Various Artists - 70 Years of Sunshine [Monotype Records - 2013]"70 Years of Sunshine" is a sprawling double disk compilation of LSD themed exploratory soundscape music, at times intensely emotional and heartbreakingly universal, and all the better for the diversity brought by its eclectic cast. Several of the creative voices heard here are familiar to me, from Rapoon to The Legendary Pink Dots to Kawabata Makoto, but most of the artists featured here are virtually unknown. Their styles sewn together in a slow-drifting quilt of ideas, this a far-flying trip that leaves plenty of room for personal doubts, and pulls the listener by the hand through many revelatory (though not always reassuring or comfortable) climes.
Andrew Liles' "Bloodbury 1988", the album opener, is likely to make many a listener cringe. The only prominent sound in the track is a hopelessly detuned acoustic guitar, plucked in irregular volleys and pockets. The pitches are so dissonant that my ear hardly tries to assign them any of the common 12 note values. This plays upon one of the fundamental ideas of psychedelic music - the discovery of hidden tonal hierachies beyond the commonly acknowledged notes, often found within the overtone systems of sounds.
Rapoon's "Back on the Bus" takes a powerful magnifying lens to the vertiginous feeling of nostalgia that can sometimes overtake me when contemplating the irretrievable nature of the world of the past. In literal terms, it's a processed tape loop sourced from guitar, placed within a vast imaginary chamber of reverb. I've always loved Robin Storey's work, and I think this is one of his best tracks ever.
In contrast to more direct, emotional works like the Rapoon track, we have understated and completely abstract deep listening opuses such as Darius Ciuta's "seR-V". Here we find the kind of precisely generated and sculpted digital tones often heard on labels such as Line and 12k. Listening to this, the mind glides through vast wordless structures. What do they mean?
Lonely Crowd's "It's Getting Near Dawn" has the raw, otherworldly inhumanity of vintage musique concrete, and I can only imagine was sourced from some kind of analog synthesizer or makeshift feedback loop effect. A perfect iteration of the vital message that is also meaningless, and cannot be spoken.
The brain soothing mist of Mystical Sun's "Echoddysey" follows, the first of a number of beautiful space ambient tracks. Weightlessness is assumed as consciousness transitions to vapor within oneiric corridor. The almost imperceptible flow between realms is the most pleasant thing about this album. The periodic "thrum" of Mirt's Soul Disorder resonates in the bones, a canvas for thoughts. Could they have put these thoughts here?
Our first instance of electronic beats is the jarring and "Synesthesia" by Ceremonial Dagger. A haphazard jumble of seemingly random rhythmic stabs, entrances and exits for vintage drum machine, it has an unsettled old school acid vibe. Another unexpected turn comes next with Cotton Ferrox's "How About That?", a charming slice of simplistic electro-dub featuring a rambling stream of consciousness philosophic rant spoken through a vocoder.
Closing disk 1 is Andy Rantzen's delirious "No One Plays Upon Your Mind", a strangely understand disco pulse and fuzz bass with sing-song lyrical cadence. It captures well the feeling of sleep deprivation. "Your life is special for a reason", the vocalist whispers under his breath, as if speaking more to himself than anyone.
Kawabata Makoto brings with him his characteristic feeling of melancholy at being dwarfed by the hugeness of space for his track "Lost Milkyway", which opens the 2nd CD. Having seen this man live, I am astounded by the psychic force of his music. This track is one of the few to have prominent vocals: mournful, pained moans ringing out against the shimmer of an endlessly repeating two chord progression. This is more along the lines of his ethereal folk project Floating Flower than the feedback meltdowns of his main band Acid Mothers Temple.
Lord Tang's "Blue Sunshine" brings rich harp glissandos familiar to anyone who has seen a dream segment in an old cartoon, and further extrapolations on nostaglic Berlin school and Tangerine Dream inspired chord progressions. The vividly visionary quality of this music cannot be denied.
Speaking from experience, minimalist soundscapes and freeform ambient music do not sound remotely minimal or unengaging under the influence of LSD. Indeed, they seem to grip the mind vividly, and to take on life-changing importance. Therefore, I appreciate the way this album plays: a lot of attention has been paid to details. Such sensitive states of mind would be perfect for revealing the hidden layers of this music.
This double album couldn't be more wonderful. There are many more fantastic pieces than I have had space to discuss. If you're at all interested in the world of psychedelic ambience, investigate!Josh Landry