By the end of the 1980s, the excitement surrounding early ambient music artists like Brian Eno, Harold Budd and Daniel Lanois had given way to the artistically suspect new age movement. Truthfully, the word movement gives that dark period too much credit. The only thing labels like Wyndham Hill managed to move was units. Lots and lots of units.
Things got sufficiently desperate that U.S. label SST produced a back-handed compliment in the form of a No Age compilation. Instrumental tracks from your favourite alt-rock bands. The project was similarly forgettable.
We’ve come a long way since those days of gongs and pan whistles. The grittier side of ambient music is no longer a commentary on less challenging instrumental music. It is a subgenre in its own right. It’s home to a good deal of the world’s most creative new music.
Forwind’s burgeoning Angry Ambient Artists series can be seen in this light. Despite its playful name, it is less a response to the mainstream of ambient music than it is a part of where the real action is.
This third volume in the series features three tracks from African Ghost Valley, a duo featuring Childe Grangier and Gabriel Ghebrezghi. Billy Roisz provides a fourth track. These recordings are all imaginative and beautifully produced.
“OC 154 T” is the best of the three from African Ghost Valley. The distortion effects are stunning. Five and a half minutes of raw power, finally wrapping with what sounds like the end of your sound system (if not the world).
Roisz’s contribution slams us with wave after wave of static and distorted ambient sound. There is so much going on here that we’re drawn further in with each new sound. Over the course of its 13 minutes, the piece renews itself repeatedly. It’s a tremendous work.