The concept of ambience leads the artists to vastly different moods, instruments and musical possibilities.
Colias 1, a new album from Madison's Mine All Mine Records, is proof of how focused yet ragtag our city's electronic musicians can be. The double-disc compilation will be released at Bright Red Studios at a show on Friday, April 26.
Madison musicians John Kruse (a.k.a. John Praw) and the Brothers Grimm asked fellow electronic artists to contribute tracks that explore their take on ambient music. But it seems as if the different contributors weren't talking to each other, weren't in the same place, and really didn't have the same genre in mind. This suggests that people have tossed around and stretched out the term "ambient music." After all, no adjective is spared when it comes to discussions about music.
But in a more positive light, Colias 1 demonstrates how the concept of ambience leads different artists to vastly different possibilities, moods and instruments, which range from conventional to digital. The results range from heavy, harshly droning numbers like A.Rex's evocatively titled "Champagne Dick" to quiet, crackly mysteries like "Home Sweet Home (1899 September 15)," a track attributed to "Unidentified Chimes Player."
The Brothers Grimm and db pedersen build "Ladder Study 1 (Alice Cooper's Tears)" around echoing percussion and layers of Pedersen's shuddering, wordless vocals. Shawn Kenneth Pierce, better known for playing drums in Pioneer and other Madison bands, relies on eerie keyboard chords on his track, "Foxgloves and Weeds." Asumaya, the solo project of Control drummer Luke Bassuener, draws on hand percussions and his trips to Ghana in "Cooking at Night." Kathleen Baird of Spires That in the Sunset Rise contributes "The Invention of Truth," a meditative piano instrumental.
The release features tracks from three of Kruse's projects and songs from several folks he's collaborated with before through Mine All Mine Records and the shows he promotes at Dragonfly Lounge. But Colias 1 isn't just the work of one incestuous little clique of musicians. Unlike a typical compilation of pre-existing tracks or, say, a remix project, it challenges each contributor to explore an intimidating yet immensely important musical genre. The results don't make the definition of ambient music any more clear, but perhaps it's the exploration that counts.