Words : Vor fünf Jahren habe ich einen Mix mit dem Titel “From Krautrock to Kosmische Musik”erstellt. Während der Arbeit entdeckte ich das Buch “Krautrocksampler” von Julian Cope. Als Ambient-Liebhaber und hingebungsvoller “cosmic traveller” im musikalischen Sinn erregte ein bestimmtes Kapitel zum Thema “Kosmische Musik” meine Aufmerksamkeit.
Zwei Jahre später bestellte ich eine Ausgabe des bereits lange vergriffenen Buches und las es in einem Stück, da es nicht nur auf faszinierende Weise erstaunliche Einblicke in Aspekte deutscher Kultur und Musik bot, sondern, was noch wichtiger war, nachvollziehbar machte wie die Musik handwerklich geschaffen wurde und von wem genau.
Ich hatte schon längere Zeit Krautrock gesammelt und fühlte mich nunmehr eher der “kosmischen” Bewegung verbunden als dem eher rhythmuslastigen Krautrock-Stil. Musiker wie Klaus Schulze, Popol vuh, Ashra, Edgar Froese (RIP), Harmonia und natürlich auch Tangerine Dream. So formte sich in mir die Idee, einen Mix mit der vom Beat befreiten deutschen Musik zu gestalten, die heute als “Kosmische Musik” bekannt ist. Ich kramte meine Lieblingsalben zusammen und ging an die Arbeit. Ich habe Tangerine Dream zwei Mal live erleben dürfen und würde den Mix gerne der Arbeit des späteren Edgar Froese widmen. Auch wenn er nicht mehr unter uns weilt – seine Musik bleibt bestehen.
So lade ich Euch ein, für über eine Stunde zusammen “very cosmic” zu sein!
Dies ist für all meine deutschen Freunde!
TOP AMBIENT RECORDS OF ALL TIME PART II : 11 TO 30
Part 2 of some of the most essential ambient records of all time. Part 1 can be found here. As I did the first part 5 years ago, my taste in ambient has evolved quite a bit since then. I became aware that some readers rightfully pointed that I forgot Lifeforms which is a total brain fart I ll admit. I have since became a fan of Loscil, Mick Chillage (and his Autumn of communion project with Lee Norris aka Norken) A lot of people wrote me to ask for a part two so here it is. I’ve put number 11 to 30 here and number 31 to 50 is in another post on the blog and can be found here. My list was inspired by my personal taste but also 2 surveys done by hyperreal.
11) FSOL : Lifeforms / 1994
What can be said about Lifeforms that hasn’t been said before ? It’s an epic ambient-techno album that has stood the test of time. Truly gorgeous samples such as Klaus Schulze AND Ozric Tentacles. The album is mixed and is meant to be listened from start to finish, so seamless. It has a couples of samples from b-movies like Millenium (You will awake now, remain calm) and Repo men (Miller explains the weirdness in the world). It’s probably one of the most well reviewed album of his genre and by countless of people all around the world. The peak of FSOL career.
But the greatness of Lifeforms lies in the fact that, much like great sampling artists like DJ Shadow or DJ Premier, FSOL were able to grasp just a few seconds of a Andrew Grossart lush track and make it into an even bigger, more brooding track. The atmospheres here are dark, sharp, crisp, and cunning. They were meticulously crafted with dexterity and ingenuity. Those samples here often only last 5 or 10 seconds. To take these quick snippets and make them into epic ambient-techno tracks takes some bloddy geniuses. The vision, the artwork, the seamless, floating tracks that makes this album flawless as a whole ; when combined (Much like Bytes by BDP), it’s sheer brilliance.
Other breaktaking samples :
Ill Flower : at 1min10 : samples The Venus Wearing the Space Uniform Shining in Florescent Light Color by Tomita
Omnipresence : at 0,01 samples Airlight by Klaus Schulze here.
Flak samples : at 0,06 Paul Williams and Andrew Grossart Shining Ice here.
Flak also samples : at 1,01 William Thomson and Trevor Nightingale Cloud Formations here.
12) Robert Rich : Somnium
Robert Rich, is an American composer that made music for the last 30 years and release a DVD release called : Somnium, a single continuous track separated into three parts, a 7-hour sleep concert recording. For the record: this is the longest piece of continuous music ever produced. Over 7 hours of Robert Rich’s best, beautiful ambient works. the music on this album was composed to influence the dreams and pre-REM hypnogogic visions of the listener. For this purpose it is suggested that the volume be kept down to the threshold of perceptibility, ideally with speakers surrounding the listener’s bed. Rich also recommends this album for conventional listening. For a brief period at the beginning of the album there is a slightly more active texture while the listener adjusts the volume and settles down to sleep. As the music progresses it slowly drifts through a variety of electronic drones as well as acoustic source material and nature recordings. The third and final track gradually fades into a morning atmosphere filled with bird songs.
Water effects drift in and out of heavenly chords. Birds sing and nature calls. This piece of music is wonderful, absorbing ambience. There is nothing decayed or dead here; everything is working in harmony. Changes in sound are so subtle that you find yourself in different landscapes without realising it. Part 1, a perfect countryside walk which lasts for days. You slowly venture into a mutating forest… Part 2: a visit to underground caverns filled with sparkling crystals and unknown wonders. Part 3, you are floating through space on an endless voyage to nowhere, occasionally being brought back down to Earth to enter calming forests with the alluring sound of birdcall brushing your conciousness. In order to allow for the album’s seven-hour length it was released on the DVD-video format instead of DVD-Audio. For insomniacs or just ambient heads alike…Essential.
Robert Rich : Somnium / Hypnos : 2001 : Part 3 (Divided here in IV parts it is the part IV) 144:45 minutes
13) Lustmord : The place where black stars hang
Dark as hell, “The Place Where the Black Stars Hang” was first released in 1994 on Side Effects, via Soleilmoon and while the earlier Lustmord album “Heresy” gave birth to the dark ambient genre, it is “The Place Where the Black Stars Hang” that defines it. It’s a work regularly cited by critics, audiences and musicians as being amongst the very best and most influential albums of its decade. The album has a more nuanced feeling of space and detail than ever before. Based on recognition established through recordings such as “Black Stars”, Brian Williams, the man who is Lustmord, went on to provide music and sound design for numerous major motion pictures, with credits on over 40, including The Crow, The Negotiator, Pitch Black, The Saint and Underworld. The track Metastatic resonance especially stands out as track that sounds like an endless void or a vortex taking us into another dimension.
14) Shades of orion 2 / Fax +49-69/450464 / 1995
If Aliens listened to music this is what they would be bumping in their spacecrafts. I’ve been playing this endlessly i don’t know how many times by now since it landed on my collection. The whole album is mixed, seamless and the sound is hypnotic and puts you right to the edge. A spiritual album that takes the listeners on a dazzling journey. Clearly one of FAX best albums. A prime album with no beats, and a deep collaboration between Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue.
15) Electro harmonix : Electro harmonix / 1994
Probably my favorite FAX release especially for Morphing clouds, one epic ambient track of 47 minutes that morphs and uses a soft swirling synth and shifting atmospheres that come back and forth. A truly great collaboration between two great artists : Jonah Sharp aka Spacetime continuum and Tetsu Inoue. The album only has 3 tracks : Morphing clouds, Replay and Floating sync.
16) Higher intelligence agency & Biosphere : Polar sequences / 1995
This is a live recording from the 1995 Polar Music Festival, in Tromø Geir Jenssen’s hometown. Recorded on the top of a mountain above the town, the music uses only samples sourced locally – people speaking at the festival, the cable car which brought people to the performance, the melting snow and ice, et cetera.
The result is a stunningly accomplished and balanced piece, musically, technically, emotionally. It bridges uplifting, glacial sounds with a dark moodiness without ever becoming tired and clichéd, neither natural nor electronic, but somewhere out on its own. An absolute essential for all ambient heads and discerning listeners out there. This album is without any doubt one of the greatest electronic piece in music history. Pure electronic bass and drum with floating sounds that come from any side around you. A true masterpiece.
17) Autumn of communion : Autumn of communion
Sadly the last album on FAX, as Pete Namlook died soon after. I e-mailed Peter one month before it came out in 2012 and he send me a copy of this gem. We had agreed for an interview but in the mean time he passed away. A testament to the quality Mr. Namlook put out there on his label. It’s a beautiful journey from Mick & Lee, very reminiscent of 90’s ambient-techno such as James Bernard, Air Liquide, and Namlook’s output itself. You can see that a lot of endeavors went through this album, it’s very mature but yet so smooth in its execution. Analog synths and very warm soundscapes. I am posting a preview but if you’re an ambient buff, you owe it to yourself to buy this album.
18) Biosphere : Cirque
Each Biosphere album has its own atmosphere. Microgravity sounds more aquatic to, Cirque is more dubby, Autour De La Lune (which means Around the Moon) is composed with bits of silence from the space. Le “Grand Dome” sounds like being trapped in a deep, frozen fjord. Towards the end the listener will still be floating on the Arctic Ocean. This album was inspired by the true story of a young North American explorer (Chris Mac Candless) who lived a brutal dream of ascetism but fatally lost himself in the dense forests of Alaska. I would like to specify that words you can weakly listen to in the 2nd track are in french. The man is talking about northern lights and the return of the sun, seemingly during an exploration in the North Pole. Originally, to me Biosphere’s best release was Substrata & in every respect it still remains a classic but Cirque just has that something extra, a real journey into the glacial sound that Biosphere creates, a journey that one takes with the explorer to which it is inspired from.
19) Robert Rich & Lustmord : Stalker / 1995
I found about this nice collaboration between dark ambient and music film artist Lustmord and Robert Rich entitled Stalker, in 1995. One of the greatest dark ambient albums ever. The album is based liberally on Andre Tarkovsky’s 1979 film of the same name, and the mood of the film is captured admirably by Rich and Lustmord. But any resemblance to the arc of the film seems almost inconsequential, as the compositions stand well alone from any existing pretext.
20) Brian Eno : Apollo : Soundtracks & atmosphere / 1983
Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks is an album by the British ambient musician Brian Eno, released in 1983. It was written, produced, and performed by Brian Eno, his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois. Music from the album appeared in the films 28 Days Later, Traffic, and Trainspotting, whose soundtrack sold approximately four million copies. This music was originally recorded in 1983 for a feature length documentary movie called “Apollo” later retitled For All Mankind, directed by Al Reinert . Eno said of the album : …. Well, I love that music anyway…. What I find impressive about that music is that it’s very concerned with space in a funny way. Its sound is the sound of a mythical space, the mythical American frontier space that doesn’t really exist anymore. That’s why on Apollo I thought it very appropriate, because it’s very much like “space music“
23) Steve Hillage : Rainbow dome musik / 1979
Released after ‘green’ in 1979, this album of what was then considered experimental electronic music, now called ambient. It is a seminal document in the field. More joyous and uplifting, and more engaging principally than others experimenting in the field at the same time, these two performances contain beautiful and melodic synth textures over which Hillage provides some liquid guitar work. It would take 12 years before Hillage would pursue this direction again in System 7 and climb the electronic heights. This is a whole album of mostly sweet, gentle, soothing and high toned new-age music. Recorded for the London Festival of Mind Body and Spirit which played in April of 1979, it is a very trippy, yet consistent recording – Hillage often on glissando guitar as well as that distinctive Gong (and Pink Floyd) delayed echo-rhythm, as well as keyboards, accompanied by Miquette Giraudy on keys, synth and Tibetan bells. In fact, the first composition, “Garden of Paradise” is very soothing and meditative. For me this is perfect background accompaniment for doing things around the house – like cooking and cleaning or artistic activities, but its a bit too intense to read to or concentrate on something else with. A spaced out ambient classic.
24) Loscil : Endless falls / 2010
A rainy concept album but my fellow Canadian Scott Morgan from Vancouver. Subtle and powerful, persistent with being imposing Loscil’s “Endless Falls” is another beautifully crafted sonic experience. Waves of soft sounds come and go, while subtle details create a sense of rythm and texture. My highlights are “Lake Orchard”, a kind of slow motion trance, and the deeply emotional “The Making of Grief Point”. Stylistically speaking this album resembles previous Loscil works, but at the same time it is a new and unique experience which I highly recommend. Meditative, focused and highly therapeutic. Quite simply stunning in his results but his musings are so simple.
25) Pete Namlook & Richie Hawtin : From within 1-3
A wicked collaboration between the spacy synths of Namlook and the 303 acid lines of Richie Hawtin. The album has long, delving soundscapes and build ups. Incredible dense layers from volume 1 to 3. I originally bought the 3 cd’s in 2000, but to think they were released a few years just tell about how forward thinking they were – and still are, to this day. The beauty of this collaboration is they have completely different styles that really complement each other. Plastikman was quite keen on using the Roland TB-303. But here we have Namlook adding more sonic depth. Alone it may not work out, but together their gestalt does vault to the “awesome” level. The outstanding voyage that is ”A million miles to Earth” reminds me of my endless nights of solitude, whilst studying at the university. All 3 CD’s were lined up in my stereo, focusing on boring matter but often daydreaming of the landscapes I could see while I delve into the music…
26) Brian Eno : Ambient 4: On Land / 1982
Ambient 4: On Land is a 1982 album by British ambient musician Brian Eno. It was the final edition in Eno’s ambient series, which began in 1978 with Music for Airports. On Land is a mixture of synthesizer-based notes, nature/animal recordings, and a complex array of other sounds, most of which were unused, collected recordings from previous albums and the sessions that created them. Despite the music’s dark leanings, it is in a sense still highly ambient in that the tracks tend to blend into each other and thus fulfill all of Eno’s original expectations of what the term means. Eno also had something to say about how music—this album in particular—should be listened to. In the liner notes, he suggested (even going so far as to draw a diagram) “a three-way speaker system that is both simple to install and inexpensive, and which seems to work very well on any music with a broad stereo image”.
27) John Foxx : Cathedral oceans / 1997
Cathedral Oceans (after 2003 also referred to as Cathedral Oceans I) is an album of ambient music by John Foxx, ex-leader of new wave band Ultravox and synth pioneer. Released in 1997, it marked Foxx’s return to the music scene after an absence of seven years. It was also his first solo album since 1985’s In Mysterious Ways. The album’s artwork consists of collages by Foxx himself, overlaying various pictures and textures with the faces of statues. Cathedral Oceans is a long ongoing project by Foxx, the first recordings that appear on this album were made as early 1983. In 1987 Cathedral Oceans material was played live by Foxx in various buildings, gardens and cathedrals in England and Rome. As a result of the long genesis of the album it does sound somewhat fragmented in places, but the overall effect is soothing, almost pastoral ambience created by extensive usage of reverb and echo coupled with gregorian chanting.
28) Vangelis : Blade runner / 1982
Blade runner is by far my favorite movie of all time. And its soundtrack is also my favorite of any film ever released. It is mostly a dark, melodic combination of classical composition and synthesizers which mirrors the futuristic film noir envisioned by Scott. The original soundtrack release was delayed for over a decade, until 1994, despite the music being well-received by fans and critically acclaimed—nominated in 1983 for a BAFTA and Golden Globe as best original score.
Arriving 12 years after the release of the film, in 1994, the soundtrack to the 1982 futuristic noir detective thriller Blade Runner was as bleak and electronically chilling as the film itself. By subtly interspersing clips of dialogue and sounds from the film, Vangelis creates haunting soundscapes with whispered subtexts and sweeping revelations, drawing inspiration from Middle Eastern textures and evoking neo-classical structures. Often cold and forlorn, the listener can almost hear the indifferent winds blowing through the neon and metal cityscapes of Los Angeles in 2019. The sultry, saxophone-driven “Love Theme” has since gone on as one of the composer’s most recognized pieces and stands alone as one of the few warm refuges on an otherwise darkly cold but beautiful score.
Fans of Ridley Scott‘s groundbreaking film (as well as those interested in the evolution of electronic music) will warmly take this recording into their plastic-carbide-alloy hearts.
Vangelis wrote this music to perfection, capturing all the emotions and feelings you need to feel when you are looking at a beautifully atmospheric electronic landscape capable of highlighting the weirdness and the beauty. The music also captures well the epic proportions of the special effects. No other soundtrack that I remember have managed to capture quite as perfectly the rich imaginary of science fiction and the sense of otherworldly metaphysical angst. Aphex Twin, Global Communications, FSOL and DJ Krush are just a few of the names that owe something to this historical album. The overall impression is of a dark and troublesome future with brief glimpses of hope and great beauty. As a musical score this truly captures the moods and feelings inspired by reading the novels of Philip K Dick, far more than any other adaption of his material to date. An album that showcased how important the right music & sound effects are to make a memorable film.
29) Tangerine dream : Phaedra / 1974
This 1974 masterpiece from Christopher Franke, Edgar Froese, and Peter Baumann ebbs and flows with richly dark soundscapes of electronic sounds and synth. Phaedra was a progenitor for much ambient–and some dance–music, influencing such artists as Steve Roach. After listening to Phaedra it’s easy to understand why. The signature pulsing of thick, beautiful Tangerine Dream synth falls across the ambient treasures here, pulling along the orchestral dreamscape before oozing aside for thick washes of expansive sound. The now-classic title cut is both soothing and ghostly, throbbing with subtle sequences and twisted metallic calls before diving into a swamp of nightmarish whistles and hoots. “Mysterious Semblance” soars and swoops like a lovely electronic eagle, bringing tripped-out light and cosmic dignity to the collection. This and the follow-up Rubycon are juicy pieces to the Tangerine Dream pie. This is the first Tangerine Dream album to feature their now classic sequencer-driven sound, which launched the Berlin School genre. It also earned the group a gold disc in seven countries, and yet in their native Germany it sold barely 6,000 units. Writing in his 2000 Ambient Century, Mark J. Prendergast describes the title track: “At over 17 minutes it conveyed feelings of the cosmos, of giant suns exploding, of huge ocean movements, of mythological lands, of eddies and drifts. Layer upon layer of futuristic sounds piled one on top of the other until the whole thing climaxes in some interstellar void.”
30) Manuel Göttsching : E2 E4 / 1984
E2-E4, was recorded in 1981 but released in 1984, and was not the first solo recording album by Manuel Göttsching but his 5th after Inventions for electric guitar, followed by New age of earth, Blackouts and then Dream and desire. The album itself consists of a minimalistic hour-long progressive electronic track that is subdivided into single tracks according to the stage of the song. The second half of the record is notable for Göttsching’s guitar playing. The album is named after the most popular opening chess move, 1. e4. Maybe its legendary status is due to the fact that as the story is sometimes told, Göttsching stopped in the studio, while touring with Klaus Schulze, and invented techno. In a concert mood, in december of 1981, he entered his studio armed with only a korg synth and a guitar, his favorite asset. And then, he started playing. He improvised. But thanks for us, he decided to record the whole thing on the spur of the moment. And an hour of music was born. But he did not even intended to release it. After many reflections, doubts and afterthoughts, and only after the counsel of usual pal Schulze and especially three years later, he decides to publish the session. E2 E4, covered with a chessboard on cold and brown, sees the light and its light changes the course of history. E2 E4 is the most compelling argument that techno came from Germany. And even more so than any Kraftwerk album. Over a heavenly two-chord synth vamp and simple sequenced drum and bass, Göttsching’s played his guitar like a percussion instrument, creating music that defines the word hypnotic over the sixty minutes of the single track. Nonetheless, even though E2-E4 is very famous within young people (Say Carl Craig and Derrick May) and most notably of the DJ generation and those who like minimalistic music, it is not as much known by those who love Krautrock.
E2-E4 is considered as one of the most sampled and remixed music of the 20th century. More than Can or Kraftwerk are. Most of the people into Detroit techno and electronica know about this famous piece of minimal electronic music and if you don’t know about it because you’re new to the genre or because you are more into other genres of electronic music, than here is your opportunity to know more about the record and hear its magic. In the record, 28 minutes are electronics and 30 minutes, guitar music. and the record has been popular with DJs all over the world and classic music lovers, but also those who like experimental music. First, let’s mention that Manuel Göttsching was part of Ashra Tempel. The debut album Ash ra Tempel was released in 1971, recorded in Hamburg by famed Connie Plank. Klaus Schulze left the band to pursue a solo career. with Klaus Schulze. Then, Göttsching also made an album with the late Timothy Leary the title being Seven up in 1975 but Schulze was never part of that collaboration. Göttsching is one of the most important guitarists of the Kosmische Musik genre. He also participated in the Cosmic Jokers sessions. His style and technique influenced dozens of artists in the post-Eno ambient and new age scenes in the 1980s and 1990s. But, more importantly E2-E4 is not an album for Progrockers or Kraturock fans.
But let’s face it, even though that record is a classic and has influenced everyone in the Detroit techno area from Carl Craig to Derrick May, rarely will you sit still 58 minutes to listen to an entire record which consists of just one track. It takes time, in fact, it is time consuming. It also takes patience. If you don’t like stuff like Brian Eno or Tangerine dream, Steve Reich and minimalist music then this record is not made for you. But then again, you would miss on something which is quite a masterpiece. The first time, I heard it was in 1998 I think, close to 15 years after its release. Now on to 25 years after its original production, it has aged especially well. Sure, back then it was picked by one of the best DJ’s of all time in Larry Levan who used to mix it next to the Clash. But think about it : this record has been covered in1989 by the Italian techno-house outfit Sueno Latino, it was covered by Basic channel, on their Basic reshape, and remixed by Paperclip people aka Carl Craig on his Remake uno EP. Most recently it was picked by LCD Soundsystem‘ on 45:33 a record that was inspired by E2 E4 both conceptually as seen on the artwork and musically with the duration of the song. Just another example of how many times it’s been named-checked, reworked and expanded countless times.
E2-E4, was recorded in 1981 but released in 1984, and was not the first solo recording album by Manuel Göttsching but his 5th after Inventions for electric guitar, followed by New age of earth, Blackouts and then Dream and desire. The album itself consists of a minimalistic hour-long progressive electronic track that is subdivided into single tracks according to the stage of the song. The second half of the record is notable for Göttsching’s guitar playing. The album is named after the most popular opening chess move, 1. e4. Maybe its legendary status is due to the fact that as the story is sometimes told, Göttsching stopped in the studio, while touring with Klaus Schulze, and invented techno. In a concert mood, in december (that would put this record 30 years old ) of 1981, he entered his studio armed with only a korg synth and a guitar, his favorite asset. And then, he started playing. He improvised. But thanks for us, he decided to record the whole thing on the spur of the moment. And an hour of music was born. But he did not even intend to release it. After much reflections, doubts and afterthoughts, and only after the counsel of usual pal Schulze and especially three years later, he decides to publish the session. E2 E4, covered with a chessboard on cold and brown, sees the light and its light changes the course of history. E2 E4 is the most compelling argument that techno came from Germany. And even more so than any Kraftwerk album, anyway. Over a heavenly two-chord synth vamp and simple sequenced drum and bass, Göttsching’s played his guitar like a percussion instrument, creating music that defines the word hypnotic over the sixty minutes of the single track. Nonetheless, even though E2-E4 is very famous within young people (Say Carl Craig and Derrick May) and most notably of the DJ generation and those who like minimalistic music, it is not as much known by those who love Krautrock.
How do we explain musical genius ? We can’t. When it happens, it just happens. And nothing happens at random, this for both normal and special things. But only the special things happen by pure magic, or some strange astral combination, the dance in zero gravity between relevant things and transcendent randomness, that leads to improvisation. The ability to take a theme and stretch it out into an ever increasing artform is often unattainable. The ex-leader of Ashra, the kraut-deutsch guru Manuel Göttsching, did it a quarter century ago, and his ability came from live shows. But what’s E2 E4 ? For a human, the easiest opening move in chess. For a musician, the dream of life. A persistent pulse of dreamy synthethic geometries which proceeds to the nirvana escorted by a spastic beat and a guitar that never ceases to peak. A perfect loop, the loop by definition. Nevertheless it’s not a dance piece. But it’s impossible to speak of E2 E4 in terms of human technology, if you’ve got that melody in your head, it will never leave you. I will never grow tired of that record. Jeff Mills once said : some things are better left unexplained. I do agree with him. That is the case with E2 E4.
|Manuel Göttsching:||E2 E4 [Released on Spalax]|