bigover.gif Getting hot in your edge of the world yet? it is here... and so I like to think of the Overviews section as a frosty bin of steamingly cool treats of all varieties and flavors. Mmmmmmm.

Alternative 3: original soundtrack   (Lo Recordings - 2001) (8.4)
Members of Add N to (X), Hairy Butter and Stereolab spew forth 18 tracks in less than 37 minutes, but the fact that these pieces are generally short seems fine considering they're already quite stylistically splintered anyway... Introductory track Iliac blatantly announces, in virulent bleeps, squidgies and squawls, that this is a most unusual "soundtrack". Others traffic in assorted forms of sound-twisting... like sputtery brass horns (White Sands/Black Sun), a cool microrhythm amongst quiet industrial haze (Iron Curtains), warbling and buzzing (Rockets In A Beautiful Sky) or bloops, buzzes and buried vocals (Delicate Landing (0:34)).

A few pieces actually (kinda) delve into (somewhat) more "music"-like territories... the warm organ tones of Operation Midnight Climax climb tonally, topped with crazy curlicues. Jingling with quaint jazz mutations, Alternative 3 resides in a pleasantly quirky zone of less-aggressive strangeness. What was once a bouncy little tune has been degenerated into the buzzing, shards of Brain Drain (which we've heard before on the Lo Recordings Compilation, Constant Friction.

"Never before has the truth contained so many lies" ... Uncover more of the conspiracy theories behind these recordings at: Alternative 3. Lo Recordings are part of hub100 and only one of dozens of labels serviced by the inimitable Dutch-East India.

arovane: tides   (City Centre Offices - 2000) (9.3)
uwe zahn creates some subtle-yet-amazing moods with light electronics/guitar arrangements and slightly-scuffed urban rhythms. With spare-but-prominent beats and jangling clav-like strings, theme achieves a captivating balance and beauty. Some tracks include slight atmospheric touches, like the smooth title track's wind and wave sounds, or in percussion-free tomorrow morning (1:51), where a cricket chorus backs meltingly reverberant chimes and low strums.

the storm (7:23) manifests itself as a shapeless effervescence which emits occasional resonating guitar notes; the spattery rhythms, processed strums and synthetic breezes which follow carry more heft. Delicate stringsounds are lightly battered by e-percussion in epilogue, a final number which comes too soon, closing the disc at under 40 minutes. Definitely recommened! Visit the official arovane home on the web for further insights and sounds. (Plus, look forward to hearing more in next month's upload...)

Taylor Deupree: 12k T-Shirt   (12k - 2001) (9.1)
Whoohoo... my first fashion review! Coming from micro-minimalist/designer Taylor Deupree it's no surprise that the new T-shirts for his 12k label are appropriately understated...

Wrap yourself in a cottony blackness which never goes out of style while declaring your listening tastes to an unsuspecting world... the front of the sturdily-Brazilian-constructed garb features a small-but-prominent "t w e l v e k" in white gothic sans centered upon the breast. If that's not enough to start a conversation (Observer: "What's twel-vek?" You: "It's 12k... a microminimal electronic music label..." Observer: "Huh?"), the white old-school floppy disc logo between the shoulder blades will attract every old-school computer geek for miles around. In a world filled with mass-produced massmusic (and the resultant flood of T-shirt mass-merchandising), support the underdogs on the cutting edge of artronica by proudly donning your own! I wear mine everywhere!

EA: [~.]   (Open Circuit - 2000) (8.2)
My favorite Polish sound explorationists (patryk, kamil and viön of EA) are back, and as enigmatic as ever. A more-or-less unlabelled disc gradually unfolds as a 30:15-long soundscape recorded live in Warsaw... Soft, surrealistic soundclouds drift through assorted phases, like the part that sounds like a synthesized version of running water, backed by faraway grumblies, followed by weird rippling effects and other almost-organic occurences.

Faint rippling, keening mists, symphonic blurts, radiowaves and other unusual murky occurences are actually damned hard to explain... but certainly worth wandering around in to wonder about. These new excursions didn't swallow me in as deeply as their self-titled release did, but I'm still glad to hear they're up to weaving more incredible sonic oddities. Learn more about them and this limited edition CD at www.terra.pl/ea

Exit Human: Arvada   (Direct Hit Records - 2001) (8.3)
Not ambient, but not run-of-the-mill rocktronica either... this ambitious thematic disc examines the emotions of a living computer, after whom the disc is named... All things computeriffic seem to be crammed into the often-strenuous noisefest of the lengthy opening track ... bleeps, whirs, buzzes, drones, piano deconstructions, arcing voltage and much, much more unfold in this monumental effort; eventually a series of distorted robot-voices "sing" verbs, as well as a conglomeration of famous computer "lines" (like the videogame "Intruder Alert" phrase). A few beat-heavy musical interludes appear, with a grungy "I am not a machine" line topping a cool groove. The piece culminates through a final, painful metamorphosis as Arvada (18:58) comes to life...

The seven ensuing songs straddle a broad and wavering line between eclectic electronica and alt.rock, often with high thin vocals as in Anybody which morphs into quite a pretty piece. (The keeningly whispery voice has a Perry Farrell-like pitch and sustain, from what I recall of my Jane's Addiction days...) Soft acoustic strums, warm bass and spattering drumbeats are swept by those reedy vocal chords in more-subtle (though still boppin') Lost (4:20). I found the catchiest tune to be Reset, its hypnotic groove lingering in my head for hours aftwerward. Stylistically-all-over-the-map This Engine climaxes the impressive (if slightly off-topic) project... check it out at www.exithuman.com if you'd like to meet Arvada yourself.

Karlheinz Essl: fLOW   (Karlheinz Essl - 1998-2001) (8.5)
Freeware ambient sound generator fLOW brings a literally neverending source of organic soundscapes to your Mac (G3 or better). In the words of its creator, the software "fills the space with flooding sounds that resemble - metaphorically - the timbres of water, fire, earth, and air."

A nicely minimal flowchart offers some control... a "change material" button randomly loads each of four nodes with one the the "elemental" soundsources. Every so often I think I hear a passing bus or foghorn amongst the clatters and ripples, which adds to the musique concrete-ness of the continuous sonic outpourings.

Download info is at the fLOW homepage. Thanks to Karlheinz for an intriguing freebie.

Hazard | Fennesz | Biosphere: Light   (Touch - 2001) (8.4)
A bit of a sampler platter from the folks at Touch (4 tracks = 23.5 minutes)... With sparsely clattering accents, Hazard's "Meteostat" thrums in a gritty stew (much like the material on his full-length Wind reviewed this month). Scraped with light static and randomized grit, rippling and bleeping "C-Street" (5:00) from Fennesz sometimes seems to reveal a guitar-string source, perhaps.

Two tracks from perennial favorite Biosphere include "When I Leave" (6:48), a trancey beats-within-tonal-flux piece (which includes spoken snippets from the homeless-crazywoman documentary "Jupiter's Wife") and "Algae and Fungi", a billowing convergence of hazy tones, clattery cymbals and slowly wandering notes... nice!.

Ralph "Stick" Hermann: forward in outback: didgeridoo sample CD volume 1
(Ralph "Stick" Hermann - 2000) (8.2)
Instead of buying your own didge (yeah, at the local didgeridoo emporium on your street!) and learning how to master the imposing foreign instrument, why not let Ralph "Stick" Hermann play instead? Then just place his samples (performed on didgeridoos of birch, spruce, bamboo and metal) into your favorite soundmachine... The disc includes sounds of various lengths saved as 44,1 khz, 16 bit WAV files with assorted loops, bpms and effects. I'm still exploring the buzzing depths of that most Australian soundform (as rendered by a German sound artist)...

Would've earned a higher rating if I didn't have to convert files to my Mac's preferred .aiff format before use... and if you want to hear a brief example of my messings around, SAVE this (as soon as I figure out why my host won't transfer this file...) admittedly non-standard usage to your hard drive for kicks and grins... If you want to know more specifics about the product though, check out www.didgeridoo-samples.de...

LAW: Our Life Through Your Death   (Triumverate - 1996) (8.2)
It's nice to know that Mitchell Altum of LAW is working out his issues... the scouring assault of Our Life Through Your Death surely must have provided a certain (large) amount of de-venomizing, considering how much vitriol is spewed forth in great caustic waves of noise... the first bitter taste coming with the opening track Vision Flashes to Red; a squawling void of churning abrasions are occasionally spoken into by deep intonations the title words.

The subtler intro of Forger Motion is actually spookier, through the piece grows increasingly agitant, and soon enough is pummeled by machine-gunnery-style bursts and violent swells... just about the time you're cresting a killer wave, the piece abruptly stops. In the shortest slab, Your Body Is Immobilized (5:14) so you can't reach for the on/off switch to stop the grinding drums or wavering drones which envelop you from the ears on in. There seem to be a few soft moments in the synth sweeps and guitar strums of It Is Beyond Us Now (10:24), but they are littered with thumping bass-ripples and other bits of fallout... morbid (and distorted) lyrics are spoken for that final clincher (just in case you had even an ounce of hope left in your your spirit). Whewww... little or no ambient content of course, but the orchestration of such hazardous materials is impressively handled. I do hope Mitchell is feeling better these days though!

P9FM: mantisland lullabies   (neodelic music - 2000-01) (8.2)
Apparently in mantisland, they like their lullabies to be rather active, wriggling into all kinds of unusual crannies, and often accompanied by light beats. P9FM (a.k.a. Mike Steelman) uses Metasynth, the graphics-based software synthesizer, to create these nine ever-mutating bits of soft-though-quirky musicality. Something like an out-of-control accordian mutedly warps and sputters through december(melted snowflake mix) (6:48), overlain with shimmery wisps and sometimes percussive splinters.

Kinda dancey Black Egg (unhatched mix) even has a time-keeping woo-woo siren effect, though somewhat dematerialized like everything else. A particularly buoyant cartoon circus-organ shines over the hushed beats and haze of scrap (1:51). A pleasant ambient swirl lies beneath standout there until it's overtaken by pattering beats and twinkling notes. If a swerving-all-over-the-place sense of direction doesn't give you vertigo, then these experiments in sound may very lull you by.... Hear for yourself at mp3.com.

People Like Us: A Fistful of Knuckles   (Cacciocavallo - 2000) (7.9)
As is her usual M.O., Vicki Bennett takes a broad selection of retro-cool archival material (particularly cheesy music and unintentionally funny media-speak) then utterly disembowels them before reassembling the literally thousands of scraps into a crazy-quilt of amusing fragments... in this range-riding outing though, she focuses on a heapin' helpin' of "western" themes, including queasily "kid-oriented" tunes, sing-alongs and cowboy-movie speech.

Unavoidably spastic, the results are far from ambient, though are immersive in a schizophrenically nostalgic way... you may remember the fake horse clops, unnaturally "manly" speech, hokey colloquialisms, guitar strums and random gunshots... though the disjointedly quirky conversations which have been stitched together by People Like Us are all-new in their transmutated meanings (often laced with possibly seedy intent... such as the kiddie-chorus singing "she'll be coming, she'll be coming, she'll be coming when she comes..." in Grandma Song). Several tracks (like Lullablip and Handjob) features saloon music and cowpoke talk layered with assorted gastronomic slurps and emissions (a'la Blazing Saddles). Incredibly wacky listening whose success will very much depend on your own personal wack-factor (and Western-orientation too, pardner...).

Scanner: Sulphur   (Sub Rosa - 1995) (8.8)
Years before "reality TV" was an overworked catchword, Robin Rimbaud was giving us mixed-media voyeurism by inserting captured phone conversations into his oblique electronic soundscapes (rendered in gorgeous darkness). Bassy atmospheres and faint neosymphonic touches thrum around dimension and its intercepted phone chats which segue into the swelteringly dank electronic moods of through seven doors

Besides the low-fi sound quality of the speech submerged in scanner's audio-esoterica, American ears may have trouble deciphering the Londoners' accents, as in amirvelt which even further deconstructs the spoken word with drastically time-stretched speech patterns in its background. Stop-and-start drum sequences are heard below and/or above the radiant/murky sheen of 5. The 40-minute disc closes on flaneur electronique (10:44); sinuous, churning drum-and-bassisms twist beneath slithery electronic wisps, later shifting into a somewhat ominous expanse of beatlessness, feedback and fragmentary speech. I enjoyed the congratulatory applause at the disc's conclusion.

Posted June 30, 2001 | 1999/2000 Overviews Index

AmbiEntrance © 2000-1997 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).