Sleeping Dogs Lie 17: Bill Laswell, Paul Schutze, Pete Namlook, Thomas Köner

I listened to a fair sampling of Laswell-related projects during the mid-1990s (he had waaaay too much product) and this disc was one of the ones I really liked. What we have here is a various artist collection that remains remarkably cohesive on the whole and also offers some stand-out tracks, depending on your cup of tea (a darker one here, to be sure). I was heavily into isolationist sounscapes at the time this was released and most of the artists here contributed something to that ambient sub-genre. Anyway, I lost sight of this CD for some time and stumbled on it again recently and have been enjoying a resurgence of interest in it! It’s a great late-night or early-morning piece to sip your coffee and/or read to.

With Paul Schutze’s Green Evil, we have an 11-minute plus excerpt from his album with the same name (and I believe only one of two tracks here that was featured on other albums). Schutze has a very recognizable sound, and yet – to his credit -plays it ‘very’ minimal here. Pete Namlook’s “Subharmonic Invocation of the Dark Spirits,” nearly 13 minutes of cavernous rumblings through a yawning abyss. A straight-ahead dark ambient piece. Thomas Koner is a well-respected master of cold and sparse ambient. He’s one of those guys who you might initially compare to someENOone else but who has really taken things to a new level and gone his own way with it. His work is typically out-of-print and therefore goes for a premium when you do find it, but here you’ll get a good sample of what he does best on this disk. This track actually has some percussive elements, which are rare for him. Laswell himself provides the longest piece on the set, the 30-minute long “Black Dangers” (despite the title’s name being overly stated, it’s a wonderfully sparse and barren track that remains delightfully consistant for its duration) and plays well with the rest of the CD set. This is a rather solid double CD, “well worth” any ambient fan’s money. If you love the darker domains of ambient, then make room for this disk!

01. Bill Laswell: “Black Dangers” (from “Divination: Distill”, Sub Meta, 1995)
02. Paul Schutze: “Green Evil” (from “Divination: Distill”, Sub Meta, 1995)
03. Pete Namlook: “Subharmonic Invocation Of The Dark Spirits” (from “Divination: Distill”, Sub Meta, 1995)
04. Thomas Köner: “Zone” (from “Divination: Distill”, Sub Meta, 1995)


Sleeping Dogs Lie 03: Thomas Köner

Another in the series of Köner’s self-consciously chilled and mysterious albums created with the use of treated cymbals, Nunatak Gongamur truly pushes the bounds of not merely ambient music, but music in general. Consisting almost entirely of dark drones and bursts, separated into 11 separate untitled tracks but essentially one extended piece, Nunatak Gongamur takes as the source of its inspiration the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole. Celebrated at the time as a glorious defeat in the war of man against nature, later investigation demonstrated Scott to be a charismatic but ultimately flawed leader, blinded in particular by some astoundingly incompetent judgments on his part. One of them, the use of ponies (plant-eating animals sent to a continent where their fodder didn’t grow anywhere), is noted with the cover art. Köner’s composition falls somewhere between a requiem for the loss and waste of the expedition and a haunting, extremely inhuman evocation of the endless snow and ice fields of Antarctica that the core members of the expedition struggled through and died in. The swathes of deep echo and occasional crumbling rhythm create an aura of paranoid fascination, at once weirdly soothing and increasing the nervous tension every chance it gets. When Köner adds variety to the music, the effect can almost be shocking — consider the sudden distorted whines on the third and fifth tracks, which with its slight echo treatment and the rumbling background moans could almost be a disturbing cry for help. Other times, tones barely lurk in the mix, only on the edge of hearing, like being caught in an endless cavern where something curious hides in the dim distance. The killer touch is the use of space throughout the album — silences of various lengths maintaining the air of mysterious threat. ~ Ned Raggett, All Music Guide

01. Thomas Köner: “Without Title” (from “Nunatak / Gongamur”, Barooni, 1990)
02. Thomas Köner: “Without Title” (from “Nunatak / Gongamur”, Barooni, 1990)
03. Thomas Köner: “Without Title” (from “Nunatak / Gongamur”, Barooni, 1990)
04. Thomas Köner: “Without Title” (from “Nunatak / Gongamur”, Barooni, 1990)
05. Thomas Köner: “Without Title” (from “Nunatak / Gongamur”, Barooni, 1990)
06. Thomas Köner: “Without Title” (from “Nunatak / Gongamur”, Barooni, 1990)
07. Thomas Köner: “Without Title” (from “Nunatak / Gongamur”, Barooni, 1990)
08. Thomas Köner: “Andenes” (from “Teimo”, Barooni, 1991)
09. Thomas Köner: “Ilira” (from “Teimo”, Barooni, 1991)
10. Thomas Köner: “Nieve Penitentes 1” (from “Teimo”, Barooni, 1991)
11. Thomas Köner: “Nieve Penitentes 2” (from “Teimo”, Barooni, 1991)
12. Thomas Köner: “Teimo (Schluss)” (from “Teimo”, Barooni, 1991)
13. Thomas Köner: “Teimo” (from “Teimo”, Barooni, 1991)