by Hans Stoeve
What makes an album of ambient music interesting? Well if you are like me, you look for consistency, textures, moods, the absence of dramatic passages, studio production and most importantly the ability to say a lot by saying very little. Call it minimalism if you like. Plus I guess it's how I feel on the day. WEIGHTLESS, EFFORTLESS is a new compilation on Hypnos, their second I believe. Now anyone who has read my past reviews of Hypnos will know I hold this label in high regard, because they are continuing a tradition of releasing interesting ambient music. A friend of mine who is aware of the Hypnos product, casually mentioned last week that that it was "the same shit" that he was hearing ten years ago and it really wasn't anything new. This of course made me think why music has to constantly be new or challenging, before someone is prepared to listen. Using the same logic should we assume that every musician only ever record one album, that painters only ever paint one canvas, or writers only ever write one book, because for the majority of times the blueprint of what they do is always going to be there and anything else they will ever do will always vary somewhat from the original? Hassell will always sound like Hassell, same with Eno, Harold Budd's music will always move me beyond words in it's simplicity.
Back to this release. I think out of all the Hypnos releases, this is the one I have bonded with best. Nine artists contribute original and individual pieces, though if truth be known the material is very similar throughout; extended pieces which allow the listener to almost float on air without a care or worry. Some of the names are certainly well known. They include Steve Roach, Loren Nerell, Ma Ja Le and Rod Modell. Others I was unaware of, but it's fair to say that everyone's contribution is of a high calibre. Kevin Keller succeeds in creating a sense of vastness with his piece "Anicca", his approach at times similar to the soundworlds of Steve Roach, both men at times enjoying an almost minimalist approach to the construction of sound. Both also use the studio as an extended tool. "Closure" by James Johnson reminds me of some of the works of Greek ambient pioneer Iassos. It at times approaches new age, but a great piece of music is a great piece of music. Dean deBenedictis takes us on a slightly darker journey where ambiences meets static noises. It ends up sounding almost like some of the works of Harold Budd circa Lovely Thunder. It's also one of the best pieces on offer here. Ma Ja Le again composes music of great power and beauty, slowing down time or the perception of thus. Loren Nerell with "Liquid Metal Stasis" employs an almost Balinese / Javanese sound to create one of the gems on offer here. It would be interesting to hear him in combination with someone like Jon Hassell, both men having explored the indigenous musics of these regions. Steve Roach with "Bottomless" closes the album and reinforces a well known fact: that he is a bloody hard act to follow when it comes to composing atmospherics.
Overall, I like the 'quietness' of these pieces, the long drawn out textures, the absence of any kind of beat. This is music for thinking. If you like music for your mind, that invokes a sense of spirit, this comes highly recommended. Certainly in my top ten for this year so far. If you only buy one Hypnos release make sure it's this one. I'm really impressed by what is on offer here.