Ethernet: 144 Pulsations of Light

Here's Northern California-based Tim Gray's take on 144 Pulsations of Light, his debut full-length release under the Ethernet name: “Based on my research and experience in using sound for induction of meditative states, I set out to apply trance-inducing sonic effects to drone-ambient music. I recontextualized the deep bass kick sound used in techno dance music as a subdued hypnotic pulse to accentuate the textures. An unprocessed analog Roland TR-808 was used for this pulse, as well as binaural beats and spatial effects processing to create music to facilitate deep meditation. I blended layers of synthesized textures with organic field recordings made in Central Japan in ‘00-‘01, and Northern California between ‘03-‘08. The intent of the album is to produce an introspective sonic environment conducive to self-healing work and voyaging into new states of awareness.”

Despite the New Age tone (Gray did, after all, dedicate his MFA Master's thesis at Mills College in California to the use of sound for control, healing, and empowerment), it's a pretty good description—the album's fifty-three minutes are inarguably trance-inducing, for instance—if a rather dry one. What it doesn't quite capture are the luscious and sensual qualities of the album's tracks. While muffled, midtempo beat patterns function as animating, almost subliminal support, shimmering tendrils and undulating washes cohere into multi-tiered masses that slowly metamorphize in tandem overhead. The muffled beat patterns that animate the shimmering masses in “Majestic” and “Vaporous” naturally situate Ethernet's sound within the ambient techno territory associated with Basic Channel, Deepchord, and Echospace; “Kansai” pushes the Ethernet style into a quasi-psychedelic zone that finds Gray also bringing the space-rock sound of German krautrock into the fold. The techno dimension present in most tracks is downplayed in a couple of meditative settings. A rhythmic pulse is still present in “Summer Insects” but it's largely buried in order to let the focus shift to the mutating layers of field elements Gray shapes into textural detail. In addition, soft whistles, hydro wire hum, voice murmurs, and insect thrum add rich sonic detail to the tranquil ambient meander of “Seaside.” Glistening organ tones also deepen the neo-psychedelic vibe in “Temple,” an ambitious soundscaping exercise called where outdoors field sounds and electronic treatments rumble, mutate, and swell for thirteen minutes. While Gray may not have intended to align his Ethernet material to the Basic Channel and Echospace camps, 144 Pulsations of Light ends up doing so, to some degree at least.

October 2009