Mysterious ambient artist Ixohoxi last appeared on these
shores with his fine collaboration with Denver
ambient artist Numina: Starfarer's Tales, Vol.
1. Since then, both
artists have stayed prolific, continually self-releasing material of an
extremely ambient nature. Ixohoxi's
series of atmospheric ambient discs, "Ambient Tone Poems" is already
up to its third installment at the time of writing--I have the pleasure of
reviewing the second volume, which proves, once and for all, that Ixohoxi is
not an artist easily pigeon-holed.
"Amazonia Orthoptera Nymph Molts" begins the
collection in a suitably environmental fashion, considering the title. Mysterious night-noises, the chittering of
crickets, and the din of what I imagine to be cicadas, meld with other-worldly
synth-sweeps that glide breathlessly along.
Electronic shakers punctuate the ambience every so often, invoking a
Jorge Reyes-styled tribal mood. The
swirling storm of sound is peaceful, yet busy, until a bubbling ambient-techno
groove pierces the veil of ambience. This
groove is straight out of the Silent catalog, with unusual, textured synth
backgrounds that keep the decidedly modern bent of the track earthed in the
earlier ambience. Eventually, the
atmospheric sounds dissipate, leaving only the groove behind, itself fading out
Next, "Soft Light
and Temple Birds" continues the mid-nineties
Silent tone with psychedelic synth tones and highly synthetic percussion,
similar to the work of Alpha Wave Movement.
A bowed, Japanese-sounding instrument begins lightly soloing along with
the synthwork creating a strange combination of the natural and artificial, as
if the temple of the title is nestled deep within a bustling city, a heart of
peace within the chaos. The seemingly
random synth-sequence tends to grate over the track's nearly ten minute length,
but the lovely synth-pads cascading in the background add much to the
equation. Perhaps not the strongest
track on the album, in part due to the out-of-place soloing and somewhat static
sequence. "Cetaceans" is next,
a shimmering of synth-tones, decidedly watery in nature. These sea sounds submerge completely,
revealing the hooning of whalesong, distorted under the ocean's waves. A piano melody appears from nowhere, accented
by lovely synth pads. This track veers
into new age territory, dwelling in a lighter, sunnier zone of influence. The end of the track plumbs ever deeper into
strange, wholly synthetic, environs, an unusual transition, and perhaps not the
most effective, as it breaks the spell rather decisively.
"Small Mammal REM Cycle" is
reminiscent of a certain Pink Floyd track with a similar title, with shrieking
and unusual animal sounds combined with sonorous bell tones and odd synth
noises that would not be out of place on a Ron Geesin record. The bells’ sustain has been seriously
messed with, and we're in some lysergic woodland, with a
temple not far off. This, the longest
track on the album, stays fairly static, and is all the stronger for it. The unusual synth textures and various bell
noises come together in an effectively trippy way; disorienting, but not
uncomfortable to listen to. It's a
vibrating, forest paradise, with a little bit of menace just out of the field
of view. It's also, in my opinion, the
best track on the album. Finally,
"Incandescent Blue Morpho" returns to more familiar ambient
territory: a fairly standard atmospheric floater. It's also quite good, with shifting synth tones
and haunting pads that lend themselves well to repeat plays. A satisfying finish to an uneven
Ambient Tone Poems II is a strange beast
of a disc. I was initially thrown by the
title, expecting an album populated by tracks like "Incandescent Blue
Morpho," drifting, vaporous, mysterious.
While there are certainly tracks on the album that fit this description
nicely, there are also tracks that are more difficult to pin down, dwelling in
many different moods (often on the same track) that are not always
complimentary. While the diversity of
each track is commendable, especially given that the artist seems to create
music almost solely on synth, it appears that Ixohoxi is at his best and most
comfortable when he is not playing the sonic chameleon. It is on tracks such as "Small Mammal
REM Cycle" and "Amazonia ..."
that the ideas are allowed to slowly develop, seep into the listener's mind,
and leave a lasting impression.
Nevertheless, when Ixohoxi hits the mark, the results are of high
quality, and often impressive.
Ambient Tone Poems II has the feel of a collection of
disparate tracks, with little unified feel.
Accordingly, some tracks will strike the listener's fancy more than
others. While I hesitate to describe
all of the music herein as traditionally ambient, as the
title might suggest, there is more than enough interesting music here to please
fans of early Alpha Wave Movement and the lighter styles of Michael
Stearns. An intriguingly pleasant, if
not strong, collection.
Reviewed by Brian
Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.
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