Friday, September 08, 2006

William Fields



(offsite songs)

"Falcor (WF spectral remix)"
"Searchlight Needles"
"The Warm Space"
"Twenty Four"

"Untitled (2000)" &
"Pure Land" by William Fields
genres: ambient, ambient DnB, chillout, electronica, idm, progressive

Fields says he "has been writing music and experimenting with sound since 1993. His work covers a wide range stylistically, but is always warm and melodic." To that I would add atmospheric, experimental (in a good way), and occasionally lilting. Sometimes, you will hear Asian influences in his songs, but they never approach a generic world fusion sound. Much of Fields' music has a story-like structure, and these stories often contain journeys: some of which return back home while others make new soundscapes their destination.

I was fortunate enough to find some of his early music at back in 1998 (before the owners of became greedy and abandoned independent musicians). He quickly became one of my favorite musicians. Since then I've been thankful William Fields has continued to have a presence on the Internet and has continued to share more of his splendid electronic music. To date, he has generously released around 100 mp3s (many of which are live recordings and remixes of the same or similar songs, but a majority of them are unique).

The songs I've selected are among my favorite William Fields songs. I like most of his music (every track in the "Branches" and "Asoka" netalbums are enjoyable and are also good starting points for getting a feel for his talent), but instead of suggesting every song, I thought I should narrow it down to some good starting points.

"Meldy-medly" is a bright, upbeat IDM piece with a sprinkling of break beats. "Nirodha" is an early, dreamy song once described by Fields as "soaring, uplifting drum-n-bass." Listening to it creates a sense of swimming in tropical waters or walking across a meadow during a moonlit night.

As for the offsite songs I've recommended from Fields' website, they're located in 2 pages: the user friendly Recordings and the comprehensive music index located in the raw formatted view of his /music directory.

"Oroborous" and "Colors" are two of his ambient recordings. "Oroborous" is the simplest of the three consisting of a dissonant chord of wavering, ringing tones that rise and fall through a distant cloud of soft static. "Color" is the soothing and colorful alternative to "Oroborous." The cloud of static is there again, but this time there are beams of light shining through them to accompany the smooth sine waves.

Fields' ambient DnB and/or chillout ("Searchlight Needles," "Twenty Four," "Untitled (2000)," and "Pure Land") are rather balanced in terms of rhythm, melody, and padding. The drums and bass are relatively subdued, so, unlike most electronic music let alone typical DnB, the drums and bass don't dominate the soundscape. The soothing "Searchlight Needles" consists of multiple, nicely transitioning parts. It is a song that takes a journey across a mountain side, looking over the great expanse stretching beyond, and returns home after the moment of contemplation is over. "Twenty Four," named after the fact that it's over 24 minutes long, is the culmination of Fields' ambient DnB. It exhibits a progressive trance influence while it weaves through mellow and energetic passages, which gives it the many songs blended into one sense that many DJ's attempt to create by syncing their tracks. "Untitled (2000)" is his take on modern dance music form India filled with pleasant binaural flickering. My favorite ambient DnB song of his, however, is "Pure Land," which is most likely a reference to Pure Land Buddhism. It gets into my head in a way trance tracks wish they could: it is both a bit hypnotic and a touch enlightening. As such, it isn't merely a song for listening but one for experiencing. Through careful panning, sweeping, and tweaked effects, Fields creates an aural presence.

If you like those, other ambient DnB pieces (of varying levels of ambiance) worth trying are "Ananda," "Caravel," "Carlson" (which is a good example of how to create rhythm without using drums or bass), the breakbeat influenced "Lilia," "Manitou," and "Rangzen."

In the last couple of years, Fields has began to work more with IDM and ambient sounds. The bubbly "Bulb" is an early example of his delve into IDM. About half way into the effervescent glitchiness, a lilting melody dances about like the wind and is accompanied by a warm, welling pad reminiscent of slowly ebbing and flowing water. Now, his use of glitch is more controlled and, at times, subtle and the ambient atmospheres receive more attention. "Falcor (WF spectral remix" is airy and has abstract in structure. "The Warm Space" seems to be taking place in an alien forest near a shore during the twilight.

If you're interested in checking out Fields latest album Timbre, which is only available for previewing and purchasing, then you should check out the generous 2 minute long samples of ambient static, blips, and filtering at CD Baby. I prefer his earlier, more colorful ambient songs, but it's good to know he's stretching his talent and learning.

However, should he release another ambient album in the future, I hope he returns to his melodic roots. He could go through his usual process of creating a hybrid of ambient sounds with another genre, then strip the beats from the tracks, and refine the songs from what remains if necessary (e.g. "Pure Land" would work quite well without the drums).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ken Martin


Land of Calm by Ken Martin
genres: Berlin School, space, ambient

Ken Martin is a musician of the
Berlin School w
ho produces epitomic spacey tracks (think NPR's Hearts of Space). In the "Land of Calm," he uses an deep, airy pad for the background while he plays the solo part with a bright synth lead. As the synth begins its slow, swelling melody it seems to be saying, "In-the-Land...of...calm..." It then continues to glow through the darkness of the pads like an aurora in the night.

Using CompWide and Enhancer 017 with Winamp and the plugin stacker MuchFX2 adds greatly to the songs spaciousness when they're adjusted correctly. It's probably not perfect setup, but here's how I have mine configured: