Part of what makes electronica so interesting – and one of the things that arguably separates it from the bulk of contemporary and popular music – is that it has largely been created with a true feeling of egalitarianism. I’ve always been interested in the fact that the post punk ethos of Do It Yourself found its greatest proponents not in noisy guitar bands passing through an Indy rite of passage before signing to a major label, but in people like you and me locked away in a back room somewhere cooking up beats and soundscapes on cheap, second-hand gear or a DAW on a laptop.
This egalitarianism is what I like about Band Camp, the music retail site that aims to cut out as many of the middle men as possible and allow the artists greater contact with the record buyer as well as a larger chunk of the profits. Some people have claimed that the current ease of getting material out there means that we no longer have any form of quality control, that it is becoming harder to find that one special sound in the furious cacophony of background noise. I have sympathy for this stance; Although I think most of us have learned to filter out much of the white noise, you can miss the good stuff if you’re not careful. Even so, music at this level and of this sort is very much a meritocracy, and I believe that the good stuff always finds a way to get heard. Even if it’s reviewed on a tiny blog months after its release.
’12 Hours Out’ by Yorkshire outfit The Goat Project is a record that probably wouldn’t have existed if left to the traditional record industry, which would have been a shame. Whilst ambient at core, it moves beyond that starting point to bring in elements of jazz, IDM, hip hop and modern classical. At times disorientating and even occasionally uncomfortable, there is a genuine emotional heart to this collection of eight tunes that warms the usually frigid genre tropes nicely.
At its weakest points, such as on the torn, half speed stomp of Glass Horizon , or the slight Langsett, there is a feeling of too much thought being given to the emotional impact. Langsett in particular seems too willing to be dressed up like the other kids, doing little more than playing up to what we expect. While some of the other shorter pieces might seem similar on first listen there is a magic that soon peeps through, the ethereal Homecoming, for example, carrying a similar sense of faraway wonder that Thomas Konas managed on Novaya Zemlya. The different approach (synth scape versus refined field recordings) still rendering a feel of wintry dislocation.
In fact there is a strong feeling of invention throughout. 4 AM is as subtle and pretty as the brightening of a dawn sky, while James Mason’s Eye fractures samples and jazzy frills over the top of a laid back and meandering groove. It is in Submarine Hum, though, that I think the record best brings its various touches together. A long trip into deep space, it softens its slow breaks with the interplay of airy textures. Building and growing, it eventually passes through a burst of aggression, of dissolute frequency that collides against the listener before it departs, weaving slowly back into the aether.
Ambient electronica is a hard furrow to plough, I think. It is easy to fall into cliché or, even worse, create homage to the ghost of the past. While The Goat Project are occasional victims of their own musical nous there is plenty here that owes everything to their interpretation of the emotion of frequency, coupled with an understanding of how music moves and breathes. From Band Camp only. Link in the clips above. Put some money in, I want to hear what they do next.