Sonic Curiosity Logo

Ambient: Scott August, the Glimmer Room, Chad Kettering, Dave Preston, Erik Wollo

decorative rule

SCOTT AUGUST: Radiant Sky (CD on Cedar Mesa Music)

This release from 2010 offers 60 minutes of arid ambience.

A gentle mood of contemplation is generated by keyboards, guitars, flutes, and ethnic instruments.

Moody textures establish an atmospheric foundation which acts as a firmament for additional electronics, most of which are equally gaseous in character. Keyboards provide melodic content to the harmonic flow, producing languid notes that twinkle with amiable intentions.

Somber flutes bestow an earthy quality to the floating tuneage, establishing a link between the land and the heavens. Their lilting call drifts like a shimmering fog that is rich with emotional content.

Pleasant guitars contribute a congenial twang to the overall ethereal nature of this tuneage.

Mild percussives of an ethnic nature lend an unintrusive oomph that stirs the soul with ancestral hints. Shakers wander through the mix, their soft rattlings lending a hissy undercurrent to the languid rhythms.

These compositions are tastefully short, allowing each song's mood to achieve its soothing impact without undue extension. Those impacts are sedate and contemplative, evoking expansive skyscapes tinged with uplifting sentiments. The music's dreamy disposition is tempered with a subtle sense of majesty.

decorative rule

THE GLIMMER ROOM: I Remain (CD on A-Frame Media)

This release from 2010 offers 42 minutes of gentle electronic ambience.

The Glimmer Room is UK synthesist Andy Condon.

Extremely minimal textures are embellished by delicate keyboards and ghostly percussives, producing a voyage into the depths of the audience's own mind.

It begins with a blend of dreamy atmospherics and heavenly choral texturals, leading to keyboards that sprinkle the flow with chords akin to gentle raindrops. Next comes a passage of delicate minimalism in which harmonic tones engage in pulsations of a placid nature. These sighing electronics usher the listener into a white pasture where subtle punctuations float like drifting snowflakes. Gradually, those punctuations accrete a rarefied substantiality until they achieve a tantalizingly tenuous manifestation as crystalline keyboard melodics which further enhance the evocation of an evening snowfall.

At this point, understated percussives enter the mix, fairly muted so as to be barely discernible, tempering the soothing flow with their remote beats. An elusive echoy effect momentarily overcomes the piece, hinting at an epiphany that remains unrealized as atmospherics conquer the flow with delicate notes scattered in a harmonic fog of shimmering tones. This pause in momentum creates an endearing lull that is designed to prepare the listener for the finale.

The last track escalates the general minimal mood, painstakingly building upon the vaporous textures with the twinkling of pleasant keyboards and traces of even more distant beats. The progression is somewhat more suggestive than demonstrative, as the music maintains an ethereal character while mysteriously mounting the emotional content conveyed by these airy elementsÉreaching a conclusion that never strays beyond the scope of insinuation.

It turns out that the epiphany is suggestive of continuance. The promise of psychic growth is left to the listener to accomplish; the music being purely a sonic companion on the journey.

decorative rule

CHAD KETTERING: Voices of the Ancients (CD on Soniclayers Music)

This CD from 2010 offers 54 minutes of dense and active ambience.

KetteringŐs sound sources for this recording are: analog and digital synthesizers, shakers, flutes, voices, and various environmental recordings.

This release demonstrates a more robust side of ambient music in which the music achieves a dense grandeur that often refuses to remain as a minimal background soundtrack.

These electronics are dense and vibrant, remarkably so for music that one might expect to be of an ambient nature. Texturals create a growling presence that is then seasoned with sweeps of additional electronic harmonics.

Percussion is a vital aspect of this music, but Kettering takes a different route in his application of tribal rhythms, presenting them in full force instead of buried in the mix. The beats are prominent and overt, providing a compelling immersion for the listener, transporting the audience right into the midst of the ceremonies.

The use of shakers and choral voices enhances the tribal flair of this tuneage, subjecting the audience to a rich approximation of ancient musical cultures. The use of flutes achieves the same effect, but captures a softer side of this lost civilizations, conveying a pastoral gentility with the airy passages.

These compositions excellently capture the mood of the ancient civilizations who once inhabited the North American desert southwest. The music is ethereal, yet seethes with potency. While possessing passages that are relaxing, much of this tuneage is designed to force alertness upon the listener's consciousness.

decorative rule

DAVE PRESTON: Soundtrack for Motion (CD on Iedima Records)

This CD from 2010 features 53 minutes of delicate guitar ambience.

Joining guitarist Preston on this release are: Sam Gathman, and Glowing House (Steve Varney and Jess Parsons).

Airy guitar is utilized to produce atmospheric music of a deeply introspective nature. Instead of going the processed route and exploring eerie unguitar-like sounds, Preston chooses to play his guitar in a very fragile manner, expressing winsome chords that drift and undulate, conveying an extreme sense of relaxation. Strummed chords waft on subtle breezes, generating a serene congeniality. In a few instances, the notes are nimble-fingered but retain a gentle character.

Ah, but ambient purists needn't fret; there are instances in which the guitar is manipulated to achieve a textural sound, producing fluid soundscapes of tenuous definition and glistening beauty.

Some percussion is featured, lending suitably understated tempos to a few tracks. On one occasion, the beats are treated into slushy impacts of an engaging certification.

Some keyboards are employed in minor roles, and violin endows the last track with a recital attitude.

A few pieces have soft vocals, one of them basically non-lyrical crooning of a chorale nature.

These compositions capture an endearing tranquility and infuse that calm with a rich emotional disposition. The temperament is a mellow one, seeking to mesmerize the listener and incite contemplation to freely occur.

decorative rule

ERIK WOLLO: Gateway (CD on Projekt)

This CD from 2010 features 70 minutes of icy ambience.

Norwegian synthesist Wollo plays electric guitars, guitar synthesizers, keyboards, percussion and programming.

One cannot discern here whether these atmospheric textures are generated by synthesizers or processed guitar--either way, they are suitably ethereal enough that the identity of the instrument of origin hardly matters.

The electronics are vividly mild. The foundational tones exhibit expansive qualities, creating lavish soundscapes of vaporous distinction. Skillful layering of these texturals produces vistas of delicate grandeur that shimmer with eternal elegance.

Keyboards guide riffs of endearing charm into divine structures that command attention while retaining a gentle subtlety. Their sparkling expressions slither through the atmospheric mix with an enticing grace.

When the guitar finally sounds like a guitar, the chords are crystalline and frigid, evocative and alluring.

Percussives supply tastefully light rhythms that propel the tuneage without being to overt. On a few occasions the tempos muster more verve, yet still remain understated.

While obviously ambient, these compositions also warrant note as lovely pieces of contemporary electronic music. Their airy qualities possess strongly melodic undercurrents, setting them apart from most ambient fare which tend to concentrate entirely on harmonic definitions. A few of the songs actually muster enough vitality that they cannot be classified as "ambient," despite their pacific characteristics.

decorative rule
Entire page © 2010 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
Webpage design by Stasy