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Category Archives: ambient

Heralded by many as one of the finest ambient works of all time, Steve Roach’s Structures From Silence is right up there with Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports,” and deservedly so. Originally released in 1984, Structures From Silence was deemed a classic almost immediately, but the contrast grew greater as Roach’s output did, and the sheer beauty and clarity of this recording became more clear with time; then the album became a bit of a legend after it went out of print. Projekt has done ambient, and music enthusiasts in general, a great service by putting this excellent and classic recording back into print. With this re-release at last Roach’s early work can be listened to, enjoyed and made available to the buying public at large, as well as a new audience and generation of listeners. Structures From Silence 2001 has also been re-mastered for better sound quality, thus creating an even more evocative atmospheric listening experience. This is an exciting recording from a wonderful era in electronic ambient/space music. The 1980s saw the advent of so much electronic and synthesized music, but finally one of the finest recordings of the decade has become available again for a new generation and a new time.

-Matt Borghi,

zs df

Re-up of my favorite Eno ambient album. It was missing a track earlier, and that has been rectified! Also, you can find Eno’s AMBIENT I-IV HERE! -Ian!

An exquisite experiment, Apollo takes Brian Eno’s spacescapes from albums like Another Green World and arranges them with some heavenly pedal steel guitar by Daniel Lanois. The recording engulfs the listener and captures the feel of space travel, weightlessness, and other sensations vividly. It’s also perhaps Eno’s warmest record ever. In the end, it comes off sounding not unlike a Grateful Dead experiment, with Lanois’ lazy pedal steel sounding quite similar to Jerry Garcia’s playing on David Crosby’s “Laughing.” An excellent nighttime vehicle.

-Matthew Greenwald,

mu df

Goes well with DURCH DIE WUSTE and the Cluster and Eno related stuff. -Ian!

The fact that Wenn der Südwind Weht possesses a similar cover photo (a pair of feet dangling over the edge of a pond) to the first Roedelius album is a good indication of the album’s similar sound. The ten tracks here are playful synthesizer exercises, many with Roedelius’ patented high-pitched melodies, reminiscent of a theremin. “Auf Leisen Sohlen” and the title track are highlights.

-John Bush,

Hans-Joachim Roedelius-WENN DER SÜDWIND WEHT (1981)

This one is apparently borderline unlistenable. Them’s the breaks. I accidentally misplaced this description on a previous show from the box, but this is the right place for it.


Nag’s Head, High Wycombe. 11th February 1977.
Mono. TG Rating 5/10.

“I make no apology for saying I am a lover of heavy, noisy, jarring ear-splitting music, I’m young and strong, and I can take it. But I had a job to keep my pint in my stomach as I listened to the muck which was Throbbing Gristle’s claim to fame… Our photographer gave up early. I wish I’d followed him. But I waited, and watched dumbfounded as Cosey Fanni Tutti bared both her chest and her ignorance of music, and Genesis poured artificial blood over his head then spat it onto the stage. At least he did stop playing for a while – but only to shout obscenities at the audience and to throw a table across the hall. Then he invited half a dozen youngsters from the cat-calling and jeering audience onto the stage and handed them the instruments. They sounded better then Throbbing Gristle, even though they couldn’t play a note. The landlord, Mick Fitzgibbon, told me that the youngsters were about ready to throw Genesis P-Orridge, plus his equipment, bodily through the door. ‘I’ll never have them back here,’ he said. ‘The kids were threatening to punch the promoter and I don’t blame them.'” [Keith Baldock, Bucks Free Press, Midweek Issue]

“After thirty minutes all the faults of the hasty equipment erection, mingled with the frustrations of the band, came to a head. Cosey’s lead guitar ceased to exist. The fault could not be located quickly and rectified… Cosey took the only course open to her; she strolled off stage and sat in the audience… The position on stage was becoming impossible. Chris walked off and headed for the toilet. Gen was left alone on stage, still plucking at his dominant throbbing bass guitar, adding vocals whilst Sleazy… was having trouble off-stage slotting in tapes and loops. The set-up was crumbling… Some of the audience, particularly around the bar, were becoming restless. Gen met the challenge. Still pounding his bass, stretching the lead, he climbed into the audience and jeered, insulted and provoked the audience, collectively and individually, concentrating on the restless members, beckoning one of them to accompany him onto the stage. Once there Gen transferred the bass to him and left the ‘musician’ pounding away in his turn, before himself jumping back into the audience, running amok, overturning a table and its beer mugs, insulting and provoking others to take the stage.” [Paul Buck, eyewitness]

Track One (60’00”)

00’00” Introduction
02’29” Very Friendly
21’36” We Hate You
24’00” Instrumental “You’ll notice for the next hour I play one string.”
31’51” Slug Bait
36’54” Instrumental “You can’t have anarchy and play music, it’s not the same thing.”
39’33” Zyklon B Zombie
47’32” ‘If I was a Little Baby’ with members of the audience
48’24” Wall of Sound “What’s it about?” “Not an awful lot.”
53’23” (Performance ends) “That sounds better!”
59’58” (Recording ends)

Sorry, slacked off on these a little. I’ll drop another one today to play some catch-up. Admittedly I haven’t listened to this one yet but I will when I’m in the mood. Throbbing Gristle doesn’t make for conducive work music.

Sparse info on this, but that tracklist looks killer.


Student Union, Sheffield University. 10th June 1980.
Binaural Stereo.

Supported by Cabaret Voltaire.

Track One (31’15”)

00’00” Introduction
00’47” Punished
10’00” Heathen Earth
16’25” Strangers in the Night
18’10” Instrumental
24’38” Tortured Smiles
31’12” We Said No

Track Two (23’53”)

00’00” We Said No (cont.)
05’23” Flesheaters
22’43” (Performance ends)


More info on TG Live:
Wikipedia: TG Live

Throbbing Gristle-TG+: IRCD33 SHEFFIELD UNIVERSITY (LIVE 10 JUNE 1980)

One of the best scores ever made, wasted on a crummy remake. Re-up! -Ian!

Steven Soderbergh took a big risk when he decided to remake Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky’s art house classic Solaris (both films based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem). Some critics felt he’d have been better off directing his considerable energy toward less hallowed material (like, say, Ocean’s 11). Still others (notably J. Hoberman of The Village Voice) proclaimed it one of the best films of 2002. Just as science fiction was a new genre for Soderbergh to explore, it was also new for the director’s longtime composer of choice, Cliff Martinez. As Soderbergh explains in the liner notes, “We were both pushing ourselves, trying things we’d never tried before.” And just as the movie is more of a psychodrama than a conventional work of science fiction — somewhat like director James Cameron’s The Abyss — Martinez doesn’t gum up the works with grand gestures or quirky sound effects. He keeps things quiet, tense, dreamy — or nightmarish, depending on your point of view. Solaris asks viewers to question what’s real and what’s merely a projection of the feverish imaginations of the various denizens (including George Clooney’s widowed psychologist, Chris Kelvin) of the lonely space station orbiting the beautiful yet eerie, seemingly empathic planet of Solaris. All the while, these ambient instrumentals — featuring treated strings and woodwinds, but no percussive elements like drums or piano — bleed into one another with little distinction, just minor changes in volume and tempo. It doesn’t make for the liveliest listen, but Martinez successfully establishes a distinctive mood, somewhat like the quieter passages in 2001: A Space Odyssey or the similarly underrated Andromeda Strain.

-Kathleen C. Fennessy,

Cliff Martinez-SOLARIS (2002 OST)

Re-up at higher bitrate. Might be my favorite ambient-ish album of all time. -Ian!

The title was more prophetic than most — though Earth thankfully isn’t quite so bathetic as any number of releases on Windham Hill, by this point Gottsching was well into his electronic phase, the jam freakouts of the earliest albums replaced by a clean, crisp electronic bed. Unlike the rigorous pulse of fellow Krautrock pioneers Kraftwerk, though, Gottsching generally favored a more consciously playful and simply beautiful approach, aiming to create pleasant music to just enjoy and relax to. If not as serious and avant-garde as other artists, Gottsching was still coming up with the goods, so quite why his later albums have been generally ignored in comparison remains a mystery. Opening track “Sunrain” sounds like it could soundtrack a narrativeless documentary on just that, or at least some sequence of nature photography; bright and sparkling, the synths and drum machines blend together nicely.

“Ocean of Tenderness” has a similar sense of film accompaniment, being a gentle, minimal flow of keyboard shading, electronic chirps deep in the mix, and a soft lead melody that carefully unwinds throughout the lengthy track, with a low-key bass pulse appearing a few minutes in as contrast. “Deep Distance” lives up to the title nicely, combining sweetly spaced-out drones with minimal percussion that sounds like raindrops as much as anything else as lead melodies slowly come to the fore. “Nightdust,” which takes up the original second side of the album, captures the original psych-jam feeling of Ash Ra Tempel more than anything else. A lengthy Gottsching guitar solo, heavily processed and extremely trebly, begins the piece over a series of soft synth shadings, leading to a marvelous composition with chilly, spectral keyboards and, later, deep electronic pulses and more straightforward guitar. It’s a spectacular performance, showing that even on his own Gottsching’s fire was still present, though aimed in other directions.

-Ned Raggett,

Ashra/Manuel Göttsching-NEW AGE OF EARTH (1976)

These are actually, arguably, the first Throbbing Gristle shows. I say arguably because it is my understanding that they weren’t even using the TG name on the first one. Could be wrong on that. Here’s some info from Chris Flatline’s great site:

Air Gallery, London. 6th July 1976.
Hat Fair, Winchester. 21st August 1976.
Mono. TG rating 5/10.

Track One – Air Gallery (38’28”)

TG’s debut appearance. Performance art series 6th-9th July at the Air Gallery 125-129 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, curated by Genesis P- Orridge. TG performed in one room while the audience listened from the next.

00’00” Instrumental
38’23” (Recording ends)

Track Two – Hat Fair (21’31”)

At the Attic Theatre, Broadway for the Winchester Hat Fair. Audience of 170.

00’00” Dead Ed
02’00” No Two Ways
07’40” Very Friendly
16’08” (Performance ends)
17’23” (Recording ends)

I’m not going to lie, it sounds like it was recorded from the next room over. Borderline unlistenable. You have to resituate your expectations to sit through it. Basically interesting as historical document alone.

It’s fascinating to think that some of the most beautiful and haunting music I’ve heard in my life isn’t the work of British electronic artists. Nope, what I’m listening to at this very moment was recorded by two automated NASA probes — and all the music itself was produced by the planets and moons of our solar systems.

Yep, I’m listening to “Symphonies of the Planets,” the five-volume collection of ambient space drone music released in 1992 by Lasterlight Records. When Voyager I and II made their 5-billion-mile journey across the solar system, the probes recorded electromagnetic waves in the soundless void of space surrounding Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus.
For instance, the probes picked up the interaction of solar wind on the planets magnetospheres, which releases ionic particles with an audible vibration frequency. Essentially, we can then translate these waves into sound waves and put them on an album.
The probes also recorded:
  • Waves from the magnetospheres
  • Trapped radio waves bouncing between each planet and the inner surface of its atmosphere
  • Electromagnetic field noise in space itself
  • Charged particle interactions of each planet, its moons and solar wind
  • Waves from charged particle emissions from the rings of some planets

I really can’t go any further till you hear the sounds for yourself. The probes recorded all this data on magnetometers, plasma detectors, low-energy charged particle detectors, radio antennas and instruments to measure cosmic rays and plasma waves. Then, some uncredited artist or artists arranged selections from these recordings into a more musical form. So you’re not listening to the raw data here, but rather an audible collage constructed from various pieces.

Sadly, the albums are out of print and mostly available in used or bootleg form; fortunately, a friend of mine had a copy, so here we are. Whether you’re a space junky or an electronic music fan, you really need to get your hands on these.

-Robert Lamb,

NASA Voyager Recordings-SYMPHONIES OF THE PLANETS I-V (1992)

John Carpenter is just awesome. Even when his movies stunk, he usually wrote a score that was the creepiest imaginable. HALLOWEEN III is a great example of an icily scary score buried by a movie that is only enjoyed on an ironic level. DARK STAR is kind of hard to listen to, I admit. It’s got some great synth work, but it seems like it’s pulled straight off the film transfer (dialogue and all), or the master really had all that stuff and it was all folded together. It’s still pretty amazing for a student film from 1973. CHRISTINE is also a great score that seems pretty underrated, I never see it mentioned alongside the others.

When you’re in a record shop looking through the soundtracks section, you might see two different versions of a movie’s score. One will be a SUPER DELUXE EXTENDED ANNIVERSARY EDITION with two discs. The other is basic looking, has a fairly standard tracklisting that looks like it’s under forty minutes or so, put out in the early to mid 1980s by a company called VARÉSE SARABANDE. The Super Extended Mega version might even be cheaper, as the VS versions are mostly out of print. Grab the older version and don’t look back.

I am finding that Varèse Sarabande always does a bangup job with a film score, and get it right the first time. Avoid 20th, 30th whatever-th anniversary editions of scores, it usually means they’re bogged down with a ton of unnecessary bonus material. Not every little nugget of sound John Carpenter or Wendy Carlos left on the cutting room floor was meant to be picked up again. 75% of these leftovers end up being shorter, cue-length repetitions on the score’s main themes, or bits of dialogue inserted between tracks, which I guess is their idea of an “immersive experience”. Sorry dudes, I saw ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK already, just give me John Carpenter’s synth work from the movie. I don’t need to hear Harry Dean Stanton talking to Kurt Russell.

Another reason Varèse Sarabande got these scores right the first time? They’re all under 45 minutes. Basically the length of a vinyl LP, because that’s the master they were transferring. Forty-five minutes is just about the maximum amount of time my brain really wants to be immersed in a single film’s atmosphere, don’t you agree?

Last: the mastering. Comparing the mastering jobs between the original Varèse Sarabande rips and the remastering on those Super Extended Anniversary Editions, I find that the newer versions are JACKED UP and SHRILL. I’m imagining some cheapo AV company just brickwalling these haphazardly in between novelty records that end up on the Dr. Demento Show. Carpenter made some chilling soundtracks out of some WARM OLD SYNTHS. Cranking everything up in these masters makes it sound like you’re running an ARP 2600 through cheap distortion pedal. Actually that sounds fun to do, but I probably wouldn’t want to listen to somebody else do it.

I’d like to point out that Alan Howarth gets swept under the rug often, Carpenter’s scores became more lush, almost gothic, when Howarth stepped onboard. Check out HALLOWEEN II, which is often overshadowed by the first. I included a “suite” version of the score to II from another version because I did like its sequencing.

DARK STAR (1974)
THE FOG (1980)