Since launching last year, International Feel’s horizontally inclined mini-album series has delivered two of the ambient revival’s most enjoyable moments. They were notably different beasts, Len Leise dived head-first into woozy, new age waters, while CFCF popped down the beach to watch a Balearic sunset in the company of guitarists, accordion players and an under-used percussionist. But both proved the magical, life affirming qualities of the best ambient music. Given that the style is often clumsily mishandled – see Sasha’s recent soul-sapping effort on Late Night Tales, for starters – it’s heartening to see International Feel’s series start in such confident and assured fashion.
As a result, hopes are naturally high for this third installment in the ongoing series, especially as it comes from two producers at the top of their game: Jan Schulte (this time wearing his Wolf Müller guise, rather than the more dancefloor-centric Bufiman alias), and Onsabruck’s young starlet Niklas Rehme-Schluter. Despite occasional deviations, the latter has built his career on a series of pleasingly cultured ambient albums under the Cass. pseudonym (the full stop is important, as it differentiates him from the one-time progressive house artist of the same name). As for Schulte, there seems little he can’t do wrong right now, be it conjuring up wonky Afro-techno created using home-made percussion instruments, or unfurling pitched-down hybrids of rubbery dub disco and ‘70s krautrock. It’s no wonder he’s become one of the most name-checked producers of recent times (in underground circles, at least).
For The Sound of The Glades, the German duo has managed to find a pitch-perfect balance between their two sounds, crafting music that plays to their strengths. So, while Schulte’s passion for hand percussion, off-kilter instrumentation and steamy audio textures is evident throughout, it never overwhelms Rehme-Schulter’s picturesque, drawn-out chords, subtle stylistic shifts or gently undulating melodies. It’s this fusion of the two men’s differing approaches – on one hand live, loose and organic, on the other carefully considered, composed and precise – that makes The Sound Of The Glades such a rewarding and enjoyable listen.
The centre-piece is undoubtedly the mini-album’s title track, a triumphant, 16-minute excursion that slowly winds its’ way into your consciousness. The undulating, slowly shifting chords and bubbling melody lines echo classic 1970s ambient albums from the likes of Penguin Café Orchestra, David Toop, Robert Fripp and Michael Nyman. At the same time, the presence of tropical birdsong, Schulte’s distinctive percussion – built up casually over the track’s duration, until it feels trance-like and hypnotic – and sparkling electronics (the latter reminiscent of The Orb’s majestic 1992 remix of Keichi Suzuki’s “Satellite Serandade”) give the track an undeniably unique feel. Either way, it’s superb.
Happily, the highlights don’t end there. You’ll struggle to find a more cheery combination of bubbling synthesizer melodies, twittering electronic top lines and – shock, horror – new age wind chimes than that showcased on “Miyazaki”, while “Applepie Dreams” sounds like Gigi Masin after a night smoking hallucinatory plant roots in the Amazonian jungle.
Interestingly, two of the album’s most notable moments, “Glade Runner” and “Aiolos”, see the duo doff a cap to both early ‘90s ambient house and 1980s new age music. Both make greater use of Schulte’s ethnically diverse, brilliantly programmed percussion patterns, with “Aiolos” – all slowed down pots and pans percussion, fretless bass and stretched-out, eyes-closed solos – living long in the memory.
A1. The Sound of Glades
B2. Applepie Dreams
B3. Glade Runner