The Future Elements is an India-based project, whose goal is to eventually become a label, and Elements 1 is their first release, a more than decent collection of tracks by artists that can all, more or less fit under the umbrella of ambient. Some of the artists such as Anoice or our very own Pie are Squared are more well-known, but for the majority of the participants, Elements 1 is a great introduction to their music.
While the term ambient has been used for pretty much everything in experimental music that isn’t too noisy since the days of Brian Eno, and the style of the participants in this compilation varies from ambient that is so quiet it hardly moves to post rock crescendos driven by guitar distortion and loud drums, the majority of the artists manage to make music that is in tune with its environment, using various instruments, field recordings, and approaches that differ from the robotic to the uber-melodic. The album would flow smoothly as if being produced from person, rather than being a collection of tracks by artists from all over the world, if not for the lone exception (well maybe not, but certainly most obvious one) is the Absent Hearts, who come straight from the ’90s reminding us of Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and other grunge bands. They’re not particularly bad, but if that’s your thing you probably wouldn’t care much about this collection and one has to wonder about the criteria used to select some of the tracks.
That being said, one can’t help but appreciate some of the album’s many excellent moments, and begin searching for more music by the artists featured. Take for example the lovely “Laura” by Sky Flying By, which makes great use of background noise and various instruments drowned by sound to make something very peaceful, which gradually forms into a primitive toy-like percussion beat. Wonderful stuff. Or Bob Guido’s “Leaving the World Behind” with its beautiful a la Stars of the Lid melodic ambient, which keeps the perfect balance between intellectual aloofness and pulling at your heartstrings. The guitar and piano perfection of New Mexico based Lowercase Noises, brings to mind Eluvium with its attempt at telling us a story of sadness and the triumph of love and kindness in an 8 minute composition. The more electronic “Breath” by British artist Apta has the sensitivity that is lacking from much electronic music, and the creativity of ’90s Aphex Twin. Another one of the many tracks I enjoyed was “Goodnight, Bongaloo” by Good Weather for an Airstrike, a track made at an attempt to create relaxing sounds that would help induce sleep. While it didn’t put me to sleep, it achieves its goal of relaxing the listener with its nocturnal sensitivity, lovely guitar introduction and very appropriate usage of sampled dialogue.
The list of artists worth mentioning is endless (a total of 35 artists contribute to the compilation), but it wouldn’t be right if, in addition to the artists mentioned above, I didn’t give a thumbs up to the Stray Theories remix of sink\sink’s “Astronavt” with its atmospheric a la Ulrich Schnauss keyboards, an hymn to optimism, or to the Eternal Twilight remix of the Echelon Effect’s “What makes us so uncommon”, a track with a very nocturnal feel, which proves one again that one can make wonderful ambient using the most simple ingredients.
All in all, what makes the compilation worth listening to is the optimism and creativity of all participating artists, artists that have given their best to push the boundaries of sound even further while still making something digestible. (John Kontos)