Virgin Ambient 1994. AMBT4
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.
Virgin Ambient 1995. AMBT 8
I seem to be having a weekend dominated by Kevin Martin, but I suppose there are worse things. This is Martin as musician (alongside Justin Broadrick of Napalm Death and Godflesh fame) rather than curator; here we have his second album under the moniker Techno Animal, another release in the Virgin Ambient series.
At the time, this was a ground breaking album, so much so that it stands up pretty well 18 years down the line. It’s dark, sinister and slow with a distinctly industrial feel; it reminds me very much of Burial’s material over the last couple of years (I’ll be posting some Burial vinyl here at some point), which is perhaps not surprising as Martin currently records as King Midas Sound for the same label: Hyperdub. It also has elements of hip-hop, and is even sometimes psychedelic. This all sounds like a horrible mish-mash, but it works together superbly and is for me one of the best electronic albums of the 1990s. Just don’t listen to it alone, late at night.
More music? Well I’ve never heard Kevin Martin put a foot wrong so anything you find would be worth getting. In terms of what I have that’s still available, Waiting For You by King Midas Sound is fantastic.
Virgin Ambient 1996. AMBT14
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.