Title: Deep Fuss Soundtrack
Artist: Morphine Bandit
Release Date: 2014 June 24
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Label: Textural Records
The deep fuss over Morphine Bandit, or any of Textural Records artists is that they are quite heavily involved in some of the purest ambient music on the internet today. The initial ideas set forth for ambient music was that it be a form of sonic wallpaper: very abstract, little to no discernible rhythm, sound that changes without calling attention to the fact that it is changing at all. The idea is to evoke a mood or atmosphere, while eschewing the norms of musical composition.
I’ve stated before that I often find it difficult to review ambient pieces. So why would I choose to review this work?
Deep Fuss Over Morphine Bandit
First, it has been a while since I visited Textural Records output. The last release I reviewed from Textural Records was almost nine months ago: Darvilliers Ghost – Fake Polarity. And the output from this label is pretty stunning: twenty-five releases in 2014 so far. And when I picked up this release it stood out to me.
Morphine Bandit has released music on netlabels for several years. He (or she) has releases on Batenim, Eg0cide Productions, and Treetrunk Records as well as Textural Records. Overall he (or she) has at least fourteen releases to their credit (according to the artist’s website), nine of which are on Textural Records.
This release stands out to me because several of the tracks center on using the sound(s) of chimes and/or bells. The opening track ‘Digital Suffering’, starts with a low-pitched ringing sound that sounds like someone had used the bow for a double bass to start it vibrating. Other electronically induced ringing sounds are introduced to subtly change the tone and color the piece invokes. To top this off, there are little pulses and noises that find their way into these sounds that add character to the piece.
‘The Death Designer’ is another track that centers on the sound of a bell, only this time it sounds like a large bell being tapped repeatedly with a rubber mallet. The sound fades in and out before starting to phase shift against itself, and other ringing sounds that are introduced. It’s the pulsing, phasing and other glitchy and distorted sounds that add character to the piece.
While other pieces use different types of sounds (like the organ like drone of ‘In Destroying My Way’, and ‘Red Inner Creek’) the unifying part of these pieces isn’t in style or structure: it’s in the phasing, pulsing and glitches that come out as a result of the juxtaposition of the sounds.
Many of these properties of sound are known, especially by recording engineers. However it is uncommon to design atmospheres in which the point is to make them happen naturally. In most situations, these kinds of sounds are unwanted annoyances. Yet, in this case, the artist states that they are specifically elements of these recordings:
All cracks, pops, glitches, inappropriate noises and sonic disturbances are part of the project and are fully assumed.
There is some work involved in being able to find the right combinations of sounds, and the right way to shift them to produce these external sounds and make them integral to the piece.
This is a release that, while it sounds effortless to the listener, likely took a great deal of work to produce. Finding the right balance between the focal sounds, and the glitches and distortions they produce isn’t always easy to express in a precise manner. And, once you have found a way to produce them, doing it with a consistency that doesn’t overwhelm the piece is a fine balancing act.
In my opinion this is one of the first abstract ambient works that I have heard that not only accomplishes this goal, but does it in an exceptional manner.