Ernst Thoma, a fixture on the Swiss experimental music scene, creates a multi-layered, multi-level excursion into electronic ambience with Time Layer
, an album that finds him combining technologies old and new into a soundscape that is strangely compelling, but only if you are prepared to put down any preconceptions about how music is supposed to sound.
Unlike Brian Eno's intentionally less-intrusive ambient music, Thoma's creation is nothing but invasive. It's impossible to do anything but immerse oneself in the aural landscape that he creates with synthesizers, computers, sound processors and composing devices. While the textures are, for the most part, not necessarily jagged, the approach to Thoma's compositions, somewhat inspired by the music concrète of Pierre Henry and the electronic explorations of Iannis Xenakis, is one of creating strange and sometimes disturbing sonics that take the listener to places previously unseen.
This is as far removed from conventional rhythm and harmony as possible. More about sound and texture, Thoma's pieces are meant to be experienced rather than heard. If you can close your eyes and let your imagination go, Time Layer's five obscure and abstruse compositions can be completely subsuming.
Time Layer is clearly an album with limited appeal and, even for those who can find their way into its strange vistas, something that would be played under only very specific circumstances. While there is value to the work that artists like Thoma do, one is left with the impression that the concepts would best be used in conjunction with more conventional frameworks, as textures and timbres used to enhance rather than define.