Virgin Ambient 1996. AMBT12
I’ve loved compilations since the dim and distant days when I would spend hours making compilation cassettes for friends, probably aimed more at showing them how great my taste in music was than anything else – maybe that’s also why I do this blog. Anyway, it was never enough to put great music on a compilation. You had to think about a theme and how each track related to the next one so that it hung together as a coherent whole. This album is part of a short but truly excellent series put out by Virgin in the 1990s, some of which are the best compilations I’ve ever heard, and of that series, this is one of the best.
To me the album explores what electric era Miles Davies led to, both in terms of what most jazz fans would recognise as jazz, but also from other genres which show an obvious debt to Miles, and music which predated his electrification. You don’t need to look at the tracklisting to guess that there are people like Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock and Alice Coltrane featured, but less obviously, and perhaps more interesting to folk likely to stumble on this blog are bands like Ui (quite like Tortoise) and post-punk/industrial artists like 23 Skidoo, Slab and The Pop Group. Finally, there are cutting edge (in 1996) artists like Bedouin Ascent and Divine Styler. As you’d expect there’s less familar material too – best of them for me the Tony Williams Lifetime and Roland Kirk – both jumping off points for more musical explorations.
All of this means that this is one of the best structured compilations I’ve ever heard, and probably my most played too. It’s not always an easy listen, but it rewards the effort. It’s a double, but as usual I’ve ripped it as one very long disc because it’s a better listen without the break in the middle. I’ll post more of the Virgin Ambient albums in the future.