Posts Tagged ‘Ambient’

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Sigur Rós – ( )

Monday, March 29, 2010

( ) (2002)

If Ágætis byrjun were Spring and melting snow and rushing rivers, then ( ) would be Fall and glaciers encroaching their icy claws over an already icy land.

Sigur Rós slows down here. The music exchanges the extreme range of emotion of Ágætis byrjun for the deep melancholy of ( ). This work is sadder, and deeper. If Ágætis byrjun were joyful exuberance, then ( ) is sorrowful wisdom. If Ágætis byrjun were youth and dancing, then ( ) is regret and old age.

The music is minimalistic in comparison, and shows another side of Sigur Rós’ brilliance. The music has a cold and haunting quality, like the year’s first rush of cold wind. It numbs and freezes you with its strains of sorrow.

Like Ágætis byrjun, ( ) strikes deep into my soul. The notes eerily describe how I often feel. But unlike Ágætis byrjun, it strikes solely into feelings we do our best to avoid – like sadness and pain and distance from a world that always seems to be going the other way. There’s the feeling of a scaling a beautiful, snow-capped mountain, hoping to see a promised land beyond of eternal spring, but instead of only finding a desert of ice.

( ) might be too bleak for some people’s tastes. But it is bleakly honest. To me, it’s about searching and searching, yet coming up short. It’s always trying to find home, telling ourselves it’s beyond the next mountain range. And then the next, and then the next, and then the next…

Maybe this sounds too depressing for you. But when describing this album, it’s impossible for me to do otherwise. And I think we mature when we contemplate the hard questions and enter the house of mourning rather than the house of feasting.

This album will mean different things to different people, making it all the more difficult to describe. But one thing is for certain – if this music enters you, it will get you thinking and feeling. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave for you.

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Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ágætis byrjun (1999)

Ágætis byrjun is among the most beautiful music I’ve heard.

It whispers, it shouts, it thunders, it flows like clear, cold water. Sorry for the metaphor binge, but I can’t describe it literally.

I might not understand the words (because they’re in Icelandic). But the best music speaks without words.

Ágætis byrjun is that rare album that ceases to be mere entertainment and achieves art. It’s spiritual, lifting your soul to the clouds, reminding you that life and the world is beautiful. Its melodies are like memories from childhood, almost forgotten. It reminds me of when I saw the world through magical eyes, where anything and everything was possible, where love came as naturally as breathing.

I have a hard time describing what this music does to me. At the risk of sounding crazy, sometimes before falling asleep, I hear the most beautiful music in my mind. I could never remember it or write this music down. I just enjoy it while it’s still there, and maybe when I go to Heaven I can write it down. I know that probably sounds stupid, but that is the closest comparison I can find. I guess angels’ song also works.

Perhaps this music speaks to you, too. Maybe you feel the same about it. Maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just some guy (yes, it’s a guy) singing unnaturally high, orchestrating the notes in such a way to go for the cheap emotional knockout. But that’s sort of what I love about this album – the pure emotion of it.

And isn’t that what good music is supposed to do, anyway?

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Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II

Friday, March 26, 2010

Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)

I bought this on a whim. When I popped into the CD player and put my headphones on, I realized I had made a dreadful mistake and that I had wasted about $20. I felt stupid, considering I thought this would be something awesome that I would like immediately.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty open-minded with most types of music. I can listen to just about anything that has artistic merit.

But with Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume Two, it seems I have met my match.

Because this music is what it says it is in the album title. It’s ambient. It has very little structure, if any at all. When I listen to this, I feel like I’m in zero gravity, floating through space, completely disoriented and confused. It’s like the feeling you have right before you fall asleep, that place where strange thoughts come, where suddenly everything feels like it makes sense.

This album is a taste of that, and I don’t believe it’s something the conscious mind can wrap itself around.

I don’t listen to this often. Once a year, at most. It’s just not that kind of music. I could listen to this on a sleepless night around 3 or 4  in the morning, alone in a dark room when I’m writing a late night paper or studying for finals, in the dark hour right before the first gray on the horizon appears. It’s music that must be listened to alone.

In any case, I won’t pretend to understand anything about this album. I don’t understand it. I don’t enjoy it very much, except when I’m in the rare mood for a song (if you could call them that) or two. But I don’t hate this kind of music, either. I understand there is merit, even if I don’t know what that merit is.

It’s not my bag, but when I’m in a rare mood, when my mind is on its level, I can listen to it. No doubt ambient music is challenging to listen to, and it may take more patience than I’m willing to have to form a more decent opinion on it. In that case, I continue listening to it, when I feel that rare mood strike.