album reviews

7", 10", 12" reviews

compilation reviews

remix reviews


The Ambient Instinct
- Judson Kilpatrick

In Huh, December 1995.


On Soil (#7 in Instinct Records' Ambient series), Terre Thaemlitz messed with the latest computer programs, noting: "(With) AudioSculpt, you run a spectral analysis and it presents you with a file, then you can go in and select different regions within that spectrum and resynthesize those into a new sound file. A standard application would be to select just the section of the spectrum reflecting somebody's voice in a larger music piece and resynthesize that so that it strips away all the background music. But you can also then combine different analyses together to create one file - you end up with kind of a morphed-typed sound, not just a mix of one sound over another but kind of a fusion of the soundwaves, of the spectrum, so you can get different cool effects. You create these different sound files, and then you can either arrange those files to create a piece, or you could take those new sound files and run analyses on them, again in AudioSculpt, or you could use Csound to run some sort of analysis, heterodyne analysis, or whatever you want."

Um... okay. Erik Dahl (who ported Csound to the Power Mac) took this approach to an extreme on a 12" Thaemlitz released on his Comatonse label. "What Erik did," Thaemlitz says, "was he took a sound file, ran a mathematical analysis on it and then took that analysis and ran calculations based on the wavelength to establish the pattern of how quickly the soundwaves would be read and reconstituted in the resynthesis process. So you create sound files within these things that you can then either play back straight or you can reanalyze ad infinitum."

Thought Thaemlitz' own pieces are rather abstract, they have a solid conceptual grounding, e.g. "The track 'Cycles' is about the cycles of abuse through generations, and the whole preliminary sound that goes on for the ten minutes or so beforehand is supposed to be a sound that you can't really identify as whether it's kind of sexual or crying or sad or what - it's kind of in-between and floating and about the love implicit in the suffering of an abusive relationship."

Whew. Thaemlitz moved to New York to study painting, but was put off by the politics of the gallery scene. "I basically came to DJ-ing as something that was immediately social, and so I'm still kind of working on this idea of audio as a social thing that is always one element of a larger environment which includes visual stimuli, etcetera. My interest in ambient, instead of tripping out, is what I kind of jokingly call 'tripping in.' It's like tripping into the idea of being aware of your listening environment, and heaving it be about the actual experience of listening and the context of the listener versus the context of the performer, and the level of communication and miscommunication that occur in that process.

You can check out Thaemlitz' work (as well as Dahl's) on his web page: