VA: Ambient Not Not Ambient
Audio Dregs

Perhaps Ambient Not Not Ambient's double negative is intended to stress that the collection isn't just an ambient and anti-ambient collection but that the latter content is so far out it transcends being ambient's mere diametric opposite—“not-ambient squared” in other words. Whether or not that interpretation aligns with the label's concept is unknown but what is clear is that the seventy-six-minute collection largely opts for psychedelic territory more than ambient per se. It's telling that a great many artists who appear are affiliated with kranky (e.g., White Rainbow, Bird Show, Chris Herbert, Valet) given that the Chicago label has itself migrated towards spacey projects of late. Curators Paul Dickow (aka Strategy) and E*Rock both make appearances, with Dickow sneaking in undercover as one-half of Smoke & Mirrors.

Much of could be described as beatless and hazy moodscaping occasionally humanized with murmured vocals. Grouper's (Liz Harris) “Quiet Eyes” is representative of the style, with her hushed vocal set against gossamer guitar-generated shudder and shimmer, while the phantom moans channeled by Honey Owens in Valet's “Tuesday Partly Sunny” epitomize the collection's spacey character. Similarly, Rhenne Molly Miles' narcoleptic voice echoes across the deep sea synthesizer glissandi of partner Paul Dickow in Smoke & Mirrors' “Ocean,” and Adam Forkner works up hazy mushroom shimmer in the White Rainbow piece “See and The Field Feels.” The curdling tempo in Mudboy's “Study for a Sleep Album-2nd Movement” is so slow, the song's beats and electronic lines act like a sleep-inducing pharmaceutical. Stylistic contrasts emerge elsewhere: Chris Herbert's atmospheric dub workout “Whips & Jingles” sounds like Vladislav Delay's Entain revisited; Nudge's “Dayrise” offers beatific ambient realized with assistance from Brian Foote, Marc Hellner, and Rolan Vega; Sawako indulges in intimate sound sculpting using toy-like sounds in “Nst”; and trains agitatedly clatter through the gaseous industrial vapors of WZT Hearts' “Discuss Winter.” The compilation gets a welcome injection of rhythm via Radovan Scasascia's AM/PM and Simon Pyke's Freeform projects. In AM/PM's tech-house track “Even as We Here,” waves of steely shimmer drift into view amidst subtly acidic bass lines and dub interjections, while Freeform's “Ante Meridian” offers an exercise in squirrelly electronic techno-funk. Seventeen tracks is a lot to digest so come prepared for a multi-scenic trip.

April 2008