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Ambient Classical: John Luther Adams, Peter Garland, P.D. Wilder

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JOHN LUTHER ADAMS : The Place We Began (CD on Cold Blue Music)

This CD from 2009 offers 38 minutes of minimal ambience.

Last year, Adams found some boxes of reel-to-reel tapes that he’d recorded in the early Seventies. They served as the inspiration for the new material on this CD.

In track one, ethereal tones glitter in the distance, gradually asserting themselves into more shrill definition in conjunction with alternating tonalities. A sparse tension is achieved as these icy drones accrue duration and slide into a harmonic exchange with each other.

In track two, deeper tones are utilized. They pulsate softly, approaching a harmonic resonance from the side, catching themselves unaware and managing to achieve an ambient presence.

In track three, harsher sounds take the stage. Slowly manifesting as muted environmental recordings peppered with random percussives and twinkling electronics, an elusive panorama is created: remote glimpses of landscapes obscured by rainfall.

In track four, a sustained tone leads into a gauntlet of bell-tones whose reverberations rise from tenuous to piercing. Deeper tones season the mix, lifting the composition’s density but leaving it minimal and ambiguous. Subtle variations result in ephemeral interplay on a level of hollow bleakness.

Desolation marks these minimal soundscapes.

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PETER GARLAND: String Quartets (CD on Cold Blue Music)

This release from 2009 features 51 minutes of ethereal chamber music.

These compositions by Garland are performed by Apartment House: Gordon MacKay and Hilary Sturt (on violins), Bridget Carey (on viola), and Anton Lukoszevieze (on cello).

Chamber music for the modern age.

Congenially sawing away, the strings establish an amiable melodic presence. Their ascent in mass is gradual, taking the time to meander through variations of pacific temperament before achieving an emotional magnitude.

Plucking punctuates the flow, lending points of glitter to the even sparkle. The strings’ sonic course is determined, but exhibits meticulous restraint, teasing the listener with implied expansions.

The cello provides a bottom to the sashaying resonance, injecting a deeper voice to the stringed ambience.

The strings evoke a pleasant calm with each passing moment, sedating the surface while stimulating the deep psyche. The compositions are measured out to maintain a dreamy demeanor. There are points during the second quartet piece that finally achieve a level of emphatic reward with uplifting impact.

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P.D. WILDER: f/m (CD on Gears of Sand)

This release from 2009 offers 69 minutes of guitar ambience.

Guitar textures unfurl into expansive structures of ethereal definition.

An edgy form of ambience is achieved by these meandering guitar tones. Notes are hinted at but kept shrouded in shadow. Chords are sustained and bent, then subjected to embellishment by atmospheric tendencies. The sound is vaporous and attenuated toward harmonic streams that slither through the air like gaseous serpents.

Sometimes strumming is almost audible, but the notes intentionally blur into each other, resulting in a hazy presence of gaseous certification.

A chilled environment is conjured by these tunes, remote and austere, exotic in its emptiness, made alluring by its very whiteout.

While the compositions are highly fragile, a certain verve is discernible, albeit relegated to a vantage just beyond the listener’s periphery. This elusive quality gives the pieces a yearning character, forcing the audience to complete each with their own psychic input.

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