The world of electronic ambient is a curious one. In many respects it draws parallels with the sonic experimentation of mid-period Pink Floyd, Yes and Gong – all progressive rock pioneers who realised the power of the synthesiser to add texture and depth to their work – although the subsequent expansion of the ambient sound to cover a whole host of sub-genres with The Orb’s hypnotic beats lounging in the chill out room at one end and Necro Deathmort terrifying the perpetually paranoid with their arachnid industrial noise at the other shows that ambient had even more to offer than those spaced out sonic explorers of the seventies truly realised. Even the word ‘ambient’ is somewhat misleading, for ambient suggests music that blends in to the background, which seems to me to be one of the worst insults you could land a band with. Terrible? OK – at least there’s a reaction; bland? Background music? That implies the listener doesn’t even feel engaged enough by what you’re doing to come up with an opinion. So, ambient is not about simply fitting into the background, but rather about creating a mood; a feeling conjured out of beguiling sonic elements and whether that mood is one of claustrophobic fear, as you might find on an Axis of perdition record, or wide eyed naivety, as you might expect from f*** buttons, the best practitioners of ambient will always make you feel something.
Music for voyeurs are a case in point. An ambient band with post rock leanings (think Mogwai with synths instead of white hot guitars), MFV are consistently engaging and this latest work comes free (via bandcamp), allowing you to experience their hypnotic sounds for yourself. Published on the American underground blog Everything is chemical, ‘EICV7″ No. 50’ is a reminder of everything that MFV do best and highly recommended, even essential, for those interested in exploring the outer reaches of what might be loosely termed progressive ambient.
Opening with ‘sing one note man’, MFV tread warily into the fray with sampled grand piano and echoing noise. It immediately conjures a mood not dissimilar to Anathema’s more recent output; melancholy without being depressing, bereft but not without hope; and as the musical elements slowly draw together with echoed voices slithering through the cracks, the music takes on the form of a hybrid between the music crafted for ‘Jam’ and Nine Inch Nails’ ‘ghosts i-iv’. ‘Agua, cola, beer’ with its more traditionally ambient soundscape sounds like U2 filtered through the minds of a stoned festival goer who’s spent three days in the rave tent untouched by the events of the wider world and lost in an inner trance bought on by lack of sleep and over-consumption of substances that may (or may not) be illegal, depending upon where you are reading this review. A subtle, echoing, dreamy track it phases in and out of consciousness before ‘what if it turns out good’ crackles into being, overlaid with a faux-vinyl sheen (when really this should just be available on vinyl) and drawing upon ‘CODY’-era Mogwai for inspiration. Almost poetic, ‘I knew it was love’ with its dreamy commentary and languid guitar sounds like a conversation heard from the depths of a morphine-induced coma, the world fading to black as the music slowly wends its way towards the EPs final track, ‘colliding lovers’, a glittering piece that juxtaposes the gravitas of the grand piano against the stuttering lights of the cold, electronic world for a piece that is hauntingly beautiful.
We live in a world where music is available everywhere and in vast quantities. Do we benefit from this? If we know where to look, or to whom to turn for help, then certainly we do, but all too often music, particularly music given away for free, is overlooked and ignored as a result of the vacuum left by the once over-flowing promotional coffers of the music industry. Ironically, now that so much music is available people are forced to turn ever more to traditional channels (music magazines and blog sites) in order to sort the wood from the proverbial which means that out there, on the fringes, some truly great music is being left to fade into obscurity. Available for free (and posted at the base of this review to get you there quicker), this EP from Music for voyeurs is a subtle, dreamy trip that, some years past, would undoubtedly have appeared on Chemikal Underground or Warp, but now is available online thanks to those adventurous folk at Everything is Chemical. Haunting, melodic and quite, quite beautiful, this short EP is the perfect induction into the world of Music for voyeurs and well worth your time.