It’s hard to tell what it is exactly that touches me everytime I hear the songs of The Innocence Mission. Is it the pureness (innocence?) of singer-songwriter Karen’s voice, reminding me of early 10.000 Maniacs? (This connection is no coincidence: Karen and Don Peris contributed to Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia).
Is it the open, seemingly simple, acoustic arrangements played by Don Peris on guitar and Mike Bitts on bass?
Is it the combination? Does it matter, anyway?
What really matters is that The Innocence Mission released at least TEN records, and that none of these gained any serious attention in Europe. Please, notice them! You can start with ‘We Walked in Song’ and work backwards from there…
Ambient music collectors no longer visit the local record shop to find the latest releases. Most of the times, the titles are not even stocked. Still, the genre is lively and growing bigger than it ever was. Not through the ‘old’ distribution channels and brick and mortar shops, but through the internet mostly. This weblog only covers a small tip of the iceberg of the music available.
The past winter here was not very cold; it didn’t feel like ‘Winter’ at all. Australian composer Lawrence English must have foreseen this when he recorded the music for this album “For Varying degrees of Winter”, full of beautiful haunting electro acoustic music.
On this third solo project Arve Henriksen is accompanied by two fellow Supersilent members: Helge Sten (a.k.a. DeathProd) and Ståle Storløkken. Unlike most of the Supersilent albums Strjon breathes a natural, Zen-like balance and peacefulness.
Henriksen’s trumpet-playing is perfectly balanced with the almost chilling sound sculptures accompanying it.
Looking at the cover should be your first warning. Steingarten shows the kind of castle even Disney would have considered ‘over the top’. In a landscape you could never even imagine.
The warning seems to serve a purpose, because at first casual listen this album feels far more lightweight than earlier Pole albums. We did not expect this kind of poppy electronics from Stefan Betke!
Well: time to adjust the expectations and retry.
Good news for those of you that are fascinated by the current Buddha Machine hype (like me) : there’s a free download available of the album Uhrwerk by Pocka here.
It may not be as layered as Robert Henke’s ‘Layering Buddha’, but the sound of these Buddha Machine interpretations is very comfortable and authentic.
The recognisable Buddha Machine loops are enhanced by subtle bass guitar, piano, guitar pedals and software effects.
I had not heard Rudy Adrian’s name before, although this New Zealand’s musician seems to be around for a while. But when a single name pops up more than a few times in various ambient circles, you know it’s time to check out the release people are talking about.
Cold Blue Music, a Californian record label that everyone enjoying contemporary ambient/electronic/minimalism should follow closely, is about to release a cd called “The Tubes” by Michael Fahres.
On the title track of this fascinating album, Fahres recorded the acoustic effect of the rock tube formations on El Hierro: a breathing sound created by waves forcing air through the volcanic rocks. Mixed with Jon Hassell’s breathy trumpet playing and Mark Atkins’ haunting didgeridoo, this piece is an ode to the breath of life itself…
In between the growing names of contemporary (post-)classic composers, Greg Haines’ debut stands out for it’s own style. It’s not trying to be too ‘classical’, because it’s more electronic than just that. But on the other hand it’s not exactly ‘ambient’ too (to continue the previous post about the ambient subgenres: we could define this music as ‘classbient’ – classy classic ambient 🙂 )
The record label Miasmah namedrops some of Greg’s inspirations: Arvo Pärt, Ryan Teague, William Basinski… If these names mean anything to you you know where to go. And dont’ forget Colleen for the sound of the glockenspiel.
This is a great cd for the dark winter days coming up!
On the ambient music mailing list (firstname.lastname@example.org), Stephen Fruitman recently dropped the term "piambient" as a description for ambient-piano recordings. This, inevitably, led to a list of ambient sub-genre definitions which I cannot resist to copy here:
Foambient = folky ambient
Skambient = idm-type ambient
Shambient = shamanic ambient
Harmbient = hard ambient
Oh!mbient = surprising ambient
Smarmbient = Intelligent ambient
Dumbient = Unintelligent ambient
Indumbient = industrial ambient
Dambient = dark ambient
Dimbient = slightly less dark ambient
Clambient = classically-tinged ambient
Trambient = traditional ambient
Grambient = ambient your gran might like
Mumbient = ambient your Mum might like
Flimflambient = insubstantial pretentious ambient
Jambient = ambient with an improv element.
Wambamthankyoumambient = a taxonomic domain into which you may conveniently place anything in a post-Bowie vein.
Nihilists may be referred to the Amnotbient list.
Third persons to Isbient.
Pluralists to Arebient
Minimalists to mbnt
(thanks Alan Lockett)
Ambien = non-habit forming ambient
Ommbient = far eastern-tinged ambient
(Rob :: db)
Wombient – Drone ambient that simulates environments outside of the womb; music for the womb.
Well now I’m finally getting a map of the complete genre!
Please post your own valuable additions too.
It seems there’s an ongoing outbreak of Buddha Machine–inspired releases…
Only a few days ago I reported about the ‘Buddha Jukebox’, containing all sorts of remixes based on the original Buddha Machine samples. One day later I stumble across this Robert ‘Monolake’ Henke release. (One track of his CD is also featured on the Jukebox Buddha: check the sample track below).
Compared to the Jukebox Buddha, there’s quite a different feel. Whereas the Jukebox Buddha explores all possible surfaces of the Buddha Machine, Henke dives deep into the soul of it. He has magnified the sounds, enhanced the unheard artifacts and created a layered soundspace that has ZEN written all over it.
It’s astonishingly beautiful (and not unlike his last year’s ‘Signal to Noise’ release).
Conceptually it’s lightyears away from the original FM3 Buddha machine, which was deliberately lo-fi and poor sounding.
But that really doesn’t matter at all. The Buddha Machine now has its own spin off of peaceful sounding drone recordings – would FM3 ever have imagined that their lo-fi anti-Ipod machine would ultimately lead to a whole new sub-genre??
The original Buddha Machine sounds and the CD spinoffs will be featured in the FOLIO show early 2007.
About a year ago the chinese duo FM3 released the Buddha Machine. 9 short ambient loops, to be played through a lo-fi plastic player with a deliberate crappy speaker. The ultimate ‘Anti-Ipod’ concept created an instant hype, and even those that cannot stand ambient music fell in love with this device after holding it. (The Buddha Machine is still available, so get one while you can).
A full year later we hear the beloved samples again on the cd Jukebox Buddha, in compositions much more complex. Among the artists showing their respect are some well-known names: Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Adrian Sherwood/Doug Wimbish, Robert Henke, Thomas Fehlmann, Blixa Bargeld, Sun O))).
Impressing electronics for the more adventurous listener. Pay honour to the conceptual statement the Buddha Machine was/is.
Geir Jenssen, aka Biosphere, has conquered Tibet’s Cho Oyu –the sixth heighest mountain of the world. That, in itself, is a quite remarkable fact. Climbing mountains this high involves a lot of waiting, to accomodate to the changing circumstances – and at those moments the Minidisc recorder came in handy. The beautiful package of Cho Oyu 8102 m – Field Recordings from Tibet contains a diary of this journey, as well as said field recordings.
The fact that this is released under Geir’s own name and not as Biosphere, is a statement in itself. This is not meant as musical compositions, it’s a Tibet soundscape. Still, in Geir’s hands, the use of the samples has a distinct musical quality, not unlike the Biosphere projects. It’s a document in itself – you can almost feel the impressive landscape, and imagine quite clearly how it feels to slowly lose contact with civilization ( the shortwave radio recordings like the sample track here). And how hard the journey itself can be (Neighbours on oxygen).
It must be the fact that these sounds illustrate Geir’s personal struggle with the mountain that makes this CD much more impressive than the latest Biosphere release Dropsonde.
The sound of Goldmund (Keith Kenniff’s) piano on this record definitely reminds me of the early Harold Budd recording The Serpent (in Quicksilver).
The intimately recorded piano sound (including all pedal movements and instument cracking), the emotional melancholy themes…
Take, for example, this first track: ‘Unbraiding the Sun’. It’s only 1’33”, but put it on repeat and you’ve got a beautiful Satie-esque soundtrack.
The music of this short 6-track 7″ will haunt you much longer that the 10 minutes of music it consists.
If you record a room’s resonation, feed back the recording into that room and record it again, and do this a couple of time so that the feedback gets stronger and stronger, will the result reveal the ‘soul’ of that room?
And will something in this ‘soul’ reveal the fact that these rooms were once busy with people (church, gymnasium, swimming pool, auditorium) but are now completely desolated?
And will you be able to hear the fact that these rooms are all located in the Tchernobyl disaster area?
This, as you may guess, is not intended as ‘easy background ambient’. The result is not unlike some of Thomas Köner’s work – but it’s the concept that makes is almost frightening.
Someone mentioned this hilarious animation, entirely from album covers…it's a must-see for anyone that remembers the good old times of vinyl collection. I bet you see quite a few from your own collection (come on, admit it 😉 ). Just try to count them!
Here's the link (No ambient content, by the way)