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Reviews:

Nocturnal Emissions
Futurist Antiquarianism

Soleilmoon Recordings SOL 76 CD (2000)
Track listing


Nocturnal Emissions has been around for nearly 20 years now,but is certainly not just resting on its laurels... with Futurist Antiquarianism, lead "emitter" Nigel Ayers creates inventive electronic music and transforms drum 'n' bass rhythms into something uniquely his own. Nigel is also this month's featured AmbiEntrance Exclusive interview... go there next. The lazily rippling warbles and mutant reggae pulses of Earthlights are thoroughly battered by a drum'n'bass barrage; very listenable for the moody serenity below as well as the hyperactive micro-syncopations above. Simmering electric murk flows into the intriguingly arranged though aeons break laced with dozens of other ghostly sound sources flitting about, to be temporarily joined by mid-tempo, ruffly beats and other phantasmal musical appearances, from symphonic strings to blaring brass to shapeless undulations. Like dance music for extraterrestrial robots, they will not touch you eventually introduces spacy hypermodulated blips to superrhythmic distortions, chilling out then surging back, with brief untintelligible vocal utterances.

Percussion-free Blind Faith seems to move slowly through an abstractly ominous (though entrancing) tunnel of echoing soundwaves and glowering latent energy. One may not be sure of the sonic apparitions of cursus; heavily distorted choir-like choruses (and other oddly reshaped soundforms) waft hypnotically, then receive determinedly pattering e-drumbeats. gridlock continues in a similarly unknowable vein of spooky alterations, churning beatlessly amid gigantic cyclonic forces. Spirited yet subdued, netshaker enters some sort of neo-electro-tribal world, dancing to a dubby bassline and low-key percussive fun. With a buoyant basslike riff, Shetani also emits a bit of an island-vibe, though certainly not straight-forwardly so, with a louder rhythm section. Buzzing currents traverse the spacious netherworld of on come on, where occasional odd noises come and go including weird voice-like interjections, a particularly scritchy pattern and a pair of repeated spoken samples; the track then reprises the previous one, fading to silence at its conclusion. guiding beam, in turn, revisits the beginning of its predecessor... Conceptually, Futurist Antiquarianism offers a bit to think about vis--vis past and present time, but in practical usage it's mostly just a fun listen... Unpredicatable arrangements of electronics and beats rank this Nocturnal Emissions at an appreciative 8.4 on the AmbiEntrance scale. And there's always something interesting at Nigel's own Nocturnal Emissions website, not to mention the goodthings at Soleilmoon.

David J Opdyke
AmbiEntrance



I was left a little unconvinced by NE's attempts at drum & bass via the Transgenic single reviewed last issue. It wasn't so much that it didn't have its own merits, but calling it drum & bass just reminded me a little of arts-council-grant-getting-serious-composer Tim Souster on a South Bank Show years back. I know nothing about Mr Souster beyond this TV appearance where he announced the creation of some highly important work which had taken thematic juxtapositionality (or summat like that) from punk, which was big at the time. Cue five minutes of video featuring a green mohicaned and leather studded theatrical type on a motorbike, snarling vocodered opera into the camera along to a symphony of Yes type keyboards. Now, I'm not usually one to complain or make unkind remarks about the endeavour of a serious artist but - doll me up in stockings and suspenders and make me pick up the soap in the showers at HMP Wandsworth - what a complete and utter utter utter utter pile of toss. There are good reasons why few artists deviate wildly from their chosen field of expression, and this is why Showaddywaddy never made a skatecore comeback, and Tony Hart's gangsta rap album Str8 Ballin' 4 Tha Muthaphukkin' Streetz only exists in an alternative universe.

Anyway, this time Nigel Ayers has pulled out the stops and wholeheartedly thrown his lot in with the drum & bass camp, and it works! Without specifically ripping anyone off, the rhythms are appropriately frenetic, doing that snare-with-coffee-jitters thing in the right places. The extraneous effects and atmospherics, utilising what sounds like bird song on a few occasions, while never overly intrusive, have enough going on to render them of greater impact than the usual drone-forest-bore wallpaper found on discs by Photek and suchlike. As drum & bass goes, I personally prefer the nuttier stuff like Panacea (despite an off-putting but valid remark made recently by a friend that every time he hears Panacea he expects a badly miced up voice to chip in with "Alright sarf London, this one goes out to the Millwall massive...") mainly because the airy-fairy variant is just too wishy-washy. Futurist Antiquarianism is obviously closer in spirit to that drifty-swirly variant of the genre, but manages to succeed where others have often failed. The textures are good and well-stewed, being evocative of imagery other than a spotty herbert with his finger glued to the gain button of a digital reverb. There's something instantly memorable about the distant refrains in the same way as was the case with some of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts - they sound like you've heard them before somewhere, even when you know full well that you haven't.

It is actually embarrassing to give yet another glowing review to NE, even though I have avoided the word 'ambient', but it can't be helped. Another fine album that sounds as good as it sounds different to its predecessors. Hopefully, the next one will be an absolute stinker and I'll be able to sleep easier, but on the strength of this, it sounds like NE's uncharacteristic contribution to New Orleans bounce (or whatever) is still a long long way off.

War Arrow
Sound Projector 8

 

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