Category: Ambient

Space: Space

Space_front

KLF 1990.  SPACE CD 1

Discogs

This album was intended to be The Orb’s debut and was worked on by Alex Patterson and Jimmy Cauty.  However the two fell out, so Cauty removed Patterson’s contributions, finished it himself and released it as Space.  It is of course well known what happened to Alex Patterson..

It works as a companion piece to the KLF’s groundbreaking Chill Out (which I’ll post another time), although it was nowhere near as well known, probably because it wasn’t released under the KLF moniker.  At the time ambient house was widely regarded as a joke, a typical KLF prank.  After all, how could you possible have dance music without rhythm?  Listening to these albums quickly shows that it wasn’t a joke, they are both as good as anything else the KLF did; in fact I’d argue Chill Out was their best.  Of course the idea of ambient music is an old one; Brian Eno is usually regarded as a pioneer in that area with his album Music For Airports, but you can trace it back further than that, for example with early Tangerine Dream, and even further with Satie’s Vexations.  All that was new was who it was being made by and the audience.

Space is very sparse.  It has long silent gaps, and when there is sound, there’s not much of it.  But like Chill Out it’s beautifully constructed and on its own terms it works well.   The cover gives a tracklisting which is just the names of the planets in order of their distance from the sun, just like Holst used for his Planets suite.  However the CD has only one long track, so it’s up to the listener to figure out what’s what.

The album was never officially re-pressed so became insanely rare very quickly.  Inevitably it was widely bootlegged; in fact most extant copies are bootlegs.  This however is a rip of the real thing; the original CD issue.  Whether it’s different to the bootlegs I have no idea, although bootleggers aren’t exactly renowned for being worried about sound quality.

Various Artists: Isolationism

Various Artists - Isolationism

Virgin Ambient 1994.  AMBT4

Discogs

This is another installment of Virgin’s groundbreaking Ambient series.  This one was so influential that it spawned a whole new genre, or at least gave it a name.  Like the previous albums I’ve posted from this series, it was compiled by Kevin Martin and, as far as I can tell, features all exclusive tracks.  Isolationism is ambient music, but with a dark, threatening edge, and this album contains all the most important musicians in that area.   Like most of the albums in this series, it’s carefully compiled to function as a coherent whole, while the quality of individual tracks is high.  These aren’t discarded tit bits left from other projects, even from the big names; Aphex Twin’s contribution is as good as anything he’s done.

 

Various Artists: Folds and Rhizomes for Gilles Deleuze

Various - Folds And Rhizomes For Gilles Deleuze

Sub Rosa 1995.  SR99

Discogs

The second of three tributes I have to the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze from the electronic music community (The first is here).  This one is slightly different as it was put together while he was alive as a present, but Deleuze committed suicide before the release.  The label, Sub Rosa feels a similar sense of affinity with Deleuze as Mille Plateaux, and the artists they present are similar: only Main and David Shea don’t appear on the Mille Plateaux tribute.

The title of the album refers to a philosophical concept Deleuze developed which fits well with the music presented.  It deals with the idea of culture being a complex web of inter-relationships rather than a hierarchical structure.  This makes it resilient because breaking or damaging parts of it has no impact because there are other connections linking the same places, but it also rejects the idea that you can trace culture back to a “root”.

Other than that, I can only repeat what I said last time – the music is from the intellectual end of 90s electronica, and is essential listening if you’re into that kind of thing.  All the tracks here are exclusives.

Various Artists: Macro Dub Infection Vol 2

Various Artists - Macro Dub Infection - Volume 2 (Disc 2)

Virgin Ambient 1996.  AMBT14

Discogs

The second and final volume in the Macro Dub Infection series, again compiled by Kevin Martin.

For the general idea behind this compilation, have a look at Volume 1.

This is slightly less successful than volume 1, but still has enough great material to make it essential listening, that is, if you’re into this kind of thing. For me the most bizarre track is the last, which brings together “Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Ice (yet another Kevin Martin alias) to make an incredible futuristic dub version of a Will Oldham classic. Other stand-outs are the ever reliable Mouse on Mars, Rhys Chatham and, unsurpsingly, Martin’s own Techno Animal.

Various Artists: Macro Dub Infection Vol 1

Various - Macro Dub Infection Vol. 1

Virgin Ambient 1995.  AMBT 7

Discogs

This is another installment of Virgin’s excellent Ambient series from the 1990s.  Like Jazz Satellites, this was compiled by Kevin Martin, aka The Bug, Techno Animal amongst others.  Martin is always worth listening to; always innovative, always interesting.

There’s not much on this album you’d call dub in a traditional sense.  What it’s about is artists using dub ideas in other genres, in other words, the legacy of dub rather than dub itself.  A project like this is of course spoilt for choice given the overwhelming influence dub has had in experimental music, so the success of this compilation lies in Martin’s skill as a curator.  It spans electronica, hip-hop, jungle and even jazz, but what it all has in common is a spacey feel, thundering bass lines, and elements of the tracks, especially vocals  swinging in and out of the mix.

Standouts are Tortoise, Bedouin Ascent, Coil and Spring Heel Jack, but what makes this a great compilation is how it hangs together.

It’s a double CD ripped as though it was a very long single because it plays better that way.

Muslimgauze: Occupied Territories

occupied1

Staalplaat 1996.  STCD10

Discogs

Muslimgauze, aka Bryn Jones who died in 1999 was an intriguing artist.   In life he released around 90 albums and countless singles, and since his death the number of releases has climbed to over 200.  Muslimgauze was focused primarily on the Israel/Palestine conflict, but also to a lesser extent other conflicts in the region, although Jones himself was not a Muslim and never visited the region.  He justified this by arguing that the moral issues involved had nothing to do with his own location, and that occupied regions shouldn’t be visited until they are free.  He likened it to opposing apartheid without visiting South Africa.

Most of his music is instrumental, and so the politics enter only through the titles, the art work, and sometimes samples of  news broadcasts.   With such a vast back catalogue, it’s difficult to generalise, but the stuff I have has a very middle eastern feel thanks to the samples and percussion he uses.  In all cases it sounds like no-one else.

This double CD from 1996 is unusual in that it is a remix project.  Usually Jones didn’t let anyone near his work, but here his source material is reworked by a variety of artists, mostly obscure people from the world of underground electronica, but a few who are better know, like Pan Sonic, Zion Train, People Like Us and :zoviet*france: .  Several of the tracks are remixed by Jones himself.  The two discs are quite different; the second, Occupied Frequencies is by far the best with it’s relatively ambient, freeform experimentation.  The first disc, Occupied Beats is as the title suggests more dance orientated, and rather generic as a result.  Standouts for me are all the Bryn Jones remixes and :zoviet*france:.

This is the original CD issue from 1996.  It was re-issued in 2004 but the material was the same and I doubt it was remastered.  I’ve left the rip as two separate discs because they are intended to be listened to that way.

It’s difficult to recommend specific Muslimgauze releases.  I’ve heard only a small fraction of them, and have tended to buy based on availability more than anything else because they’re always so limited and difficult to get hold of.  Right now, as has always been the case, almost all of his back catalogue is unavailable, and when re-issues appear, they usually sell out on pre-order.   What is available is distributed by Staalplaat.

 

Main: Hz

Folder

Beggars Banquet 1996.  HERTZ 1 – 6

Discogs

Main were formed from the ashes of drone-rock outfit Loop by Robert Hampson and Scott Dowson.  They took the ideas Loop used far further than Loop did themselves, basing the music around drones devoid of rhythm.  Theyused manipulated sounds, usually so manipulated that it was impossible to tell where they came from.   This was a journey though, and their earlier work still contained elements of recognisable musical structures.

Hz appeared as a set of 6 EPs released monthly in 1996 and is for me their greatest achievement.  It’s guitar based and while drones are used extensively, it’s still “music”.  In places there are even bass riffs.  As a whole it’s intensely atmospheric with a powerful industrial feel.

This is the original 6 CD version, ripped as though it was one long CD.  There have been a few re-issues over the years as a double CD – I have no idea whether the sound was different on those.  There’s something to be said for splitting the 6 CDs up – they work well as stand-alone pieces.  That would be easy to do with MP3Tag if you felt inclined.

Hampson has reformed Main and has a new album about to be released which you can pre-order here. Obviously I haven’t heard it, but I have much of Hampson’s output and he’s rarely less than interesting. It will be good.

Various Artists: Sonic Boom, The Art Of Sound

boom

Discogs

I spend a lot of time in art galleries, and of course am a bit obsessed by experimental music, so the Hayward Gallery’s 2000 “sound art” exhibition, curated by the always interesting David Toop was a must for me.  This post is the double CD compilation which came with the exhibition catalogue, and while it suffers a bit from the lack of accompanying visuals (and for you the lack of the catalogues extensive notes on all the artists), there’s enough here to maintain interest.

I’ll talk a bit about some of my favourites.

Firstly, Philip Jeck whose work revolves around having loads of old Dansette record players playing “distressed” records.  For Sonic Boom, the record players were all stuck on a single groove, and were switched on and off with timers, which produced a suprisingly effective audio collage.

Jeck

Christian Marclay’s piece, Guitar Drag, needs a bit of explanation.  What he did was fix a guitar amp to the back of a flatbed truck, plug a guitar in and drag it behind the truck until the guitar was destroyed.  At Sonic Boom, this was a film, but here it’s only an except of the film’s soundtrack.  It’s surprisingly listenable, that is if you’re into experimental guitar music, and taps into the destruction of guitars by endless rock gods, but also the popular pastime of murdering black men in the American south (where this was filmed) by dragging them behind trucks not too many decades ago.

dragGuitarDragSmashedGuitar

I’d like to post some Ryoji Ikeda here – I’ve been fond of his minimalist electronice for a long time, but everything I have is still available, so the extract here from his zero degrees album will have to do.

Lee Renaldo and Brian Eno need no introduction, I’ve talked about John Oswald before, and will post some Thomas Köner stuff at some point in the future.

This compilation is of course flawed, as was the exhibition it documents.  It’s incomplete because it’s audio only, and some of the tracks weren’t at the exhibition at all because what was wouldn’t have worked here.  Nevertheless there’s lots here which is worth a listen if you have a liking for the experimental, and a few rare gems from better known artists.

Here’s a tracklisting, lifted as usual from Discogs:

CD1.1 Scanner – The Collector
Composed By – Robin Rimbaud 4:00
CD1.2 Ken Ikeda & Mariko Mori – Miko No Inori
Composed By – Ken Ikeda 4:00
CD1.3 Pan Sonic – Alku 2:27
CD1.4 Project Dark – Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 2:40
CD1.5 Max Eastley & Thomas Köner – In Concert 6:14
CD1.6 Christina Kubisch – Oase 2000 7:36
CD1.7 Bow Gamelan* & Paul Burwell – Never Mind The Rowlocks
Composed By – P.D. Burwell* 4:00
CD1.8 Christian Marclay – Guitar Drag 4:00
CD1.09 Stephan Von Huene – Extended Schwitters 6:57
CD1.10 Angela Bulloch – Theremin 7:17
CD1.11 Chico Macmurtrie – Yoyo Berimbau 1:11
CD1.12 Greyworld – Studio 5 2:30
CD2.1 Ian Walton & Russell Mills – Mantle 7:01
CD2.2 Lee Ranaldo – El Oido (The Ear) 6:07
CD2.3 Philip Jeck – Off The Record 5:22
CD2.4 Brian Eno – Kites III (Extract) 7:19
CD2.5 Ryoji Ikeda – 0* :: Zero Degrees (1) 3:31
CD2.6 John Oswald – Mad Mod 2:12
CD2.7 Paul Schütze – The Head, The Soles Of The Feet, An Arm (Extract) 6:33
CD2.8 João Paulo Feliciano & Rafael Toral – Rlo I 6:58
CD2.9 Disinformation – National Grid 6:43
CD2.10 Max Eastley – Domain Of Presences
Mastered By – Peter Cusack 7:21
CD2.11 Heri Dono – Watching The Marginal People 2:00

The Caretaker: A Stairway To The Stars

Folder

I bought this on a whim for a couple of quid in the Notting Hill Music Exchange.  Rarely has such a small amount of money given me so much pleasure.  It’s The Caretaker’s second album and it came out in 2001

The Caretaker project was inspired by the ballroom scene in The Shining.  It uses samples from forgotten ballroom music of the 30s and 40s to create a really powerful sense of place.  The samples are very prominent in the mix and are gently manipulated to make them sound as though they’re leaking through from another dimension.  The sense of wandering around an abandoned and decaying ballroom is very real and very spooky.

Rich though this seam of ideas is, The Caretaker eventually  moved on to other territory – there’s only so much you can do with ballrooms!

Have a look at VVM’s bandcamp site for more, and the odd free download.

Mille Plateaux: In Memorium Gilles Deleuze

Various Artists - In Memoriam Gilles Deleuze

Mille Plateaux 1996. MP CD 22

Discogs

This is the best of three of compilation albums I have which were issued in tribute to the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze after his suicide in 1995. All of them are dark electronica, this one being issued by the Mille Plateaux label. I’m not entirely convinced that the link between Deleuze’s work and the music here really works for the listener, but since the label was named after one of Deleuze’s books, whether I can see the connection or not, it’s certainly there. The artists represented are very much from the intellectual end of electronica (and elsewhere). Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud for example writes regularly for The Wire in which most of the artists figured prominently throughout the 1990s. To what extent they’re directly influenced by Deleuze isn’t clear,

That this was an important project for Mille Plateux is obvious.  There are no out-takes, poor quality remixes or tracks lifted out of context from albums.  Everything here is exclusive and hangs together remarkably well, despite the contrast between the full on aural assault of, say, Steel and the more ambient character of much of the rest.   Looking down the tracklist it’s a veritable who’s who of everyone who was worth listening to in the world of electronica in the 1990s.  If you’re into this kind of stuff, it’s essential listening.

This is a double CD, but the break between the discs is of no significance, so I’ve ripped it as though it was a single, very long disc.

1. Gilles Deleuze – Gilles Deleuze
2. Happy Deterritorializations – Wehowsky/Wollscheid
3. On the Edge of a Grain of Sand- :Zoviet*France:
4. Bon Voyage – Alec Empire
5. Gigantic Tautological Machinery – Cristian Vogel
6. Indirection/Comtinuum – Christophe Charles
7. Abstract Miniatures in Memoriam Gilles Deleuze – Atom Heart
8. Heller – Gas
9. Intro-Spektiv – Chris & Cosey
10. Wunschmaschinenpark- J.Burger
11. Death Is the Begining – Steel
12. Can’t Be Still- Blue Byte
13. Starjammer – Trans Am
14. Intermodal – Rome
15. As In – Jim O’Rourke
16. You Are Here 0.9 B – Oval
17. 1001 – Mouse on Mars
18. Vital One – Ian Pooley
19 Patent – Bleed
20. Qeria for Gilles Deleuze – Tobias Hazan
21. Without End – Scanner
22. Invisual Ocean – DJ Spooky
23. Gradation d’Humor-Fetisch Park
24. Traobeik – Gilles Deleuze
25. And Line – Kerosene
26. Garator – El Turco Loco
27. Layered Layers- Beequeen