William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops

Ambientblog

Upon re-discovering his own archives, William Basinski found some old analog tape-recordings of some ‘pastoral pieces’ of his own work, recorded in the early 80’s. If you can remember this analog reel-to-reel tapes (or cassettes), and imagine them to be used as a real physical loop (end glued to beginning), you can almost see how they started to deteriorate when played endlessly. (Remember the brown dust on your cassette-recorder playback heads?).

"Winter Music"

Ambientblog

“Sound is Audible Time” (the original name of this weblog) is a quote from this book by John Luther Adams, a composer living in Alaska. The book, subtitled “Composing the North”, deals with the influence the environmental landscape may have on a composer. As is stated in the foreword: “A lot of composers live in the Hudson Valley; will some future historian find among us synchronicities that unite us stylistically?”

Sonmi451 – Vladivostok

Ambientblog

The Belgian U-cover label has shown a fine taste in their ambient releases.
Not all releases are ‘ambient’ in the strict, beatless sense: the U-cover label describes itself as an underground electronic label, and that’s what it is. Call it Ambient, call it Techno, U-cover releases are immediately recognisable by their specific sound.

Akira Rabelais – Spellewauerynsherde

Spellewauerynsherde

Maybe it’s because of this unpronounceable title, but I have completely missed this (2004!) release. I never have heard about it until recently. Better late than never, because this is easily one of the strangest and the most compelling albums I ever heard!

Upon hearing only the first track of this haunting album I realised that this is a sound completely different from all I heard before.
It’s as if a voice coming from the middle ages haunts you in your deepest sleep. It’s beautiful, heavenlike. But at the same time it’s distorted and confusing, scary even.

“Spellewauerynsherde” is built up from found sounds, field recordings of traditional Icelandic accapella lament songs recorded in the late 1960s or early 1970s on Ampex tapes and then forgotten about. After discovering the neglected tapes, cleaning them up and digitizing them for a library, Rabelais became fascinated with the heartbreaking sadness of the voices and began to think of them as source material for a series of compositions.

As the title (Spelle, Wavering, Sharde) suggests, you will not understand a word of what is sung. But somehow the message will come through.

This incredible record is available through samadhisound (David Sylvian’s label)

A Boomkat (recommended online store specialised in recordings like this) quote: “Not many album’s will move you in quite the way that this album does. Believe. “
Believe, indeed!

the Roches – Nurds

Ambientblog

Since 1980 the spelling of the word may have changed a vowel, but the meaning is still the same.

In the gymnasium
I was not a hit
There was something really interesting
about the way my gymsuit fit

The Roches (Maggy, Terry and Suzzy) were -and still are- nurdy but irresistable! And if you may doubt their skills: Robert Fripp played with them on this record…you can’t get more intellectual credibility than thát, can you?

Murcof – Remembranza

Ambientblog

Fernando Corona’s alias Murcof is a ‘hot’ name in the ambient music scene. And with a reason.
With his earlier releases (Martes, Utopia and some other, all released on Leaf) he defined his own particular sound, quite unlike most other contemporary ambient music around.
It’s a warm, emotional sound, maybe because he is born (and lives) in Tijuana, Mexico. A Biosphere from warmer regions, you might say?

His latest release is called Remembranza, and the music is as beautiful as the title. It is as adventurous as it is quiet.

However, the glitchy clickin’ rhythms on some of the tracks may pinpoint this release to 2005: I’m afraid it’ll be these rhythm tracks that will make this album sound a bit dated ten years from now. In my opinion these tracks would have been ‘timeless’ without these rhythmic backgrounds…but I’m nitpicking now. Remembranza easily belongs to the very best recordings I have heard in many years!

The Sony rootkit: a Major Mistake!

Ambientblog

I’m not gonna repeat all things already said about the Sony/BMG CD’s that are copyprotected and install their ‘rootkit’ software on your computer when playing the cd on it: almost every weblog about music and/or computers has written about it already.

If you want the details: the original Mark Russinovich article can be found here, and there’s a follow-up here.

By installing software generally known as the worst kind of computer infection (and most difficult to remove), Sony / BMG have made a complete fool of themselves, and they managed to make it worse by releasing crappy uninstaller-software under public opinion pressure.
I guess they’re not even sorry, they’re just afraid to loose their profit – especially now.
Remember: it’s november, which means bad timing for bad press!

In my opinion, SONY/BMG deserves a total consumer strike against them, for at least the rest of the year.
Don’t buy SONY/BMG cd’s for present this christmas. Especially those of the copy-protected kind!

I know, this is a “Major” record company, so there’s quite a lot of big artist-names n?t to choose from, but if you look a bit further there’s a wealth of alternatives to be found.

And if you can’t think of anything: a package of blank CD-R’s can be a welcome present, too!

the Buddha Machine

BM

Recently I stumbled upon some news about the buddha machine: a small device that looks like a cheap fm-radio that endless loops 9 ambient samples. You can switch samples, connect a headphone, or listen to it using the built in speaker. The ambient sample-loops for this small device are created by Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian, known as FM3.

Brian Eno is said to have bought eight of these things, for obvious installation purposes.

Well th?t’s a gadget (*) I cannot refuse! So I immediately ordered one from Staalplaat.
It’s a conceptual thing: it’s the idea that counts more than the result. Due to the inexpensive hardware the samples don’t even nearly sound like they do on-line (click the speaker icon below to hear the online version).
But still – the Buddha Machine proves irrestistable. After the initial scorn for buying ‘crap’ like this (“it doesn’t even play decent radio!”) I found my family playing with the thing and enjoying this piece of obvious irrelevancy. Although I probably won’t buy the complete series, I certainly won’t regret this purchase….

(I’m very curious to hear about any other ‘ambient gadget’ you may have found, so please let me know if you did)

(*) there’s a matter of definition here: a gadget is defined as ‘a device that is very useful for a particular job’ – whereas ‘a device of clever design that has no practical purpose’ is called a novelty item. It’s up to you to decide which one the buddha machine is.

Brian Protheroe – Enjoy It

Ambientblog

2005 celebrates the 30th birthday of a record that belongs to the few that I must have played hundreds of times when I was fairly young: Brian Protheroe’s Pick Up (1975). Along with the preceding Pinball (1974) and the following I/You (1976), this album belongs to my all-time favourites.
When you hear these records now, it may be a bit difficult to hear why they did appeal to me so much then. But even nowadays the strong voice still sounds appealing, the tongue-in-cheekness of the lyrics still can bring on a smile. It’s only some of the the arrangements that sound so very 70’s, sometimes musical-like. (I hate musicals, by the way).

The performing scene clearly attracted Protheroe: after he quit recording albums he has continued his career as an actor and has been performing in numerous musicals. Check his CV on his website for details (by the way – this is by far the worst website I have seen in years!).

These albums records have been hard to find in their time , but they have been re-released on CD by Basta.

Nine Horses – Snow Borne Sorrow

Ambientblog

If you’re one of the people that cannot stand the voice of David Sylvian, you’re not gonna like this record, because he is one of the main performers in this one-off group. But if you can, you’re gonna love this project!
Nine Horses’ ‘Snow Borne Sorrow’ sounds just a like slick sounding coffee-table album — when you don’t give it enough attention. But in fact the music is very subtle, probably because Sylvian and Jansen chose interesting performing partners like Burnt Friedman (adding his unrivalled adventurous and ever-surprising arrangements and sample wizardry), Arve Henriksen (haunting Jon Hassell-like trumpet whispering), and a host of others like Stina Nordenstamm (voice), and good old Ryuichi Sakamoto – to name just a few.
But beware: these beautiful sounds ultimately reveal a very dark, maybe even depressing atmosphere, which may hit hard when the days start to turn darker:

'its a wonderful world / and she doesn't knows why
she wakes up each day / and continues to cry'

If this were a David Sylvian project, it’d be the best he has done in many, many years.
But this is not a David Sylvian project. This is Nine Horses – one of the unexpected musical pleasures of this year. Perfect release for the closing days of 2005.