This Is My Space Exploration
Something about the West Coast of this almighty country makes it prone to a lot of great bands with a deep, deep understanding of the furthest reaches of space. Two of the leading lights of this loose knit conglomeration of psyche/space/whatever you want to call ‘em bands are Seattle’s Kinski and Portland’s Strange Attractors Audio House. The former in that pairing trade in taut guitar pyrotechnics against a booming rock backdrop, while the latter has seen release of excellent records by Stephan Basho-Jungans, Landing, and Surface of Eceon (with a much anticipated SubArachnoid Space album in the works). This Is My Ambuzz, the initial offering of Kinski guitarist Chris Martin’s solo project Ampbuzz, represents a joint effort between the two forces. But while Kinski is definitely a rock band, Ampbuzz treads more fluid waters, representing a more spaced-out and ambient side of the guitarist’s style.
“Bubbles” leads off the album ands sets the tone for much of what’s to follow: delicately picked melodies wrapped in ethereal beds of ambient tones, swirls, and gradual textural shifts. The track spends its six minute length gradually building from hushed layers of sound carefully moving against each other to blissed out climax. “Center for Clouds” also treads in similar experimental guitar territory. Here, the delays and overtones, drones, and reverb washes all pass by the listener, forming something akin to a sonic postcard of deep space. Before you really know it, you’re speeding past the cosmos on a bed of sounds. Bits and pieces of melody all drift in and out of the mix as well, adding to the finely textured portrait bouncing past. “Soft Currency” is even better, this time placing a neat little repetitive melody up front while different layers of sound undulate back and forth in the background. It’s the interesting juxtaposition between delays, drones, and loops that make this track work, and all the better for it.
“Driving Instructions” is a nice bed of dense drones, gradually shifting in tone throughout the course of the track. There’s some spare sounds placed in contrast to this that scamper in and out, adding hints of a percussive element to the track, but the emphasis here is all on the warmth and harmony of the drones. The track gradually shifts until the cymbals in the background work themselves more fully into the mix, adding somewhat of a Rhys Chatham touch to the whole affair. This, of course, opens up a nice segue into “Welcome to the Ocean Floor”, an aptly named track if there ever was one. This one acutely represents what it must sound like to be submerged next to a rather large set of speakers. The sounds of Martin’s guitar are mutated into oscillating, delayed tones and drones until a haze of reverb threatens to blot that all out. “Underwater Bomb” closes out the disc, this time with less ominous drones that gradually give way to an almost wistful melody – somewhat akin to sunlight being refracted through the surface of the water.
Aesthetically, all of this is somewhat similar to work by folks such as Kawabata Makoto and KK Null, only a bit dreamier than either. In a way, it reminds me of more recent material by the likes of Christian Fennesz, only with a warmth of ½ inch analogue tape that isn’t easily generated by the likes of a Powerbook. To be sure, this is a mighty switch from the work Chris Martin does in Kinski but it’s a welcome shift away from the powerful rock textures and into more graceful and understated ones. This Is My Ampbuzz represents a nice foray into the world of guitar experimentation, one that manages to retain a nice sense of both extreme and gentle uses of the six stringed instrument. It’s languid, slippery, and cosmic, but with a nice melodic side that comes through every now and again. Low key but still excellent, and well worth the time.
By Michael Crumsho