Determining the quality of an ambient release is a tricky proposition, because the verdict so often comes down to the intersection of expectation and realization; if you want a piece for background listening and the disc delivers background listening, it’s golden. On the other hand, if you want some kind of narrative flow and you get background listening, well, the same disc that was magically so wonderful in the first scenario becomes trash.
Klangwart’s new release, the first in nine years for Markus Detmer and Timo Reuber, will please those who are looking for a narrative. Stadtlandfluss is a beautifully executed piece of ambience, broken up into seven parts on the CD but never delineating itself in any kind of audible way. It spends almost its entire duration in a state of slow build, starting with silence, building through radio static and drones into an almost Autechre-esque pastiche of rhythmic distortion, eventually culminating in a terribly abrasive spiked wall of static before falling off a cliff and completely fading to silence again. As such, it could be a metaphor for a coming hurricane, or a day in the life of a working stiff, or creation—it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that Stadtlandfuss maintains its focus and stays interesting for its entire 35 minutes, making it an utterly engaging success. Just don’t relegate it to the background.