Although the work week got a bit busier yesterday, for some reason it's the work commute to which I look forward.
It's a simple matter of ambience. Yesterday's mail got me covered in atmospherics, both going and coming. One small box-like parcel brought me Jeff Pearce's new album, "Lingering Light". Jeff Pearce remains one of my favorite ambient artists, who uses mildly treated guitars rather than full-on synthesizers, to achieve waves of melodic ambience that can be by turns spiritual, gorgeous or frighteningly elegiac. In "Lingering Light", he plays a Chapman Stick rather than a guitar. The Chapman Stick intrigues me, because for all its one-string grandeur, it is apparently much more challenging than, say, a can-jo. I'm eager to hear what Jeff does to bring walls of ambience from the Stick. Jeff's an artist who works from a home recording studio in small-town Indiana,
from which studio he creates engaging music that ambient fans love all over the world. Yet, as with so many ambient artists, his name would draw a blank stare if submitted to most folks. I always think this is the best kind of celebrity--to be adored by those who know, and unknown to those who prefer other pursuits. The cover of Jeff's CD intrigues and lures me in--we stand behind a woman with long hair and a partially backless dress (wwhich we see from waist-up). She's looking off in the distance, at a cloudy sky at dusk through which a little light still shows, above a field of wheat. It's a timeless moment, as any photograph can be.
A second CD also arrived, Diatonis' Landscape of a Dream. Diatonis is a more traditional synth and sounds type of ambient artist, but I like his form of light ambient sound, which tends to be melodic without getting saccharine-sweet. He's donating the proceeds of this CD sale to help with good works for people in trouble, which I appreciate.
It's funny how musical discovery has evolved for me over the years. I used to buy the mainstream and somewhat less mainstream rock magazines. I'd read the reviews assiduously, trying to figure out which bands might fit into my musical world-view. When I got a little older, I'd go see the bands the alternative paper mentioned were in town. Most of my record buying came from those sources. Aside from rock, pop, and ambient, I also based on my reading and things I leanred in college tended to buy a fair bit of "avant-garde" artists, using that term in the looser sense--people like Harry Partch and Conlon Nancarrow, fellows with a bit of musical convention-discarding in their souls.
Now it's not quite the same. I found Jeff Pearce when I did an altavista search (in the days when altavista was the happening engine), hunting for home-made ambience after having noticed that my ambient collection tended to older material. Through Jeff, I discovered Hypnos.Com Records, a headquarters for a lot of light, minimalist dark, and middle course ambient, as well as a good retail distributor of all the related sonic experiments, whether obscure noise or wonderful lounge synth jazz. I always trust Hypnos.com, and will order sight unseen from that label. I credit Hypnos for introducing me to the work of Him & the Drinks, perhaps one of my favorite recent musical finds, and yet an artist I stumbled on in a sale bin at the Hypnos site.
I tend to buy independent and small label artists in profusion these days, although I've never stopped buying major or mid-major releases,either. But I love the way that serendipity has replaced institutional marketing in helping define my musical acquisitions. For example, Lisa DeBenedictis has recorded two albums on magnatune.com which I think are just the most amazing alternative pop. I spin them in my CD player rather often. But I didn't learn about Lisa through her music. I "virtually met" Lisa because we are both avid blitz chess players. Indeed, when I first came upon her weblog, the music parts interested me, but I felt she clearly needed more chess content. It was a delightful surprise that she makes intelligent pop with an edge, working alone on a home studio.
So many people emit signals that radio telescopes should discover.
So now, each time I visit ambientreview.com, hypnos.com, magnatune.com, or archive.net, it's like being an explorer for new sounds and fun things to hear. It's a brave new musical world out there. I'm leaving the fetters of convention at home, and discovering the beauty of sound, as sound.