VA: Air Texture Volume IV
Curated by Steve Hauschildt and BNJMN (Ben Thomas), this fine addition to the Air Texture series is distinguished by a number of things. While those commissioned with fashioning playlists for a given release consider electronic, modern classical, noise, ambient, and synth-based music as potential focal points, this fourth volume leans heavily on synthesizer music of the kind that's grown increasingly popular in recent years. Another thing one notices about the material is its remarkable degree of uniformity. Had I been told that the pieces on Hauschildt's disc were all produced by the same artist under eleven different aliases, it wouldn't have come as a total surprise.
American electronic musician Steve Hauschildt, who's well-known for his membership in Emeralds and as a solo artist and collaborator with kindred artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never and Lusine, is represented by two pieces on the collection's first half, while the currently Berlin-based BNJMN (Ben Thomas) contributes two to his own half. A number of familiar names appear on the sprawling, twenty-four-track set, among them Günter Schlienz, Mirror to Mirror, Lukid, Teebs, Legowelt, and Hieroglyphic Being.
Though rife with detail and incident, many of the pieces on disc one are pitched at a becalmed ambient level that both stimulates and soothes. It gets off to a pretty start with Hauschildt's chiming, piano-sprinkled serenade “Watertowers,” its delicately calibrated mood wavering between lightheartedness and melancholy, and ends as prettily with his wistful “Pismo.” In keeping with its title, Heathered Pearls' “In Memory Form” waxes nostalgically over an experience that in its recollected form is tinged with sadness, and Eno-styled ambient does come into a play on occasion, as exemplified by Günter Schlienz's “Dust,” a moonlit synth reverie perfectly tailored to ease the children off to sleep. Some pieces are dominated by acoustic sound elements (Jonathan Fitoussi's electric guitar tapestry “Impressions,” heavily processed strings in Dino Spiluttini's “The Hostile Sea”) whereas others are purely or primarily synthetic (Pulse Emitter's “Border Crossing,” Event Cloak's “One or Twice,” Sarah Davachi's “As the Morning”).
If Hauschildt's disc generally soothes, BNJMN's is marked by an explorative sensibility that takes its tracks to interesting places. Brighton's “Sendme,” for example, carves a ten-minute journey through a thick fog of crackle, with a sing-song keyboard loop and percussive interjections as guides. During Legowelt's “Vanished in Tromso,” bluesy vocal ruminations and operatic warble drift into position alongside water noises and haunted rumblings. Though brief, Teebs' free-floating dreamscape “Whirling 84” nevertheless makes an impression for its gentle psychedelia, as does The Hers' “Mindy” for its woozy melancholia. Jamal Moss's Hieroglyphic Being material is known more for being aggressively uptempo, but “Rumori Circostanti di Melody Pops & Clic & Silenzio,” with its sparkling keyboard patterns and lulling rhythms, shows he's eminently capable of crafting an entrancing ambient-styled setting, too.The brainchild of Brooklynite James Healy (co-founder of the Agriculture), Air Texture issues an annual double-disc volume that can easily be regarded as either a complement to or formidable challenger to Kompakt's Pop Ambient catalogue. Certainly the fourth volume adds a more-than-credible chapter to the Air Texture series.