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 Compilation - Ambient:  The Definitive Collection 2 - AW 001
  Release Date: 28 February 1994
  Limitation: none

     Trip to Polaris
     Duane Sky
     Garden of Dreams
     Trip to Mars
     Saturn Cruises
   Hearts of Space:
     70's Beauty
     1st Impression
   Minimalistic Source:
   Air II:
     Trip 8

This is Pete Namlook, the prolific creator behind FAX records, with his second Ambient compilation on Rising High. Again, the compilation covers most of his ambient projects and therefore acts as a pretty useful guide to the myriad of FAX records and CDs.

The first track, Trip to Mars, mixes otherworldly organic sounds such as wierd snores with spacey ambience, and the feeling of a journey is conveyed by the transition from eeriness to warm, optimistic atmospheres at the end. The overall spaceyness in this track contrasts well with the bongos and crickets at the start of Duane Sky. This track has been one of my favourites since I got it on 12" last summer: the bongos go on for about 2 minutes on their own until the most brutal analogue drone suddenly comes in over it, shattering the sense of tranquility from the start of the track. The bongos continue unabashed, and the atmosphere changes gradually until the end of the track. Silence provide one of the most minimal tracks on the album, an 20 minute track with reflective, sad chords, a few melodies and an unsettling human voice among the strings. I felt that it was perhaps a bit too long, but this is redeemed by the strong emotional content.

Trip to Mars is similar to the other Escape track in it's futuristic, spacey vibe though this is more minimalist and tense. The low bassy chord which rumbles behind the other strings (a Namlook trademark) provides an ominous edge, while the echoing bleeps give a sense of floating through space. This is one of my favourite tracks, but the track which follows it, Saturn Cruises, is a bit dull. Basically it's mellow trance with very little atmosphere or strings, and at 15 minutes long it's easy to get tired of it.

If only the next track was 15 mins rather than the 2.29 it clocks in at, because it really hits the spot with me. Again there's the low-end throb, but over it there are the most awesome, epic ambient strings, marvelous chords, almost like space classical music. For about 2 and a half minutes you're above the moon watching the sun rise over the Pacific! This would definitely be my favourite track if it wasn't so short.

The last side is more experimental. The Air track wouldn't sound out of place in Twin Peaks with it's oddly surreal jazzy hi-hats, and the whooping melody gives this track a surreal, slightly jazzy air. Vibe is quite similar to Duane Sky in chord structure and the sounds used, but doesn't progress as much. Not as scary as some of Namlook's other stuff is, but this track definitely has an edge to it.

The Fishology remix is too long; it's pretty rhythmic, and it's a very individual and distinctive track. However it's not a minimalist track yet is still strangely uninvolving, and quite repetitive, so I don't rate it too highly.

Overall the album is very good as an all-round introduction to Namlook's sound, and also as a listening experience (the tracks are all mixed into one another: bit of a pain for the DJ, I should know!). It does justice to Namlooks original ambient sounds, rather than just including his more accessible tracks. There are a good number of outstanding tracks, and the listener comes away knowing precisely which Namlook tracks to look for and which ones to avoid.

(review by Brendan Nelson)


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