Various Artists - Driftless Ambient 1 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Various Artists - Driftless Ambient 1

by Ethan Ranis Rating:8 Release Date:2014-09-26

This compilation of ambient works from the Driftless label runs the gamut of ambient genres and styles, yet still manages a sense of cohesion - no small accomplishment for a label sampler. While all the tracks here bear some reference to the touchstones of ambient, they also share a propulsive, evolving sensibility that is welcome given the lack of beats beyond occasional percussion.


Even better, there's clearly a sense of humor at work, with song titles like 'Rejected Song for a British Car Commercial' and 'Virgin America' taking clear satiric swipes even as the music can occasionally turn glacial and distant.


Like a good amount of ambient, a clear influence on many of these tracks is the work of Brian Eno.  'Prisma''s stately piano and delay combination is a descendent of Music for Airports, though as it accumulates pads it builds to a uniquely ecstatic yet serene climax. 'Arts and Entertainment' and 'Banner of Your Own Choosing' both feature foreboding, marinating synth beds that recall the ambient sides of Berlin-era Bowie.


But another, less expected influence, is felt from more modern artists like Oneohtrix Point Never and Fennesz. Both '2004 remix' and 'Transportation' feature noise and panning experiments that bury their melodies amongst deep bass and harmonized static.


Closer 'Virgin America' seems to aim to combine both these worlds, and sounds a bit like Steve Reich in a wind tunnel as a result. The beginning straddles the line between traditional minimalism and Basic Channel's reverbed-out bliss, before stabs of brain-sizzling noise kick in and give the piece some edge before a lengthy fadeout.


In summary, there's quite a bit to dig into here for any ambient afficionado. The variety naturally means not everything will be to a given listener's taste, but if you have a fondness for ambience or experimental electronic music, there'll probably be something you enjoy within.

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