Vladislav Delay-Anima

November 24, 2008

Vladislav Delay

Anima (Mille Plateaux 2001)

http://www.mediafire.com/?my4mcbbzygp

Growing up in Philadelphia, I was lucky to have a duo of excellent college radio stations to introduce me to a cavalcade of strange and wonderful sounds that my meager paycheck could never quite afford. My teenage years as well as college breaks were spent glued to Princeton’s WPRB and Drexel’s WKDU because you truly heard the good, the bad and the ugly of what independent labels and assorted oddballs had to offer. One the internet was introduced to my measly existence, WFMU also swooped in to sink me further into a crippling addiction to music.

However, there is a distance or apathy that can arise once you’ve digested the major food groups and the airwaves seem to introduce to old friends instead of exciting new flames. Thankfully, life constantly provides sudden inspiration and spark because one lonely night brought Vladislav Delay’s Anima to my car radio.

It was a mundane evening filled with such highlights as shopping for clothing and toiletries when a WKDU DJ played Anima in its entirety and I literally took the longest route possible to the humdrum mall in order to soak in every single note. I’m a big fan of ambient music that can whisk me off to my own little world and the gentle, stuttering beats, synthesized whooshes and echo of their aftermath gripped me by the collar immediately. That isn’t to say that there aren’t hundreds of other albums that traverse the same byways and highways, but this one clicked with the cold air and sunset on my horizon. It was a perfect intersection of moment and music and I still associate with lonely drives to aimless destinations in the dead of winter. Although Delay’s music has made great stylistic strides since this early release, I always find myself nostalgic for the first moment that his music utterly bewitched me and summed up all I love about gazing at a starry sky and pondering the quieter moments in life.

Various Artists(Compiled by David Toop)

Ocean of Sound (Virgin UK 1996)

links are down, but will be reposted tomorrow.

Although it sometimes spends too much time sniffing its own arse, The Wire, a British magazine, has helped turn me on to new horizons during the thirteen years I have read its pontifications. Yes, I could do without its testimonials to grime and its ill-fated interludes with post-rock, but no current magazine delves into the nitty gritty of oddball musics like they do. Although he doesn’t seem to write for them anymore, David Toop’s meanderings on music warped my mind in new directions. To be honest, I read them now and find less to love, but his articles and book Ocean of Sound provided the context for why I found whirrs, buzzes and drones to be such a wonderland. In 1996, Toop wrote a book entitled Ocean of Sound which attempted to trace the history of ambient music as well as the motivations behind those who devoted themselves to its creation. He touched on Satie, Terry Riley, Eno and Aphex Twin and how supposed background music became an artform. I still kind of dig this book, but years have hardened me and I no longer have the same bright-eyed and bushy-tailed look as I read the words. However, this book really gave my musical loves a sense of place. It connected dots and made sense of things that my young mind didn’t grasp until then.

A double cd was released in conjunction with book and I’ll be damned if there isn’t a better compendium of music to correlate with the book’s explorations of the ability of music to create an atmosphere. Now the book and compilation do not limit themselves to mellow bubbles and chirps since Peter Brotzmann and Ornette Coleman play a role as well as My Bloody Valentine and Jon Hassell. I love the diversity of this collection because its field recordings of howler monkeys and rain songs just melt into the more austere terrain of Harold Budd. At heart, it is just an excellent mix tape devoted to the power of sound by a man who put all of his love into each selection.

Bisk-Ticklish Matters

October 18, 2008

Bisk

Ticklish Matters (Sub Rosa 1998)

http://www.mediafire.com/?xl2cj0eidyi

This one is a puzzle to me. Ten years have passed and it still befuddles me because I cannot make heads nor tails out of it. I cannot compare itto anything because I have yet to hear anything that approximates the dada anti-music compiled on Ticklish Matters. I’ve heard more difficult, noisy and chaotic albums, but none disorient me in the manner of this one. It’s not even a satisfying listen because it jumps from genre to genre, sample to sample and beat to beat every few seconds, but somehow I believe it is one of the more soothing albums I own.Maybe it is due to its frequent usage of drones, classical motifs and quiet, but busy percussion, but its restlessness makes my woes seem like a mellow moment in time.

A few years ago, a Sudanese immigrant came to teach Science at my school. After months of monotonous meetings, he whispered “They are busy being busy.” I felt this was a perfect description of how our administrators puttered about the building making copies, handouts and speeches to create the appearance of progress. Somehow I have flashbacks to these words whenever I hear Ticklish Matters because it is definitely “busy being busy.” So much happens without any progression as this Japanese musician just poofs out clouds of chatter that say nothing, but creates a sense of calm. I feel like I am listening to  an ant farm cannibalising its progeny as samples trample ambient passages while orchestras slowly crush plaintive piano chords. Please don’t expect a difficult listen from my description because it really is an amalgamation of beautiful ideas piled onto one another until nothing quite makes sense. It is one of the most chaotic, but gorgeous albums that I’ve heard.  On first listen, a mess is apparent, but repeated journeys reveal more of its genius amidst the playfulness and insanity.

Virginia Astley

From Gardens Where We Feel Secure (Rough Trade 1983)

http://www.mediafire.com/?2ja28xn7tmd

I’ve always been a sucker for the classical/ambient hybrids of Roger Eno, Kate St. John, Michael Nyman and Roedelius. Nyman definitely veers more towards the neo-classical end of the pool, but the others have devoted themselves to this utterly pleasant, bucolic music that challenges noone, but remains in your consciousness long after you turn the stereo off for the night. My obsession with these sounds stem from my college years listening to the Orb, Pete Namlook, the Fax label and Penguin Cafe Orchestra and discovering beauty in things that weren’t layered in reverb and psychedelic effects.

I always found From gardens Where we Feel Secure to be a bit of an oddity in the context of the Rough Trade label, but I guess it isn’t so surprising since they embraced all ends of the musical spectrum. However, Virginia Astley did play piano on some of Siouxsie and the Banshees early works and some of this wouldn’t sound out of place on an 80s 4ad album.  As a side note, she is Pete Townsend’s sister-in-law, but that lame tidbit provides little insight into these soothing sounds.

There is something subtly challenging lying beneath the surface of the rural ambience of the album. In fact, certain tracks gel due to the combo of uplifting bliss and dissonant undertones that veer into its happy-go-lucky path. Although I assume her aim was to assume the relaxed charm of the countryside, I always associated it with time spent stoned in Western Pa or driving along the Georgia coast. There is nothing particularily southern or Pennsyltuckian about it, but it reminds me of quiet moments far away from all who may vex you or drag you into drama not of your making. Ultimately, it is just goddamn pretty and soothing on those days when the heart rate needs to crawl and distractions need to slowly fade into the background of a hectic existence.