The name is incongruous, the concept endearing. Angry ambient artists? You betcha. People expect ambient artists to have ambient personalities as well: floating, drifting, relaxing, calm. Some may even expect ambient artists to speak in abraded loops. Yet as Depeche Mode once noted, people are people. Angry Ambient Artists is a reaction to the label, akin to turning a rock and finding worms underneath. As the press release notes, “they won’t be playing this tape at Ibiza this summer.” But just wait ’til Halloween!
What do ambient artists sound like when they’re angry? The amusing answer: drone. Yes, Machinefabriek & Philippe Petit have worked their way right out of the ambient tag with this one. And if they’re angry about it ~ insisting that this is ambient music ~ oh well. Those familiar with the artists may not be that surprised, as the former has worked with abrasion before and the latter is known as an experimentalist. But when asked, each one was eager to contribute a track, hoping to raise listeners’ eyebrows and perhaps to make them cover their ears. We love these sounds, but can also imagine those accustomed to the quieter side of ambience ~ light as opposed to dark ~ wrenching the cassette out so quickly that the tape leaves the spools.
Machinefabriek’s “Graniet” may be the best piece he’s released since last year’s Sneeuwstorm, and in light of his productivity, that’s saying quite a bit. As one might expect from the title, the piece sounds like agitated grains heating and colliding. The Forwind label asked for his “nastiest” track, and while this isn’t quite it, it does contain a purposeful veer from the accessible. One can still hear the restful influence in the sine wave, while the sawtooth seeks to dissipate any ambient thought. Some seconds sound like dripping stalactites, others like clanging bells and the closing of large metal doors. Sorry to say this, Rutger, but “Graniet” is still accidentally gorgeous.
Philippe Petit tries a little harder to be dissonant, especially in the opening moments of “In Corpus Voluptas”. Sudden swoops and swirls of sound, like spaceships and mad organists, litter the sonic field. The theremin is not so much played as batted about as if it were an anxious mosquito. Again chimes are struck, connecting the two works (likely unintentional), but they provide structure to the piece in its closing minute, a rhythmic ringing that seems to indicate anger turning into purpose, although certainly not to ambience.
Our hope for future installments is that some of the quietest artists might be contacted, and be game. What would Yann Novak sound like if angry, or Chihei Hatakeyama? Perhaps the answer is the same as the one given by Bruce Banner: you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Then again, based on these initial tracks, maybe we would. (Richard Allen)