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Simon Whetham - Meditations On Light [Monochrome Vision - 2011]

Simon Whetham's "Meditations on Lights" is a sprawling 2 disks of soundscapes, the first containing two long form pieces which provide the source material for the second, a disk of shorter remixes by an impressive line up of ambient and deep listening musicians both well known and obscure.

Simon Whetham's style of ambient music is chordal, consonant and transparent, like protracted classical music played underwater, recalling Stars of the Lid or Kyle Bobby Dunn, with notably less timbral nuance and meaningful melodic progression.  A hinted howl of wind underscores the notes and resonances, but these remain the primary focus.  Whetham brings in the classic watery sound of a Harold Budd-esque reverberant piano on many occasions, and it is quite possible than the less identifiable sounds in these tracks were originally sourced from piano as well.

The pieces have a monophonic "one chord at at time" feel, and the resulting soundspace is not terribly three dimensional or immersive, though very calming.  They drift in a fairly directionless manner, neither repeating nor building to any climactic event.  The title "Meditations on Light", while apt, could apply to nearly any such study of reverberant, muffled tone.  As a rabid fan of ambient music, these tracks do nothing to offend me but do not prove terribly engaging.

The remix disk is where this release really shines, due to the freshness created by the different artists' diversity of approaches and the concise lengths of the tracks.  These artists are not afraid to take the music out of the frame of typical ambient music, most notably Scanner, who shamelessly and abruptly drops a beat into his track "Souvenir", an incredibly refreshing moment.  In some cases I swear I hear things in the mix that couldn't have come from the first disk.  More field recordings are evident than in Whetham's tracks.  Truly bizarre tracks like Iris Garrelfs' "Alien Nebula Rider" utterly forsake the comforting consonance of Whetham's music, and inspire me to look for the artist's other work.  Pieces from notable deep listening composers like Christopher McFall and Yann Novak prove to have more sonic subtlety and dynamic range than Whetham's original works. 

All in all, kind of a mixed bag, but well worth it for the ambient connoisseur due to the outstanding remix disk.  Simon Whetham's pieces on the first disk warrant a 3/5 rating, while the 2nd disk is easily a 5/5, bringing the overall rating of the release to 4/5.  Recommended for patient listeners used to very quiet and minimal soundscapes.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Josh Landry
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