A great love
June 6, 2008

One of the drawbacks of maintaining a decades-long commitment to the promotion of such a broad and constantly-evolving musical idiom as ambient, is the need to ration one’s listening time; the sheer volume of new ambient that’s being produced in the world today precludes the possibility of any one person ever maintaining encyclopedic, up-to-the-minute knowledge of it all.

Consequently, I’ve tended to comprehensively explore the creative output of a number of key artists on a cyclic basis, periodically expanding the list of artists as I go. However, the sequential nature of this approach means that I can easily remain almost completely ignorant of the work of many other artists – even major ones – for years at a stretch.

And then, one day, I’ll stumble across something which grabs me by the throat and beats me about the head repeatedly with its sheer unadulterated, vibrant, radiant, pulsating wonderfulness.

Something which screams “go out and buy every album this person ever produced right now and spend the next three weeks immersing yourself in their brilliance, you ignorant dolt!”

Something like this:

Truly great art by a truly great artist. The lyrics “a great love cut her life” are both prophetic and acutely poignant in light of Ofra Haza‘s tragic death of AIDS-related complications in 2000, at the age of only 42 – a consequence of contracting the HIV virus from her “great love” – husband, Doron Ashkenazi.  

Thankfully we can still delight in her prodigious musical legacy…

In the beginning…
March 7, 2008

As we approach Sunday-week’s 700th broadcast of UT, I thought it might be a good time to answer a question that many people have asked me over the years: how did you first become interested in ambient music?

Well… a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there lived a 16 year-old schoolboy named George. One Thursday “activities day” afternoon, George was listening to the radio while painting a mural on the wall of the art room at De La Salle College, the school he was attending in the southern Sydney suburb of Kingsgrove.

Suddenly George’s attention was seized by the sounds of an extaordinary piece of music, the likes of which he’d never heard before, emanating from the speaker and swirling around the room; music that consisted of a wash of gorgeous synthesiser sounds above which floated the strange, nonsensical words of an ethereal female vocalist. George was entranced.

Then, 3 minutes later, the song finished, and he soon forgot all about it.

Three years passed. It was now 1985. George found himself at university in Wagga Wagga, where he spent orientation week making many new friends.

Returning from a trip to town on the hot, overcast Saturday afternoon immediately preceding the beginning of semester, one of George’s newfound friends pulled an audio cassette out of the glovebox of his car, inserted it into the cassette deck and hit the play button.

Suddenly the vehicle was filled with – you guessed it – a wash of gorgeous synthesiser sounds above which floated an ethereal female vocal.

George quickly discovered that his friend not only knew the name of the artists responsible – but owned a huge collection of recordings by them – and other similar artists as well. It was the beginning of an infatuation with electronic, ambient and related atmospheric music that continues unabated nearly a quarter of a century later.

So what was the piece of music that started it all? See (and hear) for yourself…

And in case you’re wondering, the “female vocalist” is former Yes lead singer Jon Anderson – who is and always has been – a dude.

El Greco and Blade Runner
March 3, 2008

Coming up this week on UT 699 is the Australian radio premiere (yes, another one!) of the newly-released extended 3-CD soundtrack to Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner, by the lord of the symphonic ambient cosmos – Vangelis Papathanassiou – who coincidentally celebrate his 65th birthday this month. Here’s a tiny sample of what’s in store…

…and as if that wasn’t enough to get you quivering with delight, Nev will also be serving up a selection of pieces from the Vangelis soundtrack to the new historic epic about the life of another famous child of the HellenesDomenicos Theotokopoulos – known to history as El Greco. The film promises enough heaving bosoms, evil inquisitors, passionate artistic histrionics and fabulous Baroque dancing to satisfy just about anyone with a pulse…

God is God
February 25, 2008

I’ve long been fascinated to hear how different artists interpret the same piece of music, and stumbled across these two examples of a track called God is God in my recent travels around YouTube.

This one’s by Laibach, a Slovenian experimental industrial music and performance art group that’s been around since 1980…

…and this is a very different version from Juno Reactor (aka Ben Watkins and friends), who among other things was responsible for the soundtrack to The Matrix – possibly the most pompous, over-rated science fiction film of all time. It features the voice of Natacha Atlas along with footage borrowed from The Color of Pomegranates, the extraordinary, gorgeously surreal 1968 film by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov