Jeff Greinke: Lost Terrain

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Seattle-based ambient composer Jeff Greinke has a varied output, which ranges from rock to jazz to experimental noise, but he is perhaps best known for his ambient work. This 1992 album, Lost Terrain , is some of his finest ambient work, characterized by a slow-paced, chill melancholy. Not for Greinke are the pseudo-"tribal" drumbeats of other ambient artists, nor the ecstatic swell of overrich synthesizer chords. This is an austere music of grey skies and long, dim winter afternoons (Seattle weather?).

This is not to say that Greinke does not use rhythm or international influences. Two pieces on this album, "The Cry," and "River of Wood," have a distinct Indonesian sound, though this is inventively melded with a weird electronic cyberpunk noisescape. The pieces on this album often have a wry, bitter humor added to avant-garde electronica, a proper soundtrack for that ideal world of future present that we dream of, where everyone chain-smokes, dresses all in black, wears sunglasses at night, and carries concealed weapons. Nevertheless, Greinke's portrait inside the album cover looks suspiciously clean and fresh-faced.

Greinke displays a good range of sounds on this album; unlike some other somnolent "dark ambient" albums, the pieces on this one sound different from each other. He can move from the ultrablack horror-movie sound of "The Moor," which is reminiscent of his terrifying "Cities in Fog" set, to something which is almost (but not quite) melodic, such as "Rendered Motionless." In this track, clear, unnaturally bright electronic tones ring out, in harmonies that are almost major. On the sixth track, "Precipice," and the last track, "Confluences," a soupy reverbed piano line meanders through a similar electronic scene.

This album could be said to epitomize many trends in ambient music which spun their way through the '90s; Jeff Greinke seems to have had quite an influence on other composers. In a musical atmosphere characterized by a cold and cloudy sameness, creative invention, such as can be heard on Lost Terrain , shows up like a moment of wan sunlight.

Record Label: Hypnos Recordings

Style: Ambient


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