FTERRDOR; THE ART COLLEGE sculpture court, Edinburgh. Alongside the usual installations, projected scenes cover the walls and images ﬂash from multiple television screens. A sound gradually builds from a background rumble to l a rising high crescendo, filling the roof and arches of the building with sweeping electro-waves. The music and images subtly seep into the consciousness of the assembled audience, unobtrusively taking up a mental space. Such is the quietly surging coup of Transparent i Source. it’s an appropriate metaphor for the growth ' of the ambient scene in Scotland itself, moving from marginal chill-out corners to being the central focus of a new generation of clubs like Squid (Edinburgh) and Soundclash Republic (Glasgow). Colvin Cruikshank, Simon Miller and Shaleph O’Reill are Transparent Source, a band set squarely in the centre of the Scottish live/club interface. Their amorphous trance-inflected club sets and multi- media happenings at the Art College forge spatial soundscapes from on-the-spot mixing, pre- programmed sampling, live percussion and keyboards. ‘In some respects it’s improvisation,’
says O’Neill (keyboards, mixing) ‘but within the boundaries of having some preconceived ideas.’ Transparent Source produce freefonn musical textures using a variety of atmospheric strains from religious chanting to the naive burbles of the Roland 303, the bit of technology responsible for the acid- house squelch. These sounds are draped over a sparse, pounding beat with the stress on rhythmic minimalism. ‘The aim is to encompass as many
different musical styles as possible,’ states
Transparent Source: the social realist end of the ambient spectrun.
Cruikshank (mixing and co-ordination).
This diverse intent reaches into the performance itself where aural collage, projections and scratch video techniques meet in the aesthetically charged environment of the sculpture court or dimmed club. It’s a vision worlds away from the chill-out clichés of two guys, decks and an oil wheel. ‘We want to surprise people,’ says Colvin. ‘We’re not into being labelled ambient although it’s probably the closest description of what we do.’ (Bethan Cole)
1. BRIAN Elli): Music for Films/Music for Airports (Virgin/E6) When Eno found himself combining 18th century harp music with everyday background noise whilst confined to bed after an accident, a new musical horizon unfurled. Among the noteworthy results that followed are. . . 2. STEVE RILLACE: Rainbow Dome Musick (Vlrgln) Truly cosmic guitar mantras to wrap your cerebellum in little ﬂuffy clouds of inter- galactic New Age vapourspacc, as favoured by Alex Paterson in his 1990 chill-out room at Heaven. But don’t think we’ve forgotten about the tea cosy headgear. Steve. oh no. 3. EDGAR FROESE: Aqua (Vlrgln) With synthesisers the size of large supermarkets and a motor-neuron capacity facilitiated by being sozzlcd and German at the same time, Tangerine Dream's own Strewelpeter sculpted a glacial, spellbinding flow of aquatic atmospherics that still has arriviste chillers tying their legs in knots every time it‘s played. - . 4. TERRY RILEY: Rainbows in Curved Air (035) Well, with a title like that, you‘re hardly likely to go wrong. Extremely minimalist tonal exercises that alter almost imperceptibly. the sound of cloud shadows passing over sand dunes. Listen closely and you might hear God talking. Or your partner talking. 5. THE ORB: Adventures Beyond the Underworld (Big Life) Ambient hits the big time. as humour. pastiche, naughty samples, dubhy bassiincs. chubby beats and self-mocking vinyl ﬂatulence contrive to sprawl. yawn and count up the crisp green ones. Suddenly, Pink Floyd aren’t just for your deeply-unfashionable older brother.
Ten milestones in an ever-moving ambient landscape:
6. APREX TWlil: Selected Ambient Works Vol 1 (R 8- S, Belgium)
The Mozart of his generation apparently, this scritchcty collection saw a kid of barely eighteen take techno. ambient and electronic music into his garden shed with equipment soldered together from old toasters and Sinclair Spectrums to give a gentle lesson in how it's done. Astounding stuff.
7. RALPH HILDENBEUTEL: looking Beyond (Recycle or Die)
Some of the finest ambient epics around right now are being created, ironically enough. by hardcore techno bashers in their spare moments, and this is as magniﬁcicnt as any. A rich tapestry of world music, a modem-day shamanic archaic revival. ‘lnner Pcace’ even dares to spin on the axis ofan acoustic camp- fire guitar. Cool.
8. PETER IAMLOOK: Definitive Ambient Collection (Rising High/Fax)
The genius ofthe moment. Namlook‘s output is frighteningly prolific, currently running at around 100 records a year, most of them peerless excursions into hyper-trance and ambient homo-domes.
9. 812: Electro-Soma (Warp)
Elusive London set-up who have taken the spirit of original Detroit techno to fashion a loosely danceable. chrome-plated soundtrack to possible future worlds where mechanical movement is life‘s sole purpose. The beautifully disciplined sound of machines making love. 10. SEEFEEL: Cuique (Too Pure)
Quite possibly a turning point in the history of guitar music, Seefeel capture the sound of the mermaids weeping as they fine mesh oceanic guitars, fluffed sonic rhythms, tuff dub bass lines and amniotic harmonies into a silken cocoon of overwhelming emotional resonance. Rock‘s final fanfare before rebirth.
Selection by Calvin Bush, who 0.15 at Sonora on Sundays downstairs at The 13th Note.
AMBIENT Top TEN
Top: The Orb in their minimalist double album days. Below: One of Peter limelook’a we released this year.
12 The List 3—l6 December I993