San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Friday, April 27, 2012

CD Collection A-Z - A Journey Into Ambient Groove - Volume 1 (1995)

I've been threatening for some time to go through my entire CD collection alphabetically and write up a review of each disc.  Tonight, it begins.

How appropriate that the first CD in my collection is A Journey Into Ambient Groove, Volume 1.  This is something I was given by my mentors in Ibiza West Studios over ten years ago, when I was just a neophyte to the world of electronic music.

While most of these artists may have drifted off into obscurity, or may be pseudonyms of other, more well-known chill-out artists, there's at least one stand-out:  Kruder & Dorfmeister's Original Bedroom Rockers.  Anyone who knows anything about good music knows that this track is one of the great babymakers of all time, and that Kruder & Dorfmeister are the godfathers of Austrian groove.  In fact, when I was in Vienna a few years ago, I knew enough to ask my friends, "I love Kruder and Dorfmeister, where do I go record shopping?"  They turned me onto a massive record store where I discovered such greats as Langoth and Saint Privat, but that's another story.

Listening to this again, I realize that the first track (Gato de Oro by Sapien) is one that the proprietor of IWS Studio A used in one of his classic mixes.  There's a stutter at the end that he spins off into something beatmatched into another ambient groove track, which is pretty tricky, considering the low BPM.

Ambeint groove has sometimes been described as "instrumental hip-hop," which is pretty apt.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, "Hip-hop is ambient groove, spoiled."  To me, there's just nothing worse than having a great track ruined by some egotistic asshole talking all over it, saying the same shit everyone else has always said, over and over, ad nauseum.  A word or two in a song is all well and good, but there's a fine line between punctuating an instrumental with vocals and just destroying it because you knew some dude who wanted to rap over something.

Like all comps, this one has its dogs (Zion Train's Arise sounds like someone set the Casio to Moroccan and let 'er rip), and some are just crying out for a remix (Japanese Cherry Blossoms by Global Dance Project sounds like it could use a pitched-up deep house remix), once we get to NOW and Then's Jimi Dub, the compilation really seems to find its flow, like a nervous DJ who has a brief moment of anxiety), and finishes strong all the way through. 

Back in 1995, this fledgling style was still finding its way.  Sure, some of it sounds dated, but it probably did at the time, too.  That's the thing about certain styles.  They're either done well, or they're not.  And despite a minor dip in the disc halfway through, this one produces what it promises.  A tour through an emerging genre; what was considered to be ambient groove back in the mid-1990's.

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