12-hour ambient music pieces from ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Alien,’ ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Star Wars’
02:28 pm


Star Wars
Blade Runner
Dr. Who

Before the advent of recording media, a piece of music could be quite long without its duration meriting much notice, but when the mechanical limitations of the 7” 45rpm single codified the length of a song at about 3 1/2 minutes, the pop-listening western world really adapted its musical mindset to that standard, to the point where even a massive hit like “Hey Jude” drew anxious notice from radio for being 7 minutes long. And now there’s QuickHitz (“Twice the music, all the time”), a radio format that cuts off every song at the two-minute mark, which, if it catches on in a big way—and face it, have stranger things not caught on?—will surely result in loads of pop singles being produced at under two-minute lengths.

The Residents are prophetic yet again.

But in avant-garde classical and artrock circles, songs that seem crazy long by pop radio standards are a perfectly normal part of the listening experience. After all, what impact would Oneida’s infamous 14-minute, one note song “Sheets of Easter” have had if it were three minutes long? How about Television’s “Marquee Moon?” King Crimson’s “Starless?” Flaming Lips’ 24-hour song7 Skies H3?” And those examples are all well within the rock idiom—I haven’t even broached the New Age, noise, and ambient genres. So many of us have been acculturated to think of long pieces of music as “pretentious” or “indulgent,” products of anti-populist ivory tower navel gazers who are hostile to average listeners. Well you know what? Fuck your shitty attention span.

The Fayetteville, AR composer Cheesy Nirvosa has been making glitchy, drony compositions since the mid-oughts, and under the name “crysknife007,” he’s established a YouTube channel to disseminate conceptual pieces of lengths that could fairly be seen as downright punitive to many listeners. These are often the sorts of things that, in a LaMonte Youngish kinda way, can be more interesting to talk about than actually listen to, especially since many of these works are 12 hours in duration. “12 Hours of Pi Being Dialed on a Rotary Phone.” “Yoda Laughs for 12 Hours.” “PSY Says HANGOVER for 12 Hours.” “6 Tone Car Alarm for 12 Hours.” (I recommend city dwellers skip that last one, it’s waaaaaaaay too much like ordinary life.)

But while a few of these ideas come off as overly winking and even mildly irritating noise-artist stunts, some of them are absolutely lovely—specifically, pieces made from looped ambient sounds culled from science fiction movies. The general thrum of Ridley Scott’s dystopian future Los Angeles filtered through Rick Deckard’s apartment windows in Blade Runner? That absolutely holds up as drone music, as does the TARDIS sound effect from Doctor Who and various spaceship engine sounds from the Alien and Star Wars franchises. I endorse playing more than one of these at once, remixing them yourselves in your browser with the pause and volume controls, whatever. Knock yourself out. Maybe even, I dunno, listen to one of ‘em for 12 hours.


More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Massive Attack vs Burial ‘Four Walls’

Neither of these acts need an introduction, so let’s just let the music speak for itself (a Burial remix of a track from Massive Attack’s forthcoming album):

Massive Attack vs Burial ‘Four Walls’

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Cornish Acid: Aphex Twin MTV special from 1996

“Come To Daddy” sleeve painted on “SAW2” cassettes by Sami Havia
This is a treat for fans of IDM and ambient music - a 70 minute, 1996 Aphex Twin special from MTV UK’s Party Zone dance program. There’s an interview with Richard James, numerous videos, some live footage from the Big Love festival, and an extended extract from the Warp Records’ film Westworld, a collaboration between Aphex Twin and visual artists Stakker.

There’s always been something about James that has struck me as bratty - from the tales of driving tanks through central London to numerous reports from friends of spending relatively large sums on tickets only for James not to play, or not to play properly. This interview doesn’t really do much to dispel that, but it does give a bit of insight into his working methods at the time, and goddamit his tunes are good. So sit back, relax, and zone out:

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Emeralds: ‘Does It Look Like I’m Here?’
06:58 am



With the Daft Punk soundtrack for Tron Legacy giving off some serious Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre vibes, it seems like it is finally acceptable to be influenced by 80s-style electronic ambience. The album Does It Look Like I’m Here? by the band Emeralds (no “the” - that’s a Japanese surf-rock band) is one of the best examples of a modern take on this sound, and how to do it well.

Released on the Austrian label Editions Mego last year, it’s been a bit of a sleeper hit with the electronica and techno community, ending 2010 in many best-of lists. Full of washy synths, cliff-edge guitar dynamics, slowly building arpeggios and practically no drums, it brings to mind the aforementioned artists in their darkest and most introspective moments. It’s psychedelic, it’s moody, and for the want of a better term it’s progressive. I would imagine it’s a good soundtrack for certain kinds of herbal refreshment.


Emeralds - Genetic (part 1)

Emeralds - Double Helix

Emeralds - Does It Look Like I’m Here?

Emeralds have been gigging and recording for the last 4 or 5 years - Does It Look Like I’m Here? is their fourth album, and their most accessible so far. But they’re not from Greece, Scandinavia or Germany - the band actually hail from Ohio. Along with similar ballpark acts from the States like Zombi (from Pittsburgh), it makes me wonder if this kind of epic progressive-synth music doesn’t have the same negative cultural references there that it has in the UK? I know Tangerine Dream were pretty big in the US in their day. However, the cultural legacy of punk in Britain meant that they were seen as being super uncool. Thankfully the times have changed and we can now accept this as being simply great music. You can buy Does It Look Like I’m Here?, um, here.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Don’t call it Ambient: Optimo FACT 214 Mix
02:12 pm



If you enjoyed those slowed down versions of the Jurassic Park theme and Justin Beiber, and I know some of you did, I think you will like this mix by UK ‘s Optimo (Espacio). It’s a lovely, if slightly unsettling collection of beatless and atmospheric tracks, old and new. JD Twitch, one half of the influential Scottish DJ/production duo says:

I’d say this mix is beatless rather than ambient as a definition of ambient is ‘a background music without rhythmic elements’. That applies to some of the selections here but several of the tracks are definitely rhythmic in that they pulse or move forward without the need of a kick drum to propel them.

FACT mix 214 - Optimo (Jan ‘11) by factmag

Odd Machine – Phase In (edit)
Cindytalk – Our Shadow, Remembered
Alvo Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto – Morning
This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren (JD Twitch Reversion)
Zoviet France – The Decriminalisation Of Country Music
Sun City Girls – Come Maddalena
Forest Swords – The Light
Oneohtrix Point Never – Young Beidnahga
No Man – Days In The Trees
Tomita – Clair De Lune
Conrad Schnitzler – Ballet Statique
Peter Baumann – This Day
Reichmann – Wunderbar
Duet Emmo – The First Person
Carol – So Low
Zoviet France – Vienna (extract)

This mix is available to download for another two weeks only. The full interview is here.




Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment