Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pete Namlook and Dr Atmo - Silence

Pete Namlook is the Frank Zappa of ambient music. Not that he has children called Moon Unit or Dweezil, but the fact that over his career he has released a ridiculous amount of music. As of 2005, he'd released over 135 full length albums since the early 90's, mostly choosing to collaborate with others. As it stands, he's easily one of the most prolific artists in the history of music.

Silence is one of his earlier releases, a collaboration with Dr Atmo, who I'll admit I've never even heard of, but he is apparently a German DJ that's released a few world ambient albums for Namlook's famous Fax label. I was extremely ecstatic to be able to find this release for cheap in a second hand vinyl store, as Fax vinyls are usually only released in limited numbers.

The first song Omid/Hope sweeps along its repetitive strings slowly, with a high pitched synth bursting through every so often, along with a distorted voice. It's quite sad, and gives me the impression of being stranded out at sea. Garden of Dreams is likewise slightly depressing, and just drifts on synths until a faint piano line and unobtrusive drums interrupt at the half way point of the song.

Santur starts of very much like the previous song, before it explodes (for an ambient song anyways) into an advanced upbeat 'new age' song, with jungle drums, weird moaning and an off tune guitar. My description of it sounds bad, but the song is at least interesting. Trip sounds like... a trip? It's like riding on some kind of rainbow train (I'm confused as well), as the background sounds continually morph and shift.

As it ends, so does the album, with three of the songs (Santur excluded) over a whopping 20 minutes. I can't really recommended Silence too much, because other than Omid/Hope, it's rather pedestrian. Good background music, but then again, most ambient is.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Brian Eno and Harold Budd - The Plateaux of Mirror

You can't have an ambient blog without talking about Brian Eno; there wouldn't be ambient music as we know it without him. His first and best known ambient work Ambient 1: Music for Airports is awe-inspiring (and needs to be reviewed here!).

Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror isn't as good as it's predecessor, but not many ambient albums are. At the same time, Ambient 2 is less of an experiment, and also less of a purely Eno-written album. This time, he enlists noted pianist Harold Budd, and works around him.

There isn't many synths here, or at least noticeable ones, on most tracks. It's just Budd and his tinkling piano, drenched in reverb and echo. One track with Eno's synths is Not Yet Remembered, and it's probably the most memorable track here. The use of synths as pseudo voices almost makes it sound like a fully fledged conventional song.

While there are other great moments, and make no mistake that Ambient 2 is a wonderful album, I think the Eno/Budd partnership hit their peak with The Pearl a few years later. Ambient 2 is just a taster of things to come.