bigover.gif Summer heat and humidity means time for cool audioescapism through an assortment of styles and timeframes, plus special revisitations with the earlier works of Tetsu Inoue... It's an ambient/electronic barbecue potluck! Dig in for good listenin'!

Electro Harmonix: Electro Harmonix   (Fax - 1994) (8.9)
1994 was a great year for ambient fans, being one of Tetsu Inoue's most productive periods... later in that year, he collaborated with Spacetime Continuum's Jonah Sharp. As vast, soft and gaseous as its namesake, Morphing Cloud (47:14) billows and wafts in big, slow cycles of evolution. Occasional spacier glitches and warbles begin to appear as do unobtrusive cymbal taps. The piece is a sharp contrast to his current, much shorter, much more drastically cut, works (as heard on Active / Freeze).

Replay (5:55) drifts through semi-tonal waves and into a grittier multilayered panorama of rhythm, music and found sound. Drifting synthstrands, electronic ripples and Orientalish string sounds stretch and ring through Floating Sync. along with spacious bass pulses and gently pattering pseudotribal percussion.

Hafler Trio: Four Ways of Saying Five   (Charrm/Touch - 1986) (8.4)
My first meeting with the "trio" finds an enigmatically unfolding tableau of found-sound-gone-mad, driven sharply insane with an intellectually over-stretching of the mental muscles. Bookended with the nostalgic chorus of an old circus organ, Three Ways of Saying Two (48:01) gives way to industrial hisses, thumps and gigantic, muffled voices. Through most of the piece, a lecturer's voice reverberates out of an everchanging murk to opine upon a dizzying array of topics mental, social, political, religious, metaphysical, etc. etc. etc. Periodically shifting in abrupt re-orientations and sometimes backed by the steady rhythmic clatter of an old film projector, an almost continual speechstream yields words of mystic enlightenment (or delusional psychobabble).

Somewhat less verbose, The Butcher's Block (19:56) wends its way through an assortment of varying "scenes", from a hazily churning soundmass stricken by occasional random clatter, to a buzzy, 1930-ish violin and piano movement which is littered with whumps, cracks and splintering wood, to zones of minimalized voices, echoey rhythmification, shrill screeches like a cross between squealing brakes and an overheated tea kettle, to rapidly looping electric oscillations. Our lecturer friend returns with a few parables, then quiet noise winds it all down...

"Is there something, a real communicative creativity which is not reduceable by any conceivable ingenuity to the operations of a machine?" I think this recording proves that an acutely twisted mind can render an intriguing mixture (though how "communicative"?) of thought and sound that no machine could ever produce... Since "nature abhors a vaccuum", fill the void in your eclectic listening selections with these fascinating (though wordy) ruminations. (See four ways of saying H3O below)

Inu-yaroh: Adapt   (Under the Sun - 2000) (8.1)
Masayuki Bando has his own band and label... all three are focused on brewing up swirlingly noisy free-form improvisations, as evidenced by this 3-song sampler. It is requested that you "tone up the Bass of your audio" for full effect. Beginning with jazzy sax and cymbal ambiance, Adapt soon squeals into a full-power assault, though then backs off into a drifting (yet thunderous) mode.

Like having an audio-hurricane right in your ears, hypnotic bass patterns and steady drumming power the instrument-and-noise chaos of APE (4:48). Maga-Zine (9:52) is a blaring collage, continually emitting bells tones, drum riffs, screeching frequencies, electronic wah-wah, and a myriad of other sounds too many to mention (and/or too obscured to be recognized). Fans of (loud) experimental instrumentation can hear samples at Under the Sun, and give feedback at the Inu-Yaroh site.

Tetsu Inoue: Ambiant Otaku   (AmbientWorld - 2000) (9.4)
The legendary Holy Grail of the ambient world became available to the average listener earlier this year when AmbientWorld re-released the extremely sought-after Fax disc of 1994. (It's great stuff to be sure, but I'm glad I didn't have to pay $100+ for it...) Rustling pinpoints of static fleck the cascading tonal droplets of Karmic Light, unfolding to reveal interstellar "aahs" and a self-replicating spiral of synth notes. Faint cymbal-ism penetrates the vortex of magic and radiance.

Low of Vibration delivers delicate glints from an almost-organic stew, while Ambiant Otaku (10:49) searches among sci-fi warbles, dropping basstones and other spooky technologies. Vocal chants are buried in the revolving mist of Holy Dance, which swirls in a perfect balance of abstraction and tonality, backed by a lightly glitchy rhythm. Magnetic Field (17:47) resonates with semi-symphonic soundclouds, billowing with soft brassy fluff and gleaming rays, dipping and whorling in slow-motion.

Available through David (NOTE: He's Vacationing until August 16th...) at Playing By Ear, one of the highest esteemed resellers of esoteric listening on the 'Net, and for many good reasons. Now that you can own the most-coveted masterpiece, there's no reason not to.

Tetsu Inoue: Slow and Low   (Fax - 1995) (9.2)
While (according to a previous interview at the official Tetsu Inoue website) Tetsu Inoue may have set out to create a body of works without emotion, the appreciative listeners' own pleasant awe will seep into these definitely different explorations... weird, wonderful ambiance actively breaks away from just plain sounddrifts (Or, as Tetsu says in his liner notes, "Slow and Low" is a Muzak for random sculptures and Mixmedia mood swing"). Organic activities and natural forces seem to be at work here, albeit in transmuted forms; witness the surging winds/waves of Man Made Heaven, its twinkling twilight times and its insectoid appearances.

Hints of his future directions are revealed as tiny fragmented soundbits occasionally surface from the whorling multi-textured vortex of Slow and Low (13:16) The deep space environments of Polychrome Chant (7:03) resonate with ringing tones and celestial grit, unearthly isolationist beauty pockmarked with occasional blemishes. Lazily looping wisps of sound are pumped up by slight rhythmification and an electro-dub bass pulse in Speculative Vision... pretty sweet stuff for being without emotion, much in the same way a blooming flower is "without emotion", yet evocative all the same.

The Legendary Pink Dots: A Perfect Mystery   (Caciocavallo - 2000) (8.1)
More esoteric rock from long-time players (20 years) add another (their 26th or 27th?) to their ever-growing catalog... As always, the CD is noteable for Edward Ka-Spel's generally dispassionate (but effectivley so) cockney vocals which always seemed tainted with a brilliant madness, and for progressive excursions by guitar,sax, bass, drum and electronics, the latter being the most obviously "weird".

When Lenny Meets Lorca (4:32) is the most buoyant Dots tune I've heard; liquid textures sploosh beneath a rollicking bass riff, psychedlic guitar swirls and festive flute loops. A distorted circus organ theme "sli-ii-iides" through Skeltzer Speltzer with sweet down home fiddle licks, a host of electronic oddities and later saxophonics. Blaring horns and electronic swelter welcomes the smooth slide guitar sounds of Blue, only to have echoey chaos leak out again.

Downright catchy, Condition Green's multi-tracked refrain of "I'll Keep You Alive" rings out over "normal" musicianship underneath which a spiraling, watery e-cacophony reigns. Shades of Jethro Tull are borne in woodwind drifts. The disc closes on the discordant, spooky Godless (13:06), awash in churning energies of rhythmic cymbal clatter, and fuzzy feedback. Low spoken phrases recollecting apocolyptic events are increasingly transmuted into further states of distortion. Forces gather into a seemingly endless slipstream of "aahs" and instrumental outbursts. Eclectic rock, as you'd expect; the disc is distributed by Soleilmoon where you can learn more, as you can at the LPD website.

david maranha: circunscrita   (Namskeio - 2000) (8.0)
circunscrita's black and white cover shows five folks comfortably set up on a small stage, playing their instruments (violin, guitar, harmonium, hammond organ, double bass & bass drum) in such a casually "normal" scene that I expected some kind of down-home improv hoedown music. I was wrong... david maranha leads his bandmates into extended instrumental drones from which slight variations seem to pop. The wheezing harmonium sound trickles a bit, the bass notes slowly register themselves as singular, but for the most part, everything just flows in a unidirectional slipstream. No track names (just numbers) keeps the dozen pieces free of any extraneous meaning... they simply are.

The pieces do vary from song to song (if you can properly call them "songs"), though mainly in timbre, force and density. Brassy waves and monotoned violin strands make #3 (composed (?) by harmonium-ist patricia machás) sounds like a tuning-up orchestra, frozen in time. #5 (4:01) resonates with feedback and softer swirls. Guitarist manuel m. mota contributes #7, a "chunkier" selection, its monochromatic soundforms broken into regularly spaced intervals.

A softly wafting sense of loveliness is discerned from #8's slight interplay of violin and keyboards. #10 (8:02) seems more tense, with darker undertones and paranoically scritching strings. While the sounds of ordinary instrumentation locked into obsessively single-minded drones (especially when following the liner notes' instructions "to play loud") could prove maddening to some, other, more intrepid listeners will allow themselves to be carried along, then be capable of enjoying the subtle fluctuations which emanate from these rivers of sound. Visit Namskeio for more.

Om: Instant Enlightenment   (C & S Records - 1994) (8.8)
Tetsu Inoue and Dennis Ferrer pounded out these delicously grooving trance/dance tracks back in 1994. Tetsu says they were in response to time he spent in India, exposed to traditional trance sounds, but you've gotta love the swirling electronic/psychedelic spins that were put on these blissed-out pieces. Despite the basic form which sounds somewhat dated, the style and artistry in which they are rendered still feel energetically inspiring today.

Wheels of Light spin with electrified arpeggios wafting in and out of the spirited beatsystem. Deep underwater bleeps and sonar-like pings go "deeper" into Physical Reality, but not as deeply as the pulsing rhythms. Delicate piano traipses through a powerful bass field as Peace of Mind (11:06) takes off into a transcendental trip of the mind and body.

Plenty of gorgeous ambient touches are displayed on these masterly techno canvases, like the beatless electrosymphonic stretches of Be Here Now or the hyperspace drones and starshine expanses of Big Chillout II and the particularly out-there ooze of Ectoplasm (4:44).

Oval: Systemisch   (Thrill Jockey - 1996) (9.3)
Oval was one of the more prominent instigators of the "glitch" form... increasingly copied (and further explored in more "microscopic" veins), these early endeavors are already conquering the test of time with their disjointed beauty. Fragile rhythmic grit is enveloped with ethereal traces of musicality.

The initially scritchy click-track rhythm of Textuell (7:23) warms up with a reverberating bass and gauzily swirling tone fragments. Lightly fluttering haze and rough staticy syncopations quietly surround Aero Deck with bass pulsations stirring in a 12/16 pattern. Synchronized soundbits dance over a backdrop of faint flutter and hum in particularly quiet Catchy DAAD.

Edgy-yet-almost-soothing, Mediation (4:22) features a jarring re-arrangement of muted highs and lows, diced-and-spliced into a jittery stream of sonic radiation. The grungy riffles and more monochromoatic chords of Tonregie are sprinkled with a pattern of miniscule distortions which takes the place of a beatsystem. For 59 minutes and 59 seconds, Systemisch straddles a line between particle-noise and ephemeral electronic loveliness, often smearing that line intriguingly... a highly recommended listen.

Various Artists: four ways of saying H3O   (Hushush - 1999) (8.1)
Four sonic experimenters each pay exactly 15-minutes homage to the Hafler Trio... Using glass as his source, Aube creates a sweeping expanse of splintery tinkles, gruff reverberations and ruffling sheets of sound in "Clarity Bounce", interspersed with quieter, then grittier, interludes. An enigmatic (and very nicely-wrought) Hafler Trio sound-alike, " Tributorium" is Lilith's entry; deeply layered and always active, an audio-kaleidoscope continually spews out radiating bleeps, distorted radiowaves, grungy patterns, subaquatic ripples, sonic blurs, spoken fragments and much more.

Drastic cutting-and-pasting of Hafler tracks make PAL's relentless "When You Thought Your Hard Disk Was Going To Die" a crazy collage scattered with snippets of muffled voices, loud mechanical noise, streamingly hissy tones and occasionally a stark interjection of (gasp!) silence. Propeller (a.k.a Mark Spybey) blow the trio a kiss with "Mouths Like Bailing Twine"; the most properly "ambient" piece features long loops of horn-like blares reverberating through a muted dreamland.

Those four tributes take up one hour of this 75:00-minute disc, the final 15 are given to an untitled, uncredited bonus piece... charged with subdued electric menace, the track drones, wavers and screeches, shifting into various modes of rumbling bass pulsations, sporadically echoing pops and rhythmically sizzling static. If I were to venture a guess, I'd say it sounds like the work of Hushush label head, Dimitri della Faille who's recently released a solo disc as szkieve.

Posted July 29, 2000 | 1999/2000 Overviews Index

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