CD, Samarkande Records, 2009
Samarkande are introduced on their website as an apparently experimental group that create by way of improvisation, and to “break the rigidity of electro-acoustic and electronic music”. Quite what the latter point means in practice is a difficult one to answer, it seems.
Whatever it is, listening to this appears something of a daunting task at first attempt – three tracks that total just shy of fifty-two minutes, and the first track takes nearly half of that running time. That first track, “Synapse No.1” is… well, somewhat dull. It’s ambient music that builds gradually through a number of different forms, with snippets of spoken word performance, some ‘found sounds’ that appear here and there, and about halfway through it frustratingly cuts off what had become quite an interesting build with no discernable climax – in fact it just stops dead and goes into some nearly inaudible background effects. Which is where it stays for seemingly an eternity.
So what of “Synapse No.2”? After an apparently listless first couple of minutes, a deep, ominous rumbling appears out of nowhere, changing the atmosphere from the merely dull to actually quite interesting… except that whatever the ‘threat’ was dissipates quickly, and things melt into the wallpaper again, with later accompaniment from squalling saxophones that eventually ends up sounding like the prolonged torture of a number of family pets. At which point chaos ensues when an apparently random selection of keys on a piano are hit for nearly two minutes. By this point – forty minutes in – my patience is being sorely tested.
The thing is that’s about it of interest. “Synapse No.3” is just under ten minutes of… well, nothing much really. Just lots of bumbling, beatless electronics with more of those damned saxophones in the background. Oh, and an unpleasant screech with about two minutes to go.
What worries me, too, is that this is deadly, deadly serious. Someone somewhere will enjoy this, I’m sure, but I like my ‘ambient’ music either to be a little more, er, fun, or to do things of interest. Both have been done before, and can still be done, but this is so serious that it’s quite simply a crushing bore. Maybe I’m missing the point.
— Adam Williams