Never before has there been a more unlikely pair ekeing out neo-ambient/drone music. Foltz has worked with, amongst others, Steely Dan, jazz drummer Tony Williams and Barry White; Lynn’s cut his teeth on various film and theater sound productions, none of which have the slightest ties to patron saint Eno’s inaugurated genre.
Irrelevant, nonetheless—the three volumes of Still Life (Interlude is made up of elements of the first) combined represent some of the most brilliantly astute “ambient” recordings you’ll find this year, last year or otherwise. That the resultant sonic tapestries ebbing out of the digital “ether” can hold its own amongst the million other ambient recordings around is made more remarkable by the duo’s disclaimer that “no electronic instruments were used in these recordings.” What then is the generative source for these archly minimal yet rich tableaux? (Such conjecture remains the primary obstacle many a frustrated music scribe has to overcome, often in vain.) The muted chorale/mantra of voices (Dampened Tibetan monk chanting? Karnatic vocal scales? Echoplexed wordless Tuvian throat utterances?) caught in the vast sonar nets and fingered “pulses” of Volume One usher in pro forma, Westernized “contemplative” states, distant relatives to some of Terry Riley’s early organ drones or Pauline Oliveros’ processed accordian epics, though heaven help you if the words “new age” invade to deter your concentrating on this stuff. Deep listening of the Oliveros kind is more the requirement, which instantly negates Eno’s classic descriptor for this music, mostly for the better.
Interlude’s molecular characteristics seem more apparent (the thrum of guitar, bent into elongated Budds and skeins of noise that crystallize out of a more refined Eno miasma), and though derived from Volume One’s structure (really, only that work’s central hum has survived intact) germinates out of the room’s very walls as it maintains its own even strength.
Volume Two’s sound art is splayed over a Rothko-esque canvas of respirating, miniscule tones that become gradually subsumed into the white-on-white portraiture. Closest of the three volumes to Bernhard Günter’s pointillistic creations, the cumulative effect is like sunlight filtered through blinds, notes suspended in solution, refracted in shards of dustmote.
Subtly felt, dazzling, and utterly essential.
Darren Bergstein, e/i Magazine