makes this album so powerful. This doesn't feel like a music of escape, of going to the woods to live deliberately, of Vernon heading to a cabin in Dunn Country, Wisconsin after a breakup, of Dylan heading to Woodstock to convalesce and find the new Dylan. This is something else entirely, a music of return, a soundtrack to making peace with the ghosts frozen in particular landscapes, especially the ones that haunt the place we call home. The themes of return, family, love, responsibility and loneliness come through clearly on "Nimbin," as the narrator sings of time past and searches for a space to rest. Again, returning to those 30 seconds at the song's center, the call of "I'm alone" and response of "you carry on" evokes Beckett, while suggesting the faintest of hope below the frozen landscape
I've also shared the closing track, which perhaps offers a vision of what is to come with Meikle's music. On "III: Cerulean," Forest Moon has created the barest breath of a track, built from the quietest of drones and wails; most interestingly the guitar has disappeared. Over this ghostly background, he intones "Cradle to the funeral pyre" over and over, confirming that this is not a music of escape, but rather of presence and the passage of time. It is an ending that haunts.
So, obviously, this is an album you need to experience for yourself immediately. Head to Forest Moon's Bandcamp, where you can grab it in a variety of formats—CD with lyric booklet for $10, limited edition cassette (50 copies) or digital for $7. For those who want to get ahead of the curve here, I recommend checking out the Epoch Tapes world, where we will be heading occasionally over the next few weeks. You can find them in all the places you expect, from Instagram to Twitter to Facebook to Bandcamp. Highly recommend their Instagram account, which features the amazing pictures of the crew's resident photographer Clarisse Robertson. I consider this crew a friend of Pound for Pound, so I ask you my dear readers to welcome and support them. More to come on this front, as well as some new music from another our favorite labels today.
Calm, "Light Years"
Leggo Beast, "The New Deal"
Conrad Schnitzler, "Electric Garden"
Mixmaster Morris, Ambient Meditations 4 - God Bless The Chilled
My friends, I apologize for the lack of posting lately, but it is summer and I had a chance late last week to return to paradise, aka the beach, and I could not pass that opportunity up. I am the tannest I have been in two and a half decades and feeling as relaxed and inspired as I have been in perhaps as long. We have some amazing stuff coming up here at the site that I hope will only extend these good vibes and inspiration to you, my dear reader.
While unfortunately you can not enjoy my epic tan for yourself, you can get the next best thing, the soundtrack to this past weekend that produced the epic tan, Mixmaster Morris' phenomenal Ambient Meditations 4 - God Bless The Chilled mix CD. Yes yes, I know that I said we were done with Morris last week. I did mean it, but when I saw that this one was going for $80 on Discogs and remembered how killer it was, it seemed like something to get into circulation again. This nearly 80-minute mix was released in 2002 on Return To The Source, offering a rare chance to hear Morris in his native habitat, the DJ booth. As an integral figure in the development of the chill-out room, this mix provides a snapshot of what a night in that space might have sounded like a decade after its birth. In other words, you get a wonderful journey that takes a listener through 16 tracks of downtempo music centered on the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the occasional cosmic classic thrown in to showcase the genre's roots and the depth of Morris' crates. The emphasis is on showcasing the slowed and relaxed without forsaking rhythm, which means one hears house, techno, trance, experimental and future jazz over the course of the hour and a third.
I have pulled out a few highlights from the mix that cover two of my favorite sequences from the mix, the beginning and end; as always though, these excerpts are not a replacement for taking the time to listen in its entirety, which lets you appreciate Morris' skills at crafting a set and building a temporary space of relaxation and bliss. There's the gorgeous ocean house music of opener "Light Years," with its bubbling keys, breezy synths and ethereal vocals; one stays at the beach to watch the sun set, as Leggo Beast's "The New Deal" lazily drifts across your ears in the most perfect way possible. Morris brings things to a close not with a bang, but an appropriate whimper. The final 11-minute segment begins with the echoing drips and clangs of Conrad Schnitzler's "Electric Garden" from the 1978 Con LP, which gradually gains in cosmic energy, all of which is dissipated in the drowsy chords, sleepy vocal samples and snoring of Streamers' "Sleepwalker."
Perhaps because of the influence of this past weekend, what struck me the most this time with this album is how it brought to mind both the New Balearic sound and the larger concept of Balearica. Take Leggo Beasts' "The New Deal," the mix's second song and the opening song on his 2001 Sines and Cymbals LP; with its sample of a motivational speech demanding that you follow your passions, melancholic blues harmonica, gentle percussion and wistful synths, it reminded me of work like Coyote's "Too Hard" and other classics from the latter part of that decade. The liner notes inform us about "Electric Garden" that "if you were lucky enough to go to Ibiza in the late 1970s you would certainly have heard this record!" Throw in the movement between genres, as kosmische, Detroit techno, ambient, psybient and breakbeat all feature, and you can begin to see why I made this balearic connection. It's an exhilarating one, as it places the chill-out room and the island in a utopian continuum that confirms our belief that these spaces were laboratories to experiment with music, community, play and more. Under the chill-out room, the beach. We will return to this figure of the chilled, as it suggests a new urban character that can help us reimagine the city.
G-d bless the chilled, for they will inherit the earth.
Barbarella, "Barbarella (The Irresistible Force Remix)"
Rising High Collective, "No Deeper Love (Irresistible Force Solid State Logic Mix)"
Rising High Collective, "No Deeper Love (Irresistible Force Ambient Mix)"
The Higher Intelligence Agency, "Speedlearn (Reformed By The Irresistible Force)"
The Shamen, "Scientas (Irresistable Force Mix)"
Friends, I hope that everyone had a wonderful weekend filled with relaxation, music, friends and no work. In our continuing efforts to make my readers the most chilled humans on earth and to close out our look at The Irresistible Force's work with a bang, I wanted to put all of the artist's remixes (that I have) in one place, as we did with Prins Thomas and Sam Grawe. It's actually surprising to me that Mixmaster Morris did not do many reimaginings of other people's songs, as there appear to only be about 15 total over the past three decades. Like, I assumed that there would be 150 of him just doing some pro forma ambient remix to every single that came out in the first half of the 1990s. You know what they say about assuming though.
I think that we are all quality over quantity people anyway and Morris does not disappoint with the handful of remixes that are featured above. I'd venture to guess that many of us first came across The Irresistible Force through his 1993 remix of Conduct's "Autumn Leaves." It has featured on a ton of compilations over the years and one listen will confirm why, as it is a 5 star rework that exceeds the original in my opinion. The original is an interesting cover of the pop standard, as the duo of Matt Black and Jonathan More create a jazzy house number centered on a 30-piece string section, with an arrangement by film composer Ed Shearmur, and the vocals of Janis Alexander. Morris takes their torch song out of the smoky club and into the open air, letting it stretch out and enjoy the synth breezes; the opening 2+ minutes feature drifting chords, bubbling keys, gentle chimes and aquatic pulses. Slowly parts of the original start to emerge, as Morris intermittenly introduces samples of the strings and vocals; the strings in particular act as an accent to the ethereal sounds going on below. He smartly cut the vocals down to a single line ("But I miss you most of all, my darling/When autumn leaves start to fall"), giving the instrumental much more room to breathe; interestingly that repetition only makes the song that much more haunting, as if one is hearing the looping thoughts of an heartbroken, obsessed mind.
The rest of the examples above come from a similar place, offering chilled out versions of house and trance tracks. Check out the Ambient Mix of Rising High Collective's "No Deeper Love," which also loops a single line to add a glitchy darkness to the love vibes. I'm especially fond of the Doppler effect synths that warble and give the track a woozy feel. Other highlights are the bubble bath that is the Barbarella remix, the buzzy bass that worms through his mix of Invisible Drums' "Scientas" and the droning feedback, cosmic squiggles and tropical clanging of his reformation of The Higher Intelligence Agency's "Speedlearn." While the Coldcut remix gets all the headlines, I definitely think that these other reworkings are well worth your time; they establish Morris as an excellent reinterpreter, someone able to genuinely reimagine the source material and create something new.
So much to get to this week that I don't even have time to conclude this post in style. Check back soon, lots of new stuff coming up...
The Irresistible Force, "Natural Frequency"
The Irresistible Force, "Downstream"
The Irresistible Force, Global Chillage
I get anxious these days if I go more than a few days without pontificating about the chill-out rooms of the 1990s and spreading ambient techno to the world. To help calm my nerves, to chill out if you will, I want to continue our look at the incredible work of Mixmaster Morris from that mid 1990s golden age. Working again as The Irresistible Force, Global Chillage is his follow-up to 1992's Flying High; it was released on vinyl and cassette two years later on Rising High Records as well. It's another classic of the ambient turn, although its emphasis on rhythmic pulses and melodies should give it greater appeal to those who come from the dance and pop music side of things. Like its predecessor, this one features epically long tracks (except for 2-minute closer "Manifesto"), ranging from 8 to 14 minutes, but this time they feel less seamless this time; the songs seem a little more insular, like the parts are more important than a mix-like whole. For what it loses in overall cohesion, it gains in sonic diversity and mood.
Take for example the LP's second track, "Downstream." It opens non-expectedly with a minute or so of noodling, as keys ascend, sci-fi synths fire and harp chords cascade in their own time, never really congealing. Around a minute and a half in, Morris introduces (what I think is) a dubbed-out steel pan sound into the mix; as the first consistent, repetitive element, it takes center stage. Something about this pan steel sound, particularly when everything else disappears, brings an unexpectedly ominous feel to the music, like you are suddenly listening to the score of the scene where the protagonist is walking down an unlit, empty hallway. In general, Morris works with dark percussion throughout this one, as an industrial clanging emerges at times as well. When the arpeggios, harp runs and synths swooshes return, they now have a dark edge to them that is fantastic.
Don't get me wrong though, this doesn't veer far from the blissful cosmic ambient path first outlined on the first LP; there are no detours to drum n bass avenue to breakcore street. This is still rave music that has been slowed, relaxed, dubbed out and transported to the cosmos. It's still built from layered chords, flights of arpeggio, vocal samples, bubbling bass notes and a hint of percussion. Check out the phenomenal opener "Natural Frequency" for an example of when it all comes together perfectly. At a little over 14 minutes long, this one is an almost literal journey. Morris brilliantly works with those sustained sounds, but this time it's in the form of soft, billowy keys and low-slung drones; combined with the arpeggiated pulses and a series of buildups and releases, this is kosmische house at its finest.
More than the music itself though, the album's physical presentation assures its essential status here at Pound for Pound. On the vinyl's runout, Morris provided a message for listeners that Discogs has pieced together: "A: Fabulous furry frequencies, brothers! B: To all the cyberspace cadets on leri-l C: Special thanx 2 sandoz pharmaceuticals, basel. - 5½ years of sunshine! D: Keep it underground - fuck the tories + the CJB... - it's time to lie down + be counted... - Mixmaster Morris 1994". This places the chill-out room as a space of resistance in direct opposition to the CJB, or the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, a UK law passed by Parliament that year. This law was a direct attack on the various alternative worlds and utopian practices that had built up over the previous decade. As noted at the time, "The Act was described as a piece of legislation which was "explicitly aimed at suppressing the activities of certain strands of alternative culture", the main targets being squatting, direct action,football fan culture, hunt sabotage and the free party."
"It's time to lie down and be counted." The phrase keeps coming back to me these days, as there's so much in so few words. It suggests a strategy of resistance specific to the context of early 1990s UK life, of not moving from the spaces that had been reclaimed, whether the warehouse for a rave or a council block for housing. Of course, it is a spectral, melancholy strategy, as we can now look back and see how that entire world was eviscerated. Extending the scope wider, it evokes images of protests from the past and present, everything from John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-Ins to the sleeping dragon technique to recent Black Lives Matter die-ins. Finally, it feels relevant in this very moment, like it envisioned the emergence of 24/7 capitalism and its attacks on free time and spaces and times free of work. It suggests connections to all the refusal of work theories that have emerged on the Left over the last two centuries, while also bringing a much needed sense of solidarity in that withdrawal and self-care. Also, there is something exciting about saying it aloud nearly two decades later, pondering that suggestion and envisioning what it means today in 2016 to lie down and be counted. Try it and see what it does for you.
Better late than never! We are finally getting around to highlighting the most recent batch of tapes from one of our favorite labels, Constellation Tatsu. This Spring 2016 batch is jam-packed with music with four new cassettes—Dang Olsen Dream Tape's Zonk, H. Takahashi's Body Trip, L'eoscombu Couti's Five Cambridge Utilities and Yorishiro's minimally titled I. There's a nice balance in the packet, with two albums featuring many short, more textural songs while the other two albums consist of a few long, composed movements. This batch confirms the label's high level of quality control and its breadth of vision; one hears the best of the New New Age and drone one expects, while also encountering hints of new sonic territory—postrock and krautrock—that emerge on a few of the releases.
For those who prefer to cut to the chase, I highly recommend buying the entire batch now for the insanely affordable price of $16, which gets you 4 cassettes and a limited edition poster by Dan Olsen. The FLAC heads can head to the Constellation Tatsu Bandcamp to get the same deal in their digital format of choice. For those who like a little build-up, scroll down for my quick reviews of each release.
I had to, HAD TO, start with perhaps the best named artist ever. Interestingly, this is actually a solo project named after the artist, Dang Olsen, a Toledo-born, Oakland-based artist. Check out his site for a look at his visual and video art work, which truly conjures up its own trippy, psychedelic world. (The cover image above gives you a nice taste.) This is the 5th Dream Tape release, second on CTatsu, a follow-up to last year's Just Roll tape. It definitely has left me wanting to hear more and know more, particularly with regards to the dream aspect of this music.
The first of the shorter, more textural work, Dang Olsen Dream Tape's Zonk is 13 tracks and 34 minutes that at first struck me as a soundtrack to a nature documentary that was never made. With many of the songs coming in around 2 minutes long (a few clock in at a minute or less), it felt like there was a sort of sketch quality to the material, trying to evoke a mood and space and little else. But you have to be patient with this one, as it sneaks up on you my friends with repeated listens, eventually revealing a beautiful record that suggests the creativity of sleep. When I try to describe the sound, the first thing I keep coming back to are these waves of swirling, humming drones that are the album's centerpiece. "Kiki" is built entirely from them, creating 3+ minutes that lull you and remind you that sleep is a respite from the world. On "Zonk," however, Olsen adds in haunting siren-like cries and an ominous beat to create something much darker and unexpected; the way the drones feel like they are on the verge at times of a complete feedback freakout is as fantastic as it is unexpected.
Yorishiro's I might be my favorite of the batch, as it was the one that defied my expectations the most. When I think of Constellation Tatsu, I tend to think of New New Age stuff mixed with cosmic space music; I takes its cues from krautrock and postrock, providing a great reminder of how varied and interesting the catalogue is for those who dig in. Who or what is Yorishiro, besides a word that spellcheck refuses to accept? Your guess is as good as mine, as this is the band's first ever release and I couldn't turn up any info on the band's members or history. It's probably for the best, as the time saved googling can be used to appreciate the fantastic 5 songs and 38 minutes of music we do know about.
Check out the opener "Straight For The Sun" for a nice intro to the band's sound—hypnotic, repetitive, fuzzed out rock. For me, it brings to mind Can's music, in particular Ege Bamyasi with its minimalist funk; this comparison was especially clear on the album's final two tracks ("Passage," "March Of The Fireflies"), which feature awesome monotoned mantra-y vocals. One could also think of it as a more aggressive Tortoise or a groovier, harder hitting version of your favorite shoegaze band. Whatever comparison you choose, know that it's awesome stuff that hopefully is just the beginning.
The mysteries continue, as there is not much info out there about H. Takahashi, including their first name. A little digging reveals that he/she/they is/are based in Tokyo, Japan; H. Takahashi has two other cassette releases under this name, both from last year, on the Where To Now? and Entertainment Systems labels. The newest, Body Trip, is excellent, jam-packed with 12 tracks and nearly 50 minutes of music. The title helps capture both the sounds one hears and the concepts that perhaps inform their creation—the body and its movements. For me, there is two dominant sounds: a pulsing, Reichian minimalism and a drifting, New Age ambience; both in their own way bring the body to the forefront.
Take the album's fourth track, "Tera," which feels like a field recording inside the human body, like one is listening to the always-functioning nervous system, encountering various pulses and synapses. Takahashi achieves this effect with a few sonic layers, most notably a wavy synth pulse that rushes through the entire 3 and three quarter minutes; below it, lush keys and deep bass bubble up from below beautifully. As the song moves along, the pace picks up, becoming almost breathless, as if we are experiencing the effects of some unknown anxiety-producing event. "Highball" offers a nice complement, with a similarly liquid base; this time however, things are slowed and quieted down, as drifting synths lay a background for what sounds almost like a recording of water dripping.
Last but not least is L’eoscombu Couti's Five Cambridge Utilities, probably the most Pound for Pound of the releases. Again, we find ourself encountering an obscure artist with little info out there. The best I can come up with is that this is the work of Quebec artist, who has recorded under the name Stew Bird a few years ago. L’eoscombu Couti appears to be the current project, as there was a split cassette last year on the excellent Carpi Records last year. This relative anonymity, such a rarity these days, only strengthens the sounds heard, as it feels like one has stumbled upon the most beautiful, untouched, unknown landscape when you hit play.
This landscape features 5 movements of drifting drones that evoke a sonic world of wide-open expanses and peaceful oases. It sits in this beautiful interstice between the relaxing vibes of a minimal New Age work and the haunting, epic ambient soundscapes. Actually, in thinking about it, I almost think it works as the yin to Aluphor's Headaches yang. It's as if the arctic house of Aluphor melts from the layers of warm, deep drones, soft, fleeting keys, fuzzy feedback. Each track has this subtle, slow builds that recalls a group like Stars Of The Lid, so that towards the end of each song there is this feeling of overflow, like the song can barely contain the flow of drones. It seemed foolish to break out a track from the middle, so I just highlight the opening track, "U-I," which is a nice intro on what to expect. With each listen, this one gains in stature, producing moments of hopeful beauty that leave you breathless. Fantastic.
If you have read down this far, first of all, I love you. Second of all, you owe it to yourself to buy the batch ASAP. As I said earlier, it is yours for the insanely affordable price of $16, which gets you either 4 cassettes or 4 digital folders and a limited edition poster by Dan Olsen. Grab the tapes from Constellation Tatsu's main store. Grab the digital format of your choice from Constellation Tatsu's Bandcamp. CTatsu's main man, Steve Ramsey, has always been kind enough to let us share the music he releases, so I ask that you return the favor and support one of the best labels going today. Pretty good, right? While you do that, I will get to work on our next
Suicide, "Dream Baby Dream" from The Second Album + The First Rehearsal Tapes
Suicide, "Dream Baby Dream" from Attempted: Live At Max's Kansas City 1980
Suicide, "Dream Baby Dream" from Live At Le Palace, Paris / 17th April 1989
Suicide, "Dream Baby Dream" (The Cars' NBC TV "Midnight Special" 28th September 1979) from Dream Baby Dream / Mr Ray 10"
Bruce Springsteen, "Dream Baby Dream" from Dream Baby Dream / Mr Ray 10"
This past Saturday one of my musical heroes, Alan Vega, passed away at the age of 78. For those that don't know, Vega was one-half of the legendary electropunk group Suicide; he also released a handful of excellent solo albums under his own name, collaborated with luminaries like Alec Chilton, Lydia Lunch, Pan Sonic and Ric Ocasek, and was an accomplished visual artist. Despite having a stroke a few years ago, he was still making art and music until the very end. There's been some nice written tributes to the man, from Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone, Mikey IQ Jones for FACT Mag, hell even Bruce Springsteen, which I recommend checking out. What can I possibly add to the sea of eulogies already out there? Not much really.
Nevertheless I felt a desire to write a simple thank you to Mr. Vega for his music, which changed my life in a way that few other artists have. I vividly remember the first time I came to Suicide's music through Mute Records' 2000 reissue of the group's first album; I still get chills hearing Vega's echo-y vocals and screams, defiantly intoning that "America America is killin its youth," over Martin Rev's amphetamine electro. I had never (and still have not) heard anything like it, a music that I knew immediately was the sound I had been searching for my whole life—electronic minimalist music mixed with punk's aggression and politics. For me, this was the sound of the city made explicit—aggressive, noisy, defiant, anxious, experimental, repetitive—and in particular a perfect reflection of its context, 1970s New York City. It's a time and place that fascinate me, being at the
While the music we post here probably seems as far away from Suicide's in-your-face, punk-before-punk sound as possible, it is not. Suicide emerges from the same utopian place as all of this other music, although it begins with a scream rather than the whisper. The music was a simultaneously both a howl of protest against the emerging neoliberal city and its policies of planned shrinkage and a call to arms that we can make something beautiful from the ruins. It is this latter aspect that I think gets lost when discussing Suicide and limits the power of their music. It was an important one for Vega himself; as he said of the band's name, "Suicide was always about life. But we couldn' t call it Life. So we called it Suicide because we wanted to recognize life." This is a celebration of life, even the anxiety and heartbreak, and an attack on those forces that separate us from life and each other. Journalist Roy Trakin said it perfectly in his May 1980 review, avowing that “Suicide is NOT about alienation, but about hope; NOT about perfection, but rather about the inevitability of human error. Suicide telescope their frailties, their inadequacies, their mistakes, like some improvising jazz band, into a unified whole whose theme is simple: ‘To err is human, to forgive divine.’ Suicide’s message is not anti-life, as so many have assumed, but a plea to grasp life by the lapels. It is a paean to the common man, as it is an ode to New York City, the place without which the act is inconceivable."
Since sharing music is our thing here, I have added a few versions of one of my favorite songs of all-time, "Dream Baby Dream." I think it captures everything written above about Suicide's sound and vision—its power, its immediacy, its exceptionality, its rawness, its hope. The first example is the song's official release, the 12th track on The Second Album. It's nearly 6 and a half minutes confirming the band's utopian vision. Over Martin Rev's keyboard plinks, synth swirls and minimalist drums and bass, Vega takes center stage to implore us to envision something else, something better: "Dream baby dream / Dream baby dream / Dream baby dream / Dream baby dream / Forever". As the song unfolds, the repetition of that utopian demand creates an incantation, a spell, that is cast over the listener; with each listen, you feel yourself bound together with Vega, Rev, Suicide fans, the person next to you, strengthened and committed to the act of envisioning a different future, a different world. It is one of the most beautiful, hopeful works of art I can think of; it is also the perfect antidote in these dark times of Trump and a resurgent fascism.
RIP Alan. Thank you for the music and inspiration.
The Irresistible Force, "Spiritual High"
The Irresistible Force, "Sky High"
The Irresistible Force, "Symphony In E"
The Irresistible Force, Flying High
It is so fucking hot out right now that I think we all need maximum chill in our lives all the time. With that in mind, we return to the London-SF ambient route of the early 1990s, when the chill was at its apex. At that apex, you will definitely find The Irresistible Force's Flying High, perhaps the greatest ambient album of the early 1990s, on par with the work of Aphex Twin, The Orb and The KLF in my humble opinion.
The Irresistible Force is the recording name of Mixmaster Morris, which is the DJ name of Morris Gould, which is the name of a man born in Brighton, Sussex, England. Long-time readers here have already encountered Morris' work in the form of the seminal 1993 Chillout Or Die compilation, which he mixed and helped compile. Even more importantly, he is intimately bound up with other figures and spaces that have played a big part in the Pound for Pound thread; in fact, according to David Toop, he is perhaps the key figure lurking behind that late 1980s/early 1990s ambient turn. Morris seems to turn up at all of the key UK events Toop talks about, spinning at The Higher Intelligence Agency's Oscillate night in Birmingham, the first Telepathic Fish party in Brixton, and Jonah Sharp and Richard Sharpe's Spacetime in London. He had residencies at legendary nights like the New Age meets Rave Megatripolis party and in the purple room at Lost. Ninja Tune picks up his Zelig-like story, telling us that "The Mixmaster made his name as the hardest working chillout DJ in the world, doing all-night soundscapes in 30 countries at a bizarre selection of parties. In the US he appeared at 'Even Further' in '96, at the Full Moon Party in the Mojave Desert, at the Plantasia rave in San Bernadino, on a boat party in San Francisco, and at many small clubs in NY, SF, LA, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Milwaukee etc. In Germany, he appereared at the Berlin Love Parade for ten years running (the world's largest techno event,)".
Flying High comes right smack dab in the middle of all of this; it is Morris' first LP under the moniker, released on Rising High Records in 1992. It is an hour and 15 minutes of cosmic sequencers, floating synths, kick drums, snares, acid lines and vocal samples that live up to the title, bringing you to lofty heights up above the clouds. A reflection of main gig as a DJ, the 6-track album has that feel of a seamless mix like 30.7.94 Live and Space, with long songs (mostly 8 minutes and longer) that seem to drift into each other one. "Spiritual High" is the perfect opener, as a 1950s PSA-type voice guides you through the process of calming down, as ascending synth notes and airy atmospherics build the background. Despite the fact that the vocal sample makes things feel dated, I actually kind of love it. The instructional tone actually works for me, as chilling out was a new thing and I like hearing the explicit demands that one lie back and close your eyes. After a couple of minutes, our guide takes off and soon we do as well on the strength of layers of rippling, cascading sequencers that Morris warps and twists and speeds up and slows down. An epic cosmic journey, that intro dude was right that you need to lay back, close your eyes and let this one take hold. This all leads into my favorite track, "Sky High," a magnificent 12-minute track that move between cosmic acid and ambient drift passages, journey and destination. The epic length serves things well, as each passage is allowed to develop, no rush, no anxiety. Fantastic.
The album's standout track would probably be "Symphony In E," which out of the blue breaks the chill template by adding a beautiful, uplifting violin phrase and bird sounds to the mix. The violin feels like the aural equivalent of throwing a rock into a pond, as repetitive notes seem to ripple out or echo from the source. At times Morris matches that violin with a similarly cascading bass. Another reason that this one stands out is that the violin and bird calls give this one an mournful quality, a feeling rarely evoked in this type of music for me. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't include the epic closing track, "Mountain High (Live)," since it features vocals from our man Terence McKenna. Not surprisingly, McKenna does McKenna, talking about DMT; for the haters, fear not, as Morris uses him sparingly and only over the first few minutes. That trippy beginning is the perfect intro to the album's most experimental song, as Morris plays with sounds, textures and pacing over 20 minutes. It's all must-hear music that simultaneously sounds of the early 1990s and timeless.
I can't think of a better way to return to the present than with Les Halles' Transient, an album that feels like it was made just for Pound for Pound. Seriously, these 8 tracks perfectly capture that feeling of the meditative and restorative, of music as oasis and utopia, that we hype here. For those who are nodding your head and thinking that sounds like the greatest thing ever, stop reading and buy a copy of this record immediately; only 100 copies were made, so time is of the essence. For the rest of you, let me convince you that you need this in your life.
First, the basic info: Les Halles is the recording moniker of French artist Baptiste Martin, who has been releasing music for the last 5 years in a fittingly low-key and relaxed manner. Transient is his 6th official release and first for the legendary Not Not Fun label. In both the small world and foreshadowing categories, his first LP, Invisible Cities, was released in 2014 on Pound for Pound favorite Constellation Tatsu. I assume you know Not Not Fun, the LA-based label run by Brett Brown and Amanda Brown that has been at the forefront of experimental music for more than a decade. We'll hopefully take a deeper look at their amazing back catalogue down the road, but for now I just want to say that it is exhilarating to see NNF taking this New New Age turn as well; it feels reassuring to know that others are seeking a respite too.
As for the music itself, it is magnificent, a wonderful elucidation of a particular strand of environmental music that we have been writing about here for awhile, what I am coming to think of as a forest music—airy, breathy, light, enveloping, teeming with life. (It's not a great term or description, so bare with me on that one.) It's weird to compare this album made in 2016 with ones from the mid-1990s that clearly had no influence on the former, but compare I will! Like some of the ambient techno works we just looked at, Transient elicits a sense of drift, of a letting go, of a sonic release; the central role of the pan flute in Les Halles' music is responsible for this wandering, unhurried sound, as its notes breathe, whispers, that sweep you away. The label succinctly captures the landscape that Martin creates, noting that "there is a mesmerizing mood of natural space and weightlessness – the breath of sky, clouds smeared by breeze, inner islands of peace."
However, unlike those records, which evoke images of deep space and cosmic time, this one feels grounded and earthy, like a dense, luscious peace garden. Les Halles builds a teeming world below those breezy flutes with field recordings, gentle, wriggling drones, lush keys and dubby effects that envelop you. For me, the music conjures up a feeling of reaching a clearing in the woods; here one pauses and feels a joy in the vertical vision of a limitless sky revealing itself above, while also having a moment to appreciate the horizontal almost-impercetibly swarming with plant and animal life. Both tracks above capture these concepts well. "Living," in fact, might encapsulate all of this best, as it combines lovely flute melodies with these wriggling, low drones and the crackles and splashes of a nature field recording (I think!) The album's second track, "Thresholds," is a fantastic number dubbed out into ecstasy, as Martin adds echo and an aquatic bass. I couldn't help but think of Thoreau's words in Walden when listening to this one: "The echo is, to some extent, an original sound, and therein is the magic and charm of it. It is not merely a repetition of what was worth repeating in the bell, but partly the voice of the wood; the same trivial words and notes sung by a wood-nymph." For a more relevant reference, it put me in mind of Sun Araw, always a good thing.
For fans of labels like Constellation Tatsu and Inner Islands or of the classic New Age stuff, this is a no brainer. For those just dipping their toes into these beautiful waters, this is a fantastic starting point. I cannot recommend more highly buying a copy for your listening pleasure. One cool aspect of this release is that it comes on vinyl; I feel like there is something ideal about hearing this music on vinyl, like it was made for that warmth, the crackle, the flipping-the-record-over ritual. Like I said, this is limited to 100 copies, so you need to act fast. There are two buying options: buy the LP solo for $12 or buy the LP with an exclusive companion cassette EP, Sentient, for $17. That's a bonus tape featuring entirely new music that is not sold separately! That second one is a real nice deal friends, considering vinyl alone usually costs more than that package. Finally, for those reading Marie Kondo and wanting to keep it minimal, you can grab Transient in digital form through Midheaven. I can't tell you which option to take, but I can tell you that you need to hear this album.
Velocette, "Incendiary Twinkling In An Eye"
Velocette, Sonorities By Starlight
As promised, here's a final look back (for now) at the mid-1990s ambient techno world, before we dig into some recent releases from various labels. I know that I am longwinded beyond belief, so I am going to try to work on being more succinct, starting...NOW.
Velocette's Sonorities By Starlight is another release from Jonah Sharp's Reflective Records, the defunct San Francisco label that gave us Spacetime Continuum and Synoptics: A Reflective Compilation amongst other releases that brought ambient to the club and helped shape the emerging IDM sound. Velocette is the recording alias of Jason Williams, who, like Sharp, was a San Francisco based producer who seems to have disappeared into music thin air around the turn of the new millennium. Williams released 3 singles and 1 LP on Reflective before starting his own label, Parallel Recordings, Ltd., which in its brief run (1997-2003) was a vehicle for not only his own productions, but also for other local talent like Sharp and Kit Clayton.
Velocette's first LP, released in 1996 on CD and vinyl, is a great example of that merging of the, with its waves of swirling, hazy synths washing over a bed of complex, syncopated drum programming. It's definitely a must-hear for readers who dug Synoptics and/or are looking for a little more drive than they get from that floating house sound of Spacetime or Sun Electric. (Not coincidentally, Velocette open Synoptics with the excellent "Space Q," which I recommend you check out if you haven't already.) Opener "Afterimage" sets the general sound template on the album. After an initial minute or so of digital noodling, throbbing synth pads emerge and the song begins to congeal; those synth swells become an amorphous background over the course of the 8 minutes, as skittering, chopped-up IDM drums and glitchy beeps and squeals are layered on top to create an excellent duplex of a sound—a warm, lush top floor with a nervous, restless bottom. "Madras" has a similar approach with waves of background drones, but this time the IDM drums and glitches are replaced by ecstatic bongo-y tribal ones and twinkling chimes. Fantastic, hypnotic music that I would love to hear in a club. The highlight of the album for me, though, is "Incendiary Twinkling In An Eye," the album's third track. This one really snuck up on me over repeated listens, barely capturing my attention at first and now I listen to it on repeat. It's got this piercing saw wave, a squelchy bass, a valium groove and brittle percussion; the weird description that came to mind on a walk last night was that this is a thin, woozy G-funk, the 90s LA rap sound. I imagine people who actually know hip-hop well can destroy that comparison, but regardless I am really loving this tune
Anyway, I feel like the past week or so should fill everyone's ambient techno needs for awhile. With that accomplished, we are going to move back into the New Age drone world again for the rest of this week, as we take a look next at the newest release from the always on-point Not Not Fun label. Super stoked to share this one, so check back soon.
Sun Electric, "Castor & Pollux"
Sun Electric, 30.7.94 Live
I hope I didn't get everyone too worked up with all of those beats in our last post! To remedy that and get you ready for another fantastic weekend, we are going to stay in the glorious and gloriously chill early 1990s and share another masterpiece from that era, Sun Electric's 30.7.94 Live. Wait. F that, this is a masterpiece of any era, an hour-long journey that proves the power of the chill room. Released on Apollo Records in 1995, I feel like this record and the producers that made it have faded into obscurity over the past two decades, eclipsed perhaps by the subsequent success of their then-label mates and current superstars Aphex Twin and Biosphere. I mean, it's not surprising that 30.7.94 Live might not get noticed by someone looking back at the Apollo discography after they notice Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Patashnik. Hopefully we can help get this one the attention it deserves and its rightful place alongside those classics.
I know that most of you don't give a shit about anything beyond the music, but a look at the group's history reveals some important names and connects this work to the important threads we have going here. Officially the Berlin-based group featured Tom Thiel and Max Loderbauer; the duo released 5 LPs and 10 singles over the course of 15 years (1993-2008). Thiel's name did not ring a bell, but a quick look reveals that he has released a solo album under his own name on Shitkatapult and collaborated with Daniel Mateo for years; most of his work though has come in collaboration with Loderbauer under various guises like Fisherman's Friend and Bus. Loderbauer is best known for his excellent work with the legendary Ricardo Villalobos, particularly on their fantastic remix of ambient jazz label ECM's catalogue, Re: ECM. Most interestingly, their Wikipedia entry mentions that Thomas Felhman, who you will remember as a long-time member of The Orb, had "a vague role as executive producer on all their releases". Suddenly we have a link between Berlin and London and see the geographical and temporal spread of the ambient moment.
The Fehlman connection actually gives us a nice shorthand for describing what to expect with 30.7.94, as it immediately brings to mind the early works that emerged from The KLF/The Orb/Space world—ethereal synths, gentle house beats, albums as long, seamless mixes. There's a sort of cool back and forth between different times and spaces with this recording. As the title indicates, this was a live recording of their performance at the Tripping on Sunshine Ambient festival in Ørstedsparken, Copenhagen, Denmark in the summer of 1994. Have no fear though, this is no fifth generation audience tape, but presumably the sound straight from the original DAT masters. It sounds like it could have been a studio recording, as there is no audible audience or environmental sound to my ears. Despite the studio-quality and being broken up into three tracks, the record has the seamless feel of a skilled DJ mix, where each song flows effortlessly into the next.
Everytime I want to try to describe this, I end up coming back to the concept of a space journey; there is just something about the ethereal synths, the gentle pulses, the epically long tracks (nothing under 18 minutes), and the seamless whole that evokes the feel of a long trip through a vast expanse. It's not really fair to highlight one track over the other, but I figured it would be valuable for anybody who wants to sample the 60 minute LP. No better place to start than with the opening track, "Castor & Pollux," as it would be cruel to drop you into the middle of all the beautiful without a natural build-up. This one naturally begins dreamily, with gentle synth washes, deep drones, high-pitch feathery pads and even a babbling voice that sounds like a wire got crossed and we are picking up an alien radio broadcast. This is that floating music that I discussed with Spacetime Continuum, a weightless house music that just drifts in and around you. Those swirling synths begin to be cut through by a dubby synth melody around 5 minutes in, that gives the song some momentum for the first time. This impetus is reinforced around the halfway point of the 18-minute song, as percussion quietly emerges in a variety of forms—soft kick, dampened claps, bells and even chimes. With its insistent pulse and ethereal sounds, I hear a faint echo of Göttsching, Schulze and Tangerine Dream, making me think of "Castor & Pollux"'s second half as kosmische house music. If that does not make you want to listen to this immediately, I don't know what to do for you.
This is truly essential listening, music for the quiet hour when you want to explore the deepest recesses of the universe and your own mind. We will back shortly with one more record from the early 1990s before we return to the present with new releases from Not Not Fun, Constellation Tatsu and some new labels that we have not discussed here before. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, be well, safe and look out for each other.
Vulva, "Omnec Onec"
Friends, what a magical July 4th weekend I just had. I spent it almost entirely on a beach and in an ocean, listening to Dead shows from the summer of 1973 and 1974 and eating tacos and drinking cold ones. In other words, I saw utopia and it is as beautiful as I dreamed. I am rested, recharged and ready to bring you all the ambient and New Age music that you can handle.
We are pick up the thread we had going before the break by sharing Synoptics: A Reflective Compilation, an early release on Jonah Sharp's label and first compilation dedicated to the label's roster and sound. Released on vinyl and CD in 1994, it was Reflective's second release on CD and first vinyl LP after a handful of 12" singles. I'm guessing that the label's less-than-prolific discography (35 releases total) has prevented it from achieving the lofty status of Silent, FAX, Instinct and Rising High in terms of the 1990s ambient techno sound; this 9-track album helps remind us that quantity does not equal quality. As this label showcase highlights, it would be a mistake to box Reflective Records into the ambient techno box; it's surprising to hear how diverse and non-chill some of the offerings are from the label that gave us Fluresence. The potential for me using words like gaseous and space and floating are almost entirely gone, as the drums are bigger and more central to this work, preventing any attempts at unmooring.
I figure you get enough of the dreamy crap that I wanted to highlight some of the harder stuff. I mean, take harder with a grain of salt, as this stuff wasn't slipping into someone's gabber set. All of the tracks revel in what we love, stretching out and quieting down, but they do so while keeping one eye on the dance floor. All of this perfectly on display with "Omnec Onec," the 7 and a quarter minute track from Vulva, the English duo of Tim Hutton and Thomas Melchior. Best known for their releases on Aphex Twin's Rephlex label, here they create a wonderful, funky space music built from sandpaper percussion, bleeps, siren wails, a cascading, relaxed bass, and lush synths that seem to emerge from the deepest parts of the galaxy before swooshing by. It's an incredible piece, which somehow blends ambient and breaks, ethereal and anxious, chill and club. Next, Subtropic is kind of the perfect alias for Jake Smith's musical project, as his track, "Mombassa," features light twinkling keys and woozy synths that sit on top of a funky, fast bongo-led tribal beat. It has a few nice beatless interludes, including the opening 30 seconds which sound like an ambient song played at the wrong speed, that give the track some great peaks and valleys.
Reflective save the best for last, as two of my favorites come towards the end of the album. There's "ä" from Reagenz, the collaboration between our man Jonah Sharp and Move D. The compilation's longest at 10 and a half minutes, it's simply beautiful, a work of gentle, slow techno that picks you up and takes you on a cosmic journey. Finally, the album's eighth and final track, M.L.O.'s "Spike," is 8 and three quarter minutes of strange, muted ambient techno from the duo of Jon Tye and Peter Smith. Honestly, I am not sure I have heard anything quite like it, as its lo-fi recording style gives off the feeling that this track is some sort of eavesdropping, like you are hearing a experimental band rehearse from a few rooms (hell, houses) away. The music itself centers on a moaning siren, clicks and cut and plonking percussion, and an atmospheric, omnipresent synth ether that lurks in the background throughout. There's something about that sense of strained listening, along with the incessant, niggling beat, that give the track a decidedly anxious and unsettling vibe, definitely not what one expects in the chill room. Phenomenal stuff.
Ok, friends, we will probably stay for a bit in the 1990s, but we are going to try to mix in some recent stuff as well. So much to talk about!
Friends, I come to ask a favor. I've started to run some ads at the bottom of individual posts and would love it if you, my dear readers, would occasionally click on them and help support this site. I've tried to make them as unobtrusive as possible, as I hate the thought of some ad for a pair of khaki Dockers killing the cosmic vibes around these parts. Unfortunately though, man cannot live on rare kosmische FLAC files and hence this request. Any money that comes back to me will be used for the site for its upkeep and to continue to stockpile the raddest musical jams from the past, present and future. You can make it happen by heading over to our most recent post on the Constellation Tatsu Winter 2016 cassette batch and clicking on one of the banners.
Thanks so much in advance to those who can help out. Please know that I love you all. We are in the midst of moving the Pound for Pound HQ to a new city, so posting is light early this week. We will back to our regularly scheduled amazingness shortly with a New Age banger, as well as some initial forays into a new genre. Intrigued, aren't you? See you back here soon!
Spacetime Continuum, "Fluresence"
Spacetime Continuum, "Drift"
Spacetime Continuum, Fluresence EP
Since I am no longer that hip young blogger with the great short- and long-term memory, I thought it would be a good idea to share some more music from the Spacetime Continuum before he gets lost in the black hole of my (lack of) memory. No, not recordings of mathematical model that joins space and time, but that magical mid 1990s San Francisco ambient techno planet that partly orbited around Jonah Sharp and his Reflective Records. I actually thought I had more music from Sharp and the label he founded, but it turns out I do not. I will try to make amends on that front in the near future, but in the meantime I wanted to share the two gems from the label that I dug up.
First up is appropriately enough the first release on Reflective Records and I believe the first Spacetime Continuum release, beating out the Terence McKenna collaboration by a few months. While it may be the first, there is nothing hesitant or immature about this EP, as Sharp hit the ground running with his sound. In what I can only perceive as a response to my chill-out process narrative for Sea Biscuit, Spacetime Continuum flips the script on this four-track 12" by beginning with a drift through the ether in the first half and ends with a full-on techno banger. The opener "Flurescence" is one of my favorite tracks, a phenomenal slice of floating ambience that plants the seeds for the first LP's sound. It's weird, but at no point in re-listening to Spacetime Continuum's work did I think about the concept of (outer) space and its vast expanses. Like, it never even dawned on me, which is weird, since it's kind of in the damn name. Anyway, listening to "Flurescence" brought this idea to the forefront, as the 7-minute track, with its soft, almost angelic pads and brief silences, evoke vast, celestial vistas. I was sort of getting at this space idea with my use of drifting and floating to describe Sea Biscuit; there is something weightless about Spacetime Continuum's music when it is at its best, a zero gravity music if you will. I will say that the middle of "Fluresence" and much of the second track, "Transmitter," with their percussion bubbling up from the bottom, bring to mind an oceanic sound, floating in a vast body of water. Take your pick of analogies.
Just as the space concept finally stood out, the acid house influence is more explicit on Fluresence than Sea Biscuit. What I especially love about this EP is the way it builds, like Sharp slowly, almost-impercetibly turns the intensity dial up over the course of the 27 minutes. Check "Drift" above, where the acid kicks in slowly and subtly, worming its way under some lovely, cascading keys and swirling synths. The drums, which come in about a minute in, are consistent and repetitive, giving the track the forward motion that "Transmitter" doesn't have. There's still an ethereal spaciness to the whole thing, as you float in the swelling synths and general restrained quiet; but the beat and occasional corkscrewing bass keep one foot on the ground while your head is in the clounds. By the time we get to the album closer, "Drug #6" though, the acid has fully kicked in and the kick drum will no longer be denied, giving us a burst of breathless abandon to close out.
Ok, we've got one more from the Reflective Records archive to share. We will be on a beach for this entire holiday weekend however, so g-d willing I will not be opening my laptop and staring at screen. To tide you over, check out the archive here for Balearic stuff, as that will be the soundtrack for the July 4th weekend. I hope that everyone gets outside, enjoys some cold ones, hangs with friends, fall in love and continues with the endless summer.