Global Communications

76:14 (Dedicated 1994)

http://www.mediafire.com/?zbpv5lhpz3r8wz8

Sometimes I obsessively search for the “perfect” album to post here at the expense of countless ones whose brilliance is overshadowed by the filler that hinders its chance at greatness. That’s a shame since this omits so many beloved fragments just because they don’t quite complete the jigsaw puzzle I’ve built up in my snooty mind. These meanderings rambled through my noggin as I revisited Global Communications’ 76:14 album for the first time in a decade and literally became teary-eyed while listening to the opening strains of “14.31.” All of 76:14’s titles signify their length and I found myself wishing it could be renamed something approximating” infinity and beyond” as a deceptively simple trio of a circular keyboard pattern, waxing and waning waves of synthesizers and a ticking clock coalesce into the kind of aural experience that makes you feel like you are levitating a few inches off of the earth. It’s easily one of the true ambient records in that it changes your mood instantly and alters your immediate reality without ever quite rising above a whisper. If only I lugged a blood pressure cuff around for kicks so I could test my new theory that 76:14 lowers my blood pressure when the right tracks are played in my general vicinity.

Global Communication consisted of an English duo, Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton, who were an integral part of the 90s ambient scene popularized by The Orb, early Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. People tend to forget albums like the KLF’s Chill Out and Future Sounds of London’s Lifeforms and artists like Biosphere, Higher Intelligence Agency, Pete Namlook and early Black Dog which is a shame since many of the aforementioned artists released work that fits snugly against the discographies of Brian Eno, Roedelius, Cluster, Moebius and Tangerine Dream, let alone the swath of 70s synth loners that seem to get reissued and snapped up by folks turned onto these sounds by today’s kinded spirits like Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never and Steve Moore. Maybe it’s because the 90s ambient scene got lumped into the unfortunate genre of electronica that it gets snubbed due to its unfortunate association with such unfortunate genres as trip-hop and electronica and folks got blinded by the haze of glow sticks and MDMA, but there are so many gems patiently waiting for your discerning ears to validate their existence.

Anyhow, lets get back to the thesis laid out in the first sentence of this rambling mess of a review. 76:14 is by no means a perfect album as a few tracks dull its edge as Pritchard and Middleton let the beat take center stage at the expense of the pristine ambience that is meticulously crafted throughout the remainder of the album. However, even the stinkers are bearable in a mellow, shuffling and aimless way, but 76:14’s summits erase your mental chalkboard pretty quickly and you forgive them for their foibles. I’ve even grown to love “9.25” even though it is centered around a slow-motion breakbeat since it slathers on a healthy slab of 4ad inspired etherealness comlplete with angelic coos and a subliminal wash of whispers that make it just weird enough to pass muster.

Even though I sheepishly admitted that “14.31” nearly reduced me to quivering jelly, the true centerpiece of 76:14 can be found in its majestic finale “12.18.” During my admittedly amateurish research of this album, I consulted the sages at amazon.com who’ve reviewed this album over the past 17 years and was pleasantly surprised to see the litany of praise for this track as one of the most gorgeous ambient compositions of all-time. Yes, it sounds like pure bullshit and sheer hyperbole, but it is so goddamn true. This track sends that same shiver up my spine as Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Roedelius’ Lustwandel, Cocteau Twins’ Treasure, Lisa Gerrard’s Mirror Pool and countless other albums and songs that seem like they were plucked from an alien universe to teach us how life affirming, moving and goddamn radiant music can be when you aim for synchronicity. For once, I must pay tribute to those surprisingly erudite souls at amazon.com because they are right on the money. “12.18” honestly eclipses 99% of anything ever  it labeled as ambient music as qualifies as a spiritual cleansing through sound. It’s the kind of ethereal fog you want to dive into during times of distress as if it were an aural womb. It is a peaceful, calm place where all is right in your godforsaken world and it alone makes this admittedly uneven album a transcendent one.

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.

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.