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.

Ingram Marshall

Fog Tropes/Gradual Requiem/Gambuh 1 (New Albion 1994)

http://www.sendspace.com/file/n6qugm

An American composer whose works have been performed by the Kronos Quartet and Andy Summers of the Police, Igram Marshall’s compositions run the gamut from Balinese fluting/electronic hybrids to orchestral works that sound like they were recorded at the bottom of a well. This is high praise indeed since his best efforts stand up to works by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams, Iannis Xenaxis and others who pushed the gilded envelope of classical music.

The first piece “Fog Tropes” was composed in 1979 at the request of performance artist Grace Ferguson. Marshall wanted to create a piece reminiscent of the fog-shrouded bays of San Francisco, so he went around the waterfront and made numerous field recordings of different fog horns. Now, the end result sounds nothing like the flatulent fiesta you’d expect after a piece based on fog horns. Marshall marries queasy drones, unsettlingly dissonant strings and the soothing, but authoritatize blare of the fog horn to create a noirish soundtrack to 3am on a lonely pier.

The other two pieces “Gradual Requiem” and “Gambuh 1” have supposedly been altered to fit the theme of the opener. In particular, Gradual Requiem is an especially claustrophobic listen as the flutes become increasingly overdubbed and more intense until it resembles one of Jon Hassell’s “Fourth World” multi-culti nightmares. Then, the insanity gently wanes and gives way to the most angelic mandolin playing this side of Heaven or Nashville.

Listen deeply and hear groundbreaking sounds; Listen shallowly and you have a majestic soundtrack to your morning crossword. Have a fucking crumpet while you’re at it. Fog Tropes offers as much as you are willing to give.