This episode of the Ambient Soundbath features an original work called Parallax Drone. It’s a work that I created after spending time listening back to previous episodes of the Soundbath, something that I’ve never really done before. For some, I imagine, the track might be a little too noisy, or droney or abstract, maybe even atonal… However, for me, this work is a quintessentially a soundbath.
In the creation of this piece I’ve worked to create a texture or sonic fabric that’s labyrinthine, a place where one’s mind’s eye, and one’s mind’s ear could get lost following the shifting and juxtaposing sonic symmetries, like a musical mandala. I often thought of Philip Glass’ (now, apparently out of print, but you can hear it here) Early Works when working on this piece. I wanted to create something with a textural depth that the listener could retreat ‘into’. It’s not airy or spacey, but is quite dense, thick even, in its use of frequencies as sonic color and the equalization of those frequencies.
I would love to hear any feedback that you may have on this piece, good or bad. Please enjoy.
Ambient Soundbath #56 features the music of Canadian composers, Mychael Danna and Tim Clement, who, for a time in the 1980s and 1990s created a series of sublime recordings bringing together field recordings and acoustic-electronic sound synthesis. For me their music typified the best that new age music could be combining the natural sounds with a bevy of synthesizer, as well as the occasional acoustic-electric treatment. What I don’t know about the duo is a lot.
I first learned about them during my music journalism days, maybe 2001, or thereabouts, when a ‘best of…‘ showed up in the mail from Mirage Records. I was receiving a lot of music at that time, and couldn’t keep track of it, but something about this recording struck me… I thought it weird that any artist that I was reviewing would have a ‘best of…’ collection and how was it that I didn’t know them. I was immediately struck by an image, inside the jacket of the CD that showed the duo in a marsh with a boom mic recording. It was so poetic and inspiring. I was further reminded of exactly what inspired me about this collection when I found my AllMusic review for this recording from all those years ago…
Danna & Clément spent most of the summers of 1984 and 1985 on a remote farm in the isolation of the Ontario wilderness composing and recording. Situated deep in the woods, Setle, their rural farm, was without electrical power during their stay, so much of their work involved using power from a generator positioned 400 feet away and connected by a series of long extension cords. By taking this unique approach, and by integrating outdoor sounds recorded at these and other remote locations, they were able to create an uplifting form of “natural ambient music that expresses the profound beauty and solitude of the Canadian environment.”
This episode of the Ambient Soundbath is comprised exclusively of the work of Altus (aka Mike Carss). Altus has put out many recordings (nearly 30+ recordings in fifteens years) of lush, well-crafted and superiorly composed music. All of which are free to listen to and download on his website. I once tweeted that ‘Altus is the music that I imagine when I’m creating music for the Ambient Soundbath’… It’s as true now, as ever… This program, likely the first of many Altus programs, is pulled from two recordings, Innerspace (2016) and Komorebi (2015). While I thought the first program would be dedicated to his Sleep series (1, 2), a set of personal favorites and desert island picks, I went with these two beauties instead.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and might even get some angry email for this statement, but, for me, Altus is the only artist I’ve found that comes closes to the Quiet Music-era of Steve Roach both in timbral lushness and sonic beauty… a musical high-water mark that many artists have endeavored towards (myself included), but only Steve Roach had achieved…until now.
I think you’ll agree, that the Altus tracks from Innerspace and Komorebi are perfect for an Ambient Soundbath and just the right sounds to set the perfect sonic mood for thinking and being… Enjoy.
Last “Origins” program for a while, as I wanted to capture some of the early tracks that inspired me, particularly Ocean of Tenderness and God Moving Over the Face of Waters… Steve Roach, Harold Budd and Jason Sloan all had an early impact, as well… Whereas Offland is one of the great new artists that continues to inspire me. The Drone Variations series, in particular, is really quite an exceptional set. Enjoy.
Keeping it short and sweet for this episode with a handful of tracks that, for me, are part of the origin story of the Ambient Soundbath. Artist such as Harold Budd, Jason Sloan, Diatonis and Kit Watkins have inspired me at every turn. These are only single selections, but if you were to explore these artists further you’d find a wealth of fine music. Enjoy.
00:00 – 18:00 – “Bismillahi ‘Rrahman ‘Rrahim” – Harold Budd – The Pavilion of Dreams
18:01 – 26:30 – A Prayer for Moments Away – Jason Sloan – The Space Between Beginnings
26:31 – 38:00 – Magician’s Cross – Diatonis – Landscape of a Dream
38:01 – 68:00 – Music for the End, Part 1 of 2 – Kit Watkins – Music for the End
So, I have to go way back for this one… It was late 1999, early 2000 maybe, there was a wonderful experiment going on with a website called Mp3.com… The internet bubble was happening and Mp3.com was trying to create and capitalize on a site for bedroom artists and would-be producers, such as myself, looking to get exposure for their work and make it big… Maybe even ‘get signed’… it’s funny now, but that used to be a thing… a really big thing! In any case it was through Mp3.com that I discovered and met many great artists, and also received the first bits of encouragement to release my own music… Many of those folks are still actively creating work today, and some have disappeared from the musical landscape altogether… This episode is dedicated to one such artist, Kelvin L. Smith.
From the first time I put on his music it struck a deep chord with me… thinking back to that time, I could only think that it was like a music that I wanted to make. I hadn’t yet heard Steve Roach, Tangerine Dream or much in the way of electronic synthesizer music of an ambient or spacey variety, so for me, Kelvin’s music was brilliant, peaceful and easy to immerse myself in, sonically. There was also a textural and melodic aspect to his music that put its hooks in me and didn’t let go. Those same hooks were stuck in me when I got to thinking about how I hadn’t heard his music in years; through many computer and CD collection swaps I wasn’t sure I even had the music anymore. So I plugged his name into Google and found… well… not much… apparently, Kelvin isn’t doing much online these days… He released a recording in 2003 on Farfield Records and had a Google reference to a Bandcamp site that has since been removed… I kind of couldn’t believe it. Such great music lost to time…
Now, I was really wanting to hear his music, so I began digging through old CDs and back-ups hoping for something, anything. Sure enough I found a collection of 15 tracks… All of the classics that I remembered… they had aged well and as I sat and listened to them I was transported back to that time just before my first recording, For Running Time was released, that period just as my creative life was beginning; it was beautiful. Kelvin’s music is beautiful.
I didn’t know much about Kelvin. We had a brief exchange via Mp3.com’s messaging system, but little more. I knew that he didn’t just make ambient space music, but did other music and that he was from the United Kingdom. That’s it, not much…
What I can offer as far as program notes is not much more comprehensive, as those 15 tracks I found lacked any kind of meta data, no track titles, copyrights, web links, nada. I don’t know the names of any of these tracks, when they were made, where they came from or really anything else, I just know that Kelvin L. Smith, like so many people who touch our lives only for a moment and leave a lasting impression, created these works. With that, I say please enjoy this collection of untitled tracks. If you know the track names, please send them in, if you know of Kelvin, send him to the site, and let him know that his work is important and matters, which, for artists and creative people, like myself is really what we hope for most. If you know that Kelvin is still creating, perhaps under a pseudonym, please send links…
Where to begin… After podcast #50 I wasn’t sure that I would be coming back, I was at a crossroads… 50+ hours of music, much of it original and unreleased is no small undertaking, but I decided that the program could still be be great and less of an undertaking, based on your comments: Bring back other artists… so that’s what I’m doing.
This program exclusively features the works of my friend and mentor, Chuck Van Zyl. Some of you may know Chuck’s work, some of you may not, but you all should. Chuck has been a quiet champion of ambient, space and electronic music for decades… Whether with his own releases, his writings, his long-running WXPN radio program, Star’s End or his Gatherings Concert Series, both in Philadelphia.
Chuck was the first person to ever play my music on air, with my first recording For Running Time… a kindness that left an indelible mark on me as an artist. From afar, through the years, I watched as Chuck performed ‘guerilla’ space and ambient music performances at libraries, art galleries, really any place that would let him set up, and let him ‘get to ears’ as I always say… so I did the same here in Michigan, Detroit, Ann Arbor and East Lansing…
It was Chuck’s influence that led me to create the Ambient Soundbath, and try my hand at being an artist/broadcaster, something that’s worked out quite well, as we’re nearing 800 subscribers…
It was only a couple years ago that I met Chuck, in person, for the first time. He was (is) the picture of quiet thoughtfulness and kindness. We walked around Philadelphia for hours, talking, exploring and sharing… he was a kindred spirit and he and his tireless work continues to inspire and propel me, so it’s only fitting that this new chapter of the Ambient Soundbath feature my dear friend and composer, Chuck Van Zyl.