Warmth - Original Warmth [Turgid Animal Records - 2009]"Original Warmth" feels like a "for completists only" live bootleg release designed for fans of an established group. Unfortunately, as an introduction to the work of Warmth, its a bit underwhelming, although enjoyable in the right moods and in small doses.
Basically, the record is slightly less than an hour of mediocre quality basement recordings of unstructured, texture focused electronic jamming by people who evidently don't have access to a lot of equipment. It ends up mostly falling into the ambient niche. There are forays into harsh noise, but they swell typically slowly out of synthesizer drones and do not have a jarring or particularly abrasive sound in context.
The three tracks seem part of the same jam, and blur together, even though the 3rd is apparently from an entirely different release, originally. I found myself having listened to this album several times and still feeling unable to remember much of anything about how it sounded... This record is so easy to tune out that it's almost impossible to focus on it for the duration. My theory is that this is because the musicians themselves seem half asleep. For any genre but ambient, this would of course spell certain disaster, but even the slowest and most somnolent of ambient music can hold my interest when done well (see any of Steve Roach's long form 73 minute ambient "zone" pieces), and it does seem that the zoned out quality of the album comes from the members of Warmth being completely absorbed in the flow of their improvisation - typically a great thing, as it means everything progresses smoothly and is tied together with an unconscious logic.
However, on "Original Warmth" there is simply not enough to really keep your attention. The band goes from sound to sound, drone to drone without much progression or thought. No consistent mood or theme is established, nor does it much feel like I'm taking a 'journey' as a listener. Rather, it sounds like I'm listening to 2 guys slowly turn knobs in a basement in the middle of the night. They have a degree of talent with finding interesting sounds, but they don't seem to find the spark of inspiration here that would enable them to really shape the different sounds into a whole and take you somewhere. It's strangely emotionally static and detached for a release by a band called "Warmth". Only in the 3rd and final track do I find any real sentimentality, which comes here in the form of watery melodic wandering, played of course at a snail's pace. They rely heavily upon swells into harsh noise to break up the flow of the music and create drama. Some manage to find a sort of lo-fi ritual ambient vibe similar to Lashtal or vintage Lustmord, but eventually begin to alternate predictably with quieter passages. By the second track, they've lost some momentum. The dynamic range of the disk is also too widem and the volume has to be continually adjusted. If this sort of sound had only continued for the duration of one of the 15 minute tracks, I would have enjoyed it thoroughly.
I should also mention that I'd much rather have listened to them in their actual basement, because this recording has limitations that perhaps fail to lend the recording the charm it was intended to have. Typically, in ambient music of this kind, in which the synthesizer dominates the sound, and is used both in traditional melodic context and as a noise maker, panning and good production are essential to creating the 'immersive' quality of the sound environment. Only with good quality audio can the subtleties of synthesizer tones be deduced, which in this genre, meant primarily for deep listening, are the core of the music. Unfortunately, "Original Warmth" often sounds like all the instruments were crammed into a very small space directly in front of the listener. There is little to no stereo separation. Thus, listening to this record is kind of like listening to a mediocre Coil bootleg, or any rough audience recording of any band that tends to take advantage of your hi-fi. You know it must've sounded great, but most of the pleasure you get from listening is from imagining you were there. It's more difficult for my mind to fill in the gaps left by the rough sound in the case of this album, as well, as there is no higher quality recording of this material to reference back to.
As a canvas for your thoughts, this album works quite well. If you ever find yourself nodding off while trying to stay awake at your computer in the middle of the night, this is a fitting soundtrack, although it certainly won't keep you awake. So I guess I'm saying - if you're in the mood for something that sounds like a zoned out jam in a college dorm room, or you really like Coil and Throbbing Gristle bootlegs, check this out. Otherwise, it's just another 50 minutes of fairly enjoyable ambient drift. Beautiful album art, though. If only the album reminded me of it. Considering these recordings comprised the first Warmth releases, it makes sense that their ideas take the form of this unformed raw material. They show promise and I'd see them liveJosh Landry