Words by Angus Rolland
Enforced introspection appears to transcribe into ambient connotations, although that isn’t actually the case since anyone’s interpretation of reacting to sound waves vibrating the pair of tympanic membranes (or 1, or none depending on circumstances) we homo sapiens have in our possession is as varied and un-correlational as the length of individual strands of grass in, let’s say the Eurasian steppe, which itself would feel fitting within the sound of ambience owing to the barren, remote terrain typical of that region. In keeping with the aforementioned cliché, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a series of ambient recommendations in no particular order from my not so extensive knowledge of the genre popularised by that bald guy who frequently produced and collaborated with a range of artists born around 1945-64, and possibly beyond that if you bother to check his Wikipedia discography.
The most recent piece is Daniel Lopatin’s Replica, under his Oneohtrix Point Never pseudonym judging by the album’s 3rd rate point and clink game cover (Uninvited?) appropriation. Moulding advertisements from a few decades ago into a coherent, ‘I live in a dilapidated Cathedral with a few complimentary spirits at hand’-type soundscape is a great way to plough through an academic journal that has no relevance to your chosen subject of learning. And the social benefit is that you get to ramble on about micro-genres to your ill-informed/uninterested peers, adding a pretension that can only lead to the accumulation of social capital.
Following on is Tangerine Dream’s misspelt 6th recording effort, Rubycon. I have a suspicion that Julius Caesar’s intention to undermine the authority of the Senate didn’t involve serene cover art or predating the troupes of what the sound of the soon to be fledgeling cyberpunk genre of fiction would sound like; even if he had the technological capacity at hand it would only serve to perturb his men’s morale and essentially hand his ex-in-law Pompey a paradoxical victory in the sense that it would rewrite history, thereby preventing this Kraut-opus from ever materialising.
Third on the numerically irrelevant placement of this list is to be Earth’s Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version. Amidst the zenith of the Seattleite plaidstrom, an album about as commercial as a ribcage xylophone emerged from the Pacific Northwest scene, unsurprisingly a cult yet influential dirge-collage. Listening to the distort-fuzz strumming of Dylan Carlson for a protracted period (73 minutes and 13 seconds specifically) would bamboozle most nearby Labradors and render most domesticated birds into a state of cryostasis, should the volume be loud enough/if you actually own any of those creatures; headphones and/or imaginary listening could be a suggestion.
Fourth on the random number generator is a soundtrack album, although I have haven’t specifically watched the motion picture; something about attempted cultural assimilation in the Ryukyu Islands? Sounds like a job for Haruomi Hosono. Although the majority of my friends loathed Yellow Magic Orchestra (‘video game music’?), I didn’t, which is why I (superficially) delved into the solo career of one of their principal members. If construction work using archaic computer software (pre-CAD I guess) in a subtropical environment appeals to you, then maybe this is the record for you, then again maybe not, suggestions aren’t always accurate. I wanted to put a Susumu Hirasawa record on here but it all got a bit too New Age for comfort.
And finally, since I’ve begun to run out of albums to choose from, it’s yet another soundtrack album (albeit a different medium) to the video game Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. With thematic content as varied as social engineering, censorship, conspiracies and a worrying myriad of prophetic present-day predications; ambient was probably the only appropriately ‘post-modern’ genre Harry-Gregson Williams had left to match up with hiding in cardboard boxes, freezing bombs on conveyor belts and repeatedly running through the wrong connecting bridge to get to whatever Strut you needed to go to at that particular time. Remember what De Gaulle said?