There’s been a lot of news to be angry about this year, from terrorism to Brexit to the U.S. presidential elections to the ongoing crisis in Syria. What to do with all this anger? The healthiest approach is to channel it into something positive, which Svetlana Maraš and Bodies Under The Waterfall do in the second installment of Forwind’s Angry Ambient Artists series ~ ironically, once again ending up in the Drone category. As the series progresses, we may determine that “angry ambient” is an oxymoron, but it’s still a catchy title.
Last time around, the artists involved (Machinefabriek and Phillippe Petit) were well-known for their softer works, as well as their forays into abrasion. This time, the artists are new, which leads one to wonder if they were ever ambient at all. Their stated goal: “to make some creative sense of these dark times.” These sounds are indeed dark, beginning with a pair of electro-acoustic works from Serbian artist Svetlana Maraš. Serbia is a dark place to begin with, the site of enormous bloodshed in the closing decade of the 20th century. One would hope that the world would learn from the ugliness of “ethnic cleansing” to never allow such a travesty to happen again. Wishful thinking. It’s no wonder Maraš is angry. “Habitat” and “Aftermath” are excellent works in the vein of Bjarni Gunnarsson and Gianluca Favaron ~ grainy, textured perturbations that hint at troubled minds and broken rocks. In the first piece, a gong seems to sound ~ a call to arms, or a requiem. In the second, static surges ricochet around the speakers like radioactive debris. It’s as if a Geiger counter has been re-calibrated to read humanity’s darkest imaginings.
Don’t expect to be cheered up by an artist with the name Bodies Under the Waterfall or tracks titled “Apathetic Pathetic”, “Drinking Problem” and “Drowns.” The U.K. artist otherwise known as George Royle plunders the internet for samples to manipulate, seeking to dissect sound in order to understand it. Ironically, his reorganizations do make a strange sense ~ certainly more so than political rhetoric and verbal riot. Royle’s longer tones grant his works a more drone-like edge than Maraš, and his anger is apparent in growing clouds of dissonance, mimicking the cacophony of voices ~ as Shakespeare writes, sound and fury, signifying nothing. Voices break through, but no problems are solved; instead, the music seems to rail against apathy. In the loudest track, “Drinking Problem”, one starts to wonder if any voice could be understood above the noise, a metaphor for these dissonant times. While we’re looking forward to more installments in 2017, our greater hope is that one day humanity might take a turn for the better and calm these angry ambient artists down. (Richard Allen)