After listening to a few ambient recordings and reviewing them, I’ve noticed one glaring problem with the whole ambient genre. It’s not that the music isn’t relaxing – on the contrary, the feeling I have after listening to The Ambient Eclipse
is one that I imagine would be akin to taking a bath in a pool of Novocain. This music is so soothing that it could probably calm down Bill Clinton at an intern convention. So as far as having a calming effect of people, the ambient genre does just fine. My problem – as a reviewer – with the whole ambient scene is that all the “music” sounds almost exactly the same (much like smooth jazz and prog-metal). As a responsible review writer, I’m supposed to listen to every nook and cranny of every track of every CD that’s sent to me – but in this case, I can’t even differentiate the 10 tracks. Oh, don’t’ get me wrong - I’m COMPLETELY and utterly relaxed after being exposed to this release, but reviewing ambient music is a bit like reviewing the color blue. What do you say about it - “It’s Blue and... err... stuff”?
So it would seem that I’ve got my work cut out for me.
The Ambient Eclipse is a collection of ambient works from various artists such as Steve Roach, Hiroki Okana, and a few other folks I’ve never heard of before. The collective objective of this release is apparently to turn one’s muscles into a substance akin to Jello – and at this, The Ambient Eclipse succeeds marvelously. The textures and emotions that the “music” radiates are truly relaxing, and kudos must be given to the artists for managing to evoke such feelings in their audiences. Steve Roach’s “Slow Rapture” is an especially intoxicating track, managing to be both soothing and ominous at the same time. But quite frankly, the CD could’ve been one long song and I wouldn’t have noticed much of a difference between tracks.
That brings me to what I feel is this CD’s secondary objective: to prove that two or three chords – when played at a slow enough tempo – can actually constitute an 8 minute song. Although The Ambient Eclipse comes nowhere near approaching Iron Butterfly territory (there’s no killer drum solo on this CD), most of the CD’s composers take minimalism to a whole new level. Again, as minimalism is apparently a goal of ambient artists, the performers on this release succeed here as well. I’m just not terribly sure how impressed I am that they DO succeed.
Anyway, as far as ambient recordings go, The Ambient Eclipse is excellent background music to meditate to, or with which to simply relax. As far as comparing it to other ambient recordings... well, it sounds the same as all the rest really. If you’re planning on going out and buying an ambient release for your collection, you could certainly do much worse than checking out The Ambient Eclipse. Of course, you could probably close your eyes and pick something out of the “Ambient” section completely at random and find a similar experience. Such seems to be the nature of the beast...
Personnel: Steve Roach (USA), Hiroki Okano (Japan), Mychael Danna & Tim Clement (Canada), Stephen Bacchus (Canada), R.S. Thompson (U.S.A.), Jeff Pearce (USA), Frank Quasar (Belgium), David Knight (UK), Peter Ball (Australia), Paul Tedischini (Canada)