Various Artists ~ Aquarius

Aquarius10 countries, 17 artists, 15 exclusive tracks: Aquarius is a fine representation of the current scene.  Dronarivm has already produced ten releases and is making a quick impact on the market.  Despite the disparity of the artists, a few light threads tie them together.  Each of these songs is exactly five minutes long, save for the opening track (4:59 on the disc) and the bonus track (available only in digital form).  The general concept is the cosmos, which is about as general as a concept can get, but it allows the artists to delve into meditative journeys without apology.  And this may be the first compilation ever dedicated to Polish fashion designers, likely more a reflection of Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq)’s friendships than of any compositional connection.

To the outside listener, not immersed in ambient music, the compilation may come across as fuzzy and undefined.  But to the ambient fan, the same sounds glitter like cosmic dust.  With so much ambient music being released lately (at least ten each week being sent to our offices alone), there’s no better way to keep track of it all than to investigate a compilation.  Do you like sub-aquatic tones?  Check out Pjusk.  Undulating drones?  Proceed to Loscil.  Dark tones graced by mysterious field recordings?  Hakobune + Hiroki Sasajima have the goods.  Once you know what kind of ambient music you prefer, you’ll be able to find a lot more.

To this listener, the standout tracks come from The Green Kingdom, Simon Whetham, and Pleq + Mathieu Ruhlman.  The Green Kingdom’s popped guitar and chime-based “Pineloops3” seems more personal than anything he’s produced since The Great Blue Heron, a reflection perhaps of hearing a single track removed from its normal context.  There’s a bird in it too!  Simon Whetham travels far from his normal territory with the haunted “For a Short Moment, Our Love Was Strong”, which sounds more like The Caretaker than anything in Whetham’s back catalog.  And Pleq + Mathieu Ruhlman offer the crunchy and crumpled “Metrics #1”, which sounds like a crackling fire by a receding tide. This new collaboration should definitely be expanded into a full-length work.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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