The Promises of Silence, Twilight Earth
by DB Spalding, Harbinger Hour
TWILIGHT EARTH is another in a recent surplus of excellent ambient music. Masters like Vidna Obmana, Steve Roach, Paul Schütze, O Yuki Conjugate and Jorge Reyes all contribute dark, brooding pieces, and there are some young turks digging in the silence as well: Temps Perdu?, Voice of Eye, Alio Die and Human Flesh. The mood is quiet and dark, demonstrating that space-music can be anything but serene and dreamy. O Yuki Conjugate's cut "Insect-Talk (Dry)" is particularly eerie, like an ancient tribal sacrifice that echoes into our future. Though some of these selections may be intimidating for dilettantes, there's plenty on this disc to please any contemporary music fan.
TWILIGHT EARTH joins Projekt's earlier joint compilation THE PROMISES OF SILENCE in the quest for darker ambient music. Definitely not for the faint hearted. Promises brings together thirteen tracks of ambient and environmental music that could be subtitled "Journey To The Center Of Our Consciousness". Tracks by Hybryds, Ora, Alio Die, Robert Rich, Art of Primitive Sound and others are less music than they are aural etchings of an internal landscape. Other tracks by Steve Roach, Jeff Greinke, Black Tape For a Blue Girl and Temps Perdu? keep the collection grounded to reality, albeit a surreal one. This album doesn't just create a relaxing, space-enhancing backdrop of sound, it can take you on a sojourn to a dark, troubling place... and bring you home again. Like other recent Projekt products, the packaging is a tasteful outgrowth of the music.
Listening to these two CDs, it's clear how far ambient music has come from its beginnings over twenty years ago. Ambient music and later "space-music" (a term coined and made popular by Stephen Hill) once consisted of waves of slowly evolving sound, punctuated by minimalist touches: a piano note here, a gong there. Ambient music can now consist of a panoply of background noises from which emerges a melody, or perhaps a foreboding plateau of droning synths, supported by a stirring tattoo of archaic rhythms, the throbbing pulsebeats of a forgotten world. THE PROMISES OF SILENCE demonstrates the former, lowering the listener from calming atmospheres to stranger environs, and surfacing slowly. TWILIGHT EARTH keeps us under, touring a dark vista that lies just beneath our comforting illusion, keeping pace to a distant cadence. Although this music is highly effective played at low volume, the musicians' artistry has more impact when turned up high. These long-play releases (over two hours, back to back) offer a promise of the future of ambient music. The performers are caught in the act of setting a new standard, and hinting at the innovations to come.