The Ambient Expanse
by David J Opdyke, AmbiEntrance
Heads up, drift fans! For those who revel in soft, billowing clouds of beatless waves, THE AMBIENT EXPANSE can, and will, elevate you to that stratospheric realm of bliss you seek. With big names and big washes of ambient tones, this disc has the power to both calm and excite. Sometimes when the word "Ambient" is loudly proclaimed in a compilation title, you have to wonder if it's not just a marketing ploy... but this is the real deal. Overseen and produced by Steve Roach, he and four other contributors offer lengthy, flowing pieces of serenity.
This comp opens to the grand and amorphous "35th Parallel" by Patrick O'Hearn (who, having created atmospheric new-age works for some time, seems to have reached an ambient culmination with this track. He's definitely traveled far from his Missing Persons days in the early '80's). The track rises and spreads cloud-like through the ether... cumulus music! Vir Unis' contribution is more earth-bound by its water flow and droplets, though still travels in a beautiful, free-form fashion, swept by wind and decorated by sunlight. My first exposure to his sound certainly makes me want to hear more.
Stephen Bacchus' "Point of Safety" is aptly titled, as it an even more tranquil place (which is no mean feat!). Varying layers of wispy sonic haze shift, drift and sift in a soft, silky mesh. Vidna Obmana takes us to "The Space In-between", where, out of nothing, something lovely forms, built of growing strands of flute-like sound. All fades away, then, ever so slowly, comes back to life with ebbing/flowing breaths.
Besides having a hand in the previous tracks, Steve Roach saves his own 18-minute-long creation for last; "The Eternal Expanse" sprawls like an evening sky, more light than dark, with crystalline points shining clearly. Another exercise in sweep and swell, the soundwaves magically expand, contract and swirl. Canadian label Mirage is making an impressive start with releases of this caliber (including Robert Scott Thompson's Frontier).
Those attuned to the nuances of this airy style will find a world of wafting wonder in THE AMBIENT EXPANSE. I'm impressed, and hoist Both Thumbs into the swirling vapors.