CD, Ressonus, 2008
A mixed bag, this, filled to bursting with varied and disparate examples of experimental sound engineering. I find it somewhat of a shame that that term (experimental) is bandied around the way it is, leaving interested listeners faced with a veritable morass of modulated feedback to sift through in order to find one of a vastly limited number of gems glinting in the muck. The press release for this collection provides further warning: “…major focus on ambient, embracing improvised acts, noise and non-musical structures…”. In my opinion, music without musical structures, like rhythm or melody or even time signature, is not music at all, not even experimental. It’s just disappointing. Since when does “ambient” imply drawn-out, shallow sound manipulation that only a drug-addled mind can find deeper meaning in? This compilation, sadly, falls prey to this affliction to a degree, its saving grace being the relatively high ratio of good to utterly uninspiring tracks it represents.
The disc starts deceptively, placing you at ease with the sublime, dynamic and surprising “Fish Print” by Sunao Inami. You then wade through oceans of pretension and musical hyperbole until Selectone’s “Amor Fati” saves you from mental atrophy with some very subtle layering and textured tweaking. This is followed by Emdy’s “Mirror,” which combines poetic spoken word vocal sampling with delayed sounds that crawl up and down the spine most alarmingly – unsettling stuff, but nice. “Here is no life without a fire,” by Stuzha (Russian for “severe cold”), delivers – after nine minutes of Landschaft roaming through thought processes and frequencies most of us have yet to experience – the most effective melodic treatments on the disc, overlaid on samples of crackling flames. By far the most emotional track on the disc, it is also the most easily assimilated and understood. “Ressonus.net Vol. 1” is brought to a close by a semi-improvisational live piece by Gurun Gurun, which builds slowly to its eventual decay into an orgy of dissonance – a fitting end to this label sampler.
Perhaps some may find my critique harsh, possibly unfair; I have to defend my approach if this is the case. Where some ambient music is easily listenable, atmospheric stuff that can enhance or even alter a mood, this is, by and large, flat and lifeless, save for the few honourable mentions above. I think the intent is above reproach – individual, handcrafted and unique musical endeavours – but the content fails to live up to this. Better luck next time, Ressonus Records.
— David vander Merwe