Shark Trax, "Shark (Oral-X Mix)"
Air Liquide, "Die Reise Im Teekessel"
Paul Hazel, "Gene Pool"
Chill Out Or Die II Disc 2
This one is dedicated to Star. Who is Star, you ask? Star is the only person who has ever commented at Pound for Pound and therefore has become a legendary figure around these parts. There were some issues on the uploads for an earlier post; we learned that Chill Out Or Die was one of the records that were sold in Star's move into adulthood, jettisoned to make room for a new family. Luckily, I have remained in arrested development and many of the lost albums, so we are going to rebuild Star's collection over the coming weeks, which will also mean that you too will get some of the best ambient music ever made. What is the lesson in all of this? Comment on my blog please! Update: Star already has this one, but we are going through with it anyway as it is about as good as music gets ever.
We are going to start with the follow-up to that original post that got the comment, the second volume of the seminal Chill Out Or Die series from Rising High Records. Like Neutron 9000, this one was released in 1994, a sort of highwater mark of the ambient wave. Like its predecessor, it was compiled by Rising High head Caspar Pound and Silver Planet Recordings' David Conway; also, the music is presented as a continuous mix, which is the perfect format for this music, letting you both drift and imagine what a chill-out room of the mid-1990s would have sounded like. On this one though, this producers double the amount of music, releasing it as a 4LP / 2CD set bursting at the seams with 15 tracks of warm drones, ethereal synths and soaring sequencers. While I can't say if I have a preference between the two volumes, I can say that this second volume has blown my mind over the past week.
I am normally a slow writer, but this one has taken me longer than usual to wrap my head around. Like, why have this record blown my mind so much? I mean, for anyone who has dug into the early 1990s ambient moment in dance music, there isn't anything revolutionary or unexpected. I noticed that I started turning this one on during long walks at night, or perhaps I started to take long walks at night so I could listen to this? That space and time suggested this compilation's incredible appeal, as there is a haunted, ghostly feel to these 2 discs that suggest nighttime and darkness. My initial take on the phrase Chill Out Or Die focused on its political dimension, as a call to arms in the face of an then-incipient 24/7 capital that kills us. However, this time around I find myself re-reading this demand and focusing on the death part; the ludicrously awful cover seems to confirm this haunted reading.
For me, this haunted house comes through most clearly on the final two tracks of Disc 1, 13 and a half minutes of brilliant, otherworldly music. Shark Trax's "Shark (Oral-X Mix)" is a submerged techno, a soundtrack to a documentary about the bottom of the ocean. It's all ominous plucked bass notes, dubby effects, smeared synths and clipped vocals that make you feel like someone is trying to be heard, is trying to scream from below the water. This leads into MLO Productions' aptly-titled "Ghost (Inner Dawn Mix)," which breaks the surface and blends into the sky. The complete opposite of submerged, this one feels like it could float away into the ether, never to be found again, if it wasn't for the gentlest of bass pulses. For the first few minutes, sampled vocals drift in and out, over and above the swelling synths, ghostly traces of the world left behind. As the 8 and a half minute song unfolds, Oral-X builds things up to a crescendo that I can't quite put into the words. Drums emerge to join the bass, the synths begin to almost hum and the voices feel like a church choir; those final few moments feel an exorcism of sorts, a discovery of pure bliss.
This same dynamic between heavenly and ghostly emerges immediately on Disc 2, as Air Liquide's "Die Reise Im Teekessel" begins with a menacing bell over crackling static. That funereal vibe slowly dissipates slowly over the course of 10+ minute track, as a skittering beat and twisting 303 create a soft acid feel. But, moments of dissonance burst in intermittently to keep you on your toes. Later,