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Future Ambiance

img  Tobias

Nowadays, whenever I see the term „Ambient“ pop up in a review, it makes me want to flip the page right away. It’s not that I don’t like the term per se or that I find most of the music to be dispicable. But more and more over the last ten years, “Ambient” has turned into an excuse for journlists to file anything mellow, dreamy and harmonic into away into an easy drawer, instead of coming up with appropriate descriptions. Obviously, this new genre, which ows a lot (if not everything) to “The Orb” and Alex Paterson’s excursions into (and beyond) his very own ultraworld, has not all too much in common with Brian Eno’s original vision of “discreet music” any more. But what it is, then? Alan Bloor (pictured) from Toronto, Canada and Sascha Stadlmeier hailing from Augsburg, Germany are trying to give us their definition.

The heavenly welding shop: Pholde

Bloor certainly has a directly noticeable and unique style going for him, which he has carefully refined and expanded on in a career spanning more than five years. While his knurl moniker is clearly bent towards noise, Pholde has been his Ambient project – but who would have thought that you could create Ambient with the use of metal and engineering tools? “My biggest influence was working in welding shops.”, Bloor says, “I used to love the sounds of the cutting and scraping steel. That influenced me to start Knurl. Pholde branched out from that after meeting the guys at the Ambient Ping (then a weekly ambient music event) in Toronto.” The Ambient Ping’s very own record label, Gears of Sand, has also released Pholde’s latest offering,”That which tends to dissuade”, which is a perfect example of Alan’s work: Metallic surfaces rub against each other in vast and empty halls, chains are clanging in the distance and rusty tubs are being moved by invisible hands in cold basement vaults. It could be frightening, but in a mysterious way, the music ends up being infinitely consoling. Pholde is not about collecting random noises and simply adding a bit of reverb, it is about creating extremely minute and precise soundscapes: “I feel a composition has to be something that is planned and can be recreated.”, Alan stresses, “I don't agree with people who say that something that is improvised is a composition. I understand that a composition can be partially improvised such as Giant Steps by John Coltrane. But I have a hard time believing people when they say John Cage's 4:33 is a composition.” Even though his methods may be miles away from Eno’s, he may actually be one of the latter’s closest heirs: After all, his works hold the same duality of magical intensity and and ideal aural background. And unlike many of his colleagues, Bloor has only good things to say about the Ambient scene: “I think it is very strong and close knit. I find there are no big egos and everyone is friendly and willing to help each other whether it's setting up shows or releasing material.”

Subtle rumblings: Emerge
From “immersion” on, Pholde and Emerge, the pseudonym of Sascha Stadlmeier, are label mates on Mystery Sea, the Belgian label dedicated to Night-Ocean drones. Still, they were probably operating on more comparable ground on “Die kosmische Zygote”, a 20-minute piece released on taalem, which saw Emerge join forces with German experimental project Aalfang mit Pferdekopf. Here, the sounds of hollow containers rotated in open spaces and evolved around the sounds of a weirdly tuned calimba and sweet harmonica harmonies – and reminded one of a more lightweight version of Pholde. The closer you listened, the more sense it made and the more it pulled you in. The same can be said about “immersion”. This is the very definition of subtle music. The opening track still contains traces of melodies and recognisable chord schemes, but from there on, the action seems to take place underneath a veil, as if composed in a soundproof room. There are layers of might rumblings and entire tectonic shifts going on, but even they are moving gracefully, secretively and on the wings of whisper. On one piece, Stadlmeier seems to use grappling white noise, on another dark, yet open drones keep approaching and piling up until until they have reached gigantic proportions. But the music never reaches the realms of the conscious. If you have the feeling that these sounds are passing you by, don’t worry – that is part of their subversive power. Which, of course, places Emerge in typical “Ambient” territory, even though he probably wouldn’t care about that characterisation: “I don’t see myself as part of a tradition or movement. Only the sound itself and experimenting with certain moods are on my focus.” Whatever you call it, the result is intriguing. Or as Vital Weekly’s Frans de Waard put it: “eight wonderful pieces of deep ambient with a strong experimental twist, and that's exactly the way I like them.”

Getting bigger and brighter: The future of Ambient
Both Emerge and Pholde are therefore following in the big footsteps of “Music for Airpors” and the “Ambient” series, yet carving out distinct niches of their own. While Stadlmeier is opening his pieces to a lot of different external sources, Bloor is experimenting with the fine nuances of similar source material. Individual and recognisable, they are both beating the cliche and keeping things interesting over many releases: “My magnum opus would have to be forming a band of about five musicians and everyone playing a different metal instrument.”, Alan reveals, “Such as each one playing a pavement saw of a different size. I acquired one of these recently. It's about three feet in diameter and it rings for a really long time. The guy that gave it to me worked as a concrete cutter and told me he could get them as large as six feet in diameter.“ Thanks to them, you will no longer have to flip the page when encountering the big „A“ word.

By Tobias Fischer

Picture by Jamie Todd

Homepage: knurl/Pholde
Homepage: Emerge
Homepage: Gears of Sand
Homepage: Mystery Sea

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