Various Artists: Ambient Landscapes

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No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

So far, 2000 has been an exceptional year for ambient music. The new releases that have come across my listening device have been filled with interesting sounds and evocative sonic passages. This compilation from Stephen Philips' "Dark Duck" label is an example of the high class of 2000.

Remember, new readers and listeners, that "ambient" can't be judged by the standards you use for either popular or classical music. Someone used to "mainstream" music will say, "Ambient DOESN'T GO ANYWHERE!" The more mainstream genres depend on development, progression, and structure to move their message. Ambient, though, depends on pure sound, repetition, and emotional evocation for its power, though the previous three musical virtues can be present in some degree too.

This being said, the nine tracks on Ambient Landscapes 2 represent the best in current ambient creativity. There is the shimmering ironic nostalgia of Twine's "Illumination"(cut 2), and the metallic sound-edges of dreamSTATE's "Alpha Waves" (cut 4) which is led by a seamless transition into Alan Imberg's contemplative, cool "Overview of Water" (cut 5). My favorite piece on the whole album is cut 3, the dramatic, spooky industrial/gothic "Entered Apprentice" (title is from Freemasonry!) by the enigmatically named "e.Voice p.," who are really two Eastern European gentlemen named Serge Marinec and Andrei Vasiljev. This could be the soundtrack for a cinematic chase sequence through some infernal industrial underworld.

Stephen Philips, the producer and Dark Duck originator, has three pieces on the album, one under his "Deep Chill Network" imprint, one under the name "Excelsior," and one in his own name. "Explorations," from "Deep Chill," (cut 7) is cut from the same ice as his previous "Heart of the Tundra," featuring extended bell-like tones, while Excelsior's "Conscious Freq" (cut 1) sends forth droning flatline fifths. Philips' own "On the Edge" softly whispers ominous electronic rumors into your ear. The album ends with James Johnson's ultra-restful floating electronic chords in "Drift" (cut 9) which for some reason, unlike most ambient music, sounds better played at a higher volume.

As I have often said, this esoteric form of ambient is not for everyone, but if you want music that permeates your consciousness like the fragrance of disturbing flowers, I highly recommend this compilation album.

Record Label: Dark Duck Records

Style: Ambient


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