Ambient music, eh? What started as Brian Eno’s attempts to move away from compositional focus on structure and repetition into the realsm of unpredictable atmospherics has long since developed into something of a byword for elevator music: background noise pleasant enough to avoid being annoying and aimless enough to remain firmly in the background. Add in New Ageisms such as whale sounds and superficial world music flavorings, and what was originally intellectually liberating has become limited and cloying, and therefore rightly abhorred as a meaningless soundtrack for the spiritually stoned by the party-happy mainstream. As with any other form of minimalist art, be it calligraphy or Go, ambient music remains easy to do and terrifically hard to master, so I suppose in our individualist era of musical history the laptop wielders of the world made its downfall more or less inevitable.
Silvercord is the current moniker of Geoff Nostrant, busy making film music in South Korea. I have no idea whether the six tracks collected here are connected to a particular movie or TV series, or whether they’re the beginnings of a more abstract, personal project that he’s been working on his spare time, but you could certainly see them working wonderfully well as mood backdrops. Indeed, Nostrant’s avowed intention is to incite altered states of consciousness (“music is a drug”)—certainly not a new point of view, though rather an off-putting, manipulative one in the context of Nostrant’s profession. But then, we do go to the cinema in the express hope of becoming immersed, of having our emotions played with, and anyway most anything’s better than the saccharine, predictable strings ‘n’ beats sludge Hollywood serves up as the accompaniment to its productions these days.
Be warned, this EP does feature some genre clichés in the form of chanting, whether male (vaguely Tibetan monk-like) or female (opera-lite sustained high notes). However, these as used purely as tonal and melodic devices rather than as performers, vocal lines becoming indefinitely sustained to float above the waves of sound beneath, or being broken down and echoing into themselves until they become a cloud mass, drifting in the instrumental currents. Nostrant succeeds in drawing you into his compositions by focusing on Eno’s original interests; the feeling of space, of travelling within the music, itself more a lush distillation of tones into a single idea or place than any juxtaposition. Ten minutes into the half-hour EP, “God Came Down”, with its psychedlic, sunny pop singing and rolling drumbeat, drops like a rock into a still pond, providing a little variety (and another link to the genre’s past, as well as Eno’s, natch).
It’s the opener “Bioluminescence” and closer “Elfin Lament” that stand out, however, erm, uninspired their titles. They’re both excellent slides through, and indeed into, sound’s ability to mesmerize and heal and would be totally at home on Chicago’s Kranky label, which says it all, really. Those recently brought into the fold by the likes of Growing should head over to silvercordproject.com forthwith and see which sonic hallucinogens Nostrant is currently brewing for them.
// Notes from the Road
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