Sonic Curiosity Logo

Ambient: Dwight Ashley, Darshan Ambient, Chad Hoefler, Brannan Lane, VidnaObmana

decorative rule

DWIGHT ASHLEY: Four (CD on Nepenthe Music)

This release from 2004 features 55 minutes of delicate ambience.

Guitars are subjected to an infinite sustain, then allowed to expand into monumentally tenuous clouds of fragile sound. These elusive airs are immersed in electronic harmonics that are equally delicate, yet the combination seemed to empower the music rather than increase its emptiness. The minimalism seethes with subtle verve and fastidious emotion, generating a comfortable environment that frees the listener of tension and urges them to inner focus.

Not unlike a skyscape filled with majestically lit clouds, this music is idyllic yet compelling. Mellow drones float with grace, peppered by sighing textures that puncture the mix without intruding on the flow. Pale illumination pulses with lighter embellishment, producing a field of white on white that possesses deceptive depth and detail.

As cited in Ashley’s liner notes, the music on “Four” is deeply influenced by Terje Rypdal’s “After the Rain” and Gavin Bryars’ “After the Requiem”. These roots are more than a comparison, they are a jumping off point, from which Ashley has launched brazenly into a region of ethereal atmospherics wrought with despair that evolves into vibrant optimism.

decorative rule

DARSHAN AMBIENT: Autumn’s Apple (CD on Lotuspike Records)

This release from 2004 offers 61 minutes of rhythmic ambience.

Darshan Ambient is Michael Allison.

Elegant keyboards and atmospheric electronics blend to conjure pastoral melodies that evoke seasonal aspects with relaxed ease. Airy textures swarm overhead like glimmering clouds, roiling and parting to allow beams of tender harmonics to penetrate and bathe the audience in congenial radiance. This environmental milieu is embellished by thoughtful keyboard melodies that often adopt the rich resonance of classic piano. Sighing tonalities dip and weave as the keyboards unfurl chords that are comfortable and supple.

These delicate electronics waft in an idyllic breeze accompanied by percussives. Although generally sedate, the rhythms possess a stately pep. Such tempos bestow a distinction to the music, elevating these tunes beyond the conventional ambient fair into a region of contemporary instrumental compositions. These beats are accomplished by electronic and traditional means.

The amiable style of this music is tastefully felicitated by Allison’s mellow compositions. The tunes convey an informality that draws in the listener and surrounds them with meadows drenched in afternoon sunlight. Each subtle riff approximates seductive zephyrs that gently stir orange-red leaves into a graceful dance in celebration of the gradual turning of summer into autumn.

decorative rule

CHAD HOEFLER: Twilight in the Offing (CD on Hypnos Records)

This release from 2004 offers 60 minutes of haunting ethereal compositions.

There’s a surprising edginess going on in this music, a tension that reaches beyond the imminent twilight, a tension that is achieved by the utilization of sharp needles lurking amid the gathering gloom. The nocturnal verge is spooky enough with arid tonalities and sepulchral airs swarming like miasmic spirits, but it’s the scratchy impacts and chittering peripherals that truly scatter hazardous barbs throughout these soundscapes. Hoefler has a way of making the shadows bubble with ominous poise. Not that the music is murky or hostile; there’s a calm prowling just beneath the dire austerity, a peaceful cloud that is rich with soporific qualities if one can overlook the eerie veneer of first impressions. They are friendly ghosts who seek to sedate you more than alarm you.

This misty climate of stoic resonance is sneakily infectious, seeping into the brain through the flesh as easily as it penetrates the auditory canals. These elongated sonic textures alter time, transforming instants into hours with their expansive dimensions, compressing days of contemplation into a frozen second.

The presence of languid percussion in one track stands in striking contrast to the rest of the rhythmic deprivation, and even the minimal soundscape rouses into a mysterious melody for the occasion.

Hoefler is to be commended for producing a release that stretches the boundaries of ambience into a void of lush properties.

The music on this release was mastered by Robert Rich.

decorative rule

BRANNAN LANE: Piano Dreams & Nightscapes (CD on Ambient Circle Music)

This release from 2004 features 61 minutes of pleasant melodies.

As inferred by the CD’s title, this music revolves around a piano core with atmospheric electronics circling at the periphery. Those electronics are vapory and soothing, consisting mainly of ethereal textures that shroud reality, isolating the audience to a narrow zone wherein the music pulsates ever so softly. These tonalities breathe with even temper, tenuous enough to be unobtrusive but substantial enough to mask the outer world.

Lane’s piano compositions are languid and unhurried, utilizing minimalist notes that endure like drops of rain caught in slow motion. The melodies are uncomplicated and sparse, with each delicate note sustained and melting into the void. One is reminded of a lazy ride down a mist-shrouded river at night.

Infrequently, the electronics surge (ever so slightly), adding a modicum of depth to the nebulous environment. There are also hints of subliminal percussives, lending unrhythmic impressions in the distance.

decorative rule

VIDNA OBMANA: Anthology 1984-2004 (CD on Ikon/ Projekt)

This release from 2004 offers 73 minutes of ambient material spanning VidnaObmana's long career.

The material on this collection is primarily a mixture of unreleased tracks and pieces that originate from obscure compilations. Each track exemplifies a stage of Obmana’s sonic growth, from minimalism through tribal grooves to dark ambience heading toward edgy grittiness.

His predilection to employ unconventional instruments (like fujaras and overtone flutes) in the pursuance of creating atmospheric harmonics has resulted over the years in those instruments becoming mainstays in the genre as other musicians have followed his innovative leads. He is an innovator and rarely willing to settle into any niche for very long, always striving to expand and push the envelope.

Overall, his electronics are radically ethereal and miasmic, evoking exotic landscapes obscured by distance. His tribal grooves utilize muted percussives to generate antediluvian milieu of luxurious disposition. His dark side expressions skirt through avant garde terrain and forge courageously into new sonic topography, conjuring ominous airs that are thicker with thought-provoking aspects than any trace of threat.

This anthology is not only an excellent introduction to Obmana’s music, but will delight enthusiasts who thirst for more to augment their exhaustive collection of the man’s releases.

decorative rule
Entire page © 2005 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
Webpage design by Stasy