Ambient music is a strange beast despite its oft soothing timbres. There's forever a tang of the alien to it, no matter how terrene the invocation. This was most strikingly evident in pioneer Brian Eno's Discreet Music, a romantically pastoral work exhibiting an undercurrent of extraterrestriality so strong as to be almost unnerving. There are few really outstanding practitioners of this art—never enough to suit my fancies—and Anomalous Disturbances has long sat high in the top ranks. With Inside, Terrence O'Brien's fourth release under the nom de plume, he continues his ascendency, this time working with his brothers Chris and Wayne in some extremely subtle applications.
No sooner is Inside I under way than all this becomes clear. A slow dreamy number, it takes its time developing before surprisingly hitting a Jade Warrior-ish stride, something that old band's many fanatical devotees, myself strongly among them (and we think of JW as one of the prime prog groups, especially during their Island label days), are going to be very happy with. Terrence works through a guitar, not keyboards, though it very much sounds otherwise, and was a participant in what I look upon as one of the best ambient (and best progtronica) anthologies ever issued, the striking Texture: A Compilation of Minimal Ambient Guitar, issued in 2003. With Inside, as in all his work, nothing but non-stop mellifluous drift-away strains carry the listener into tapestries of unlimited scope and panoramic narrative, though his brothers' influences have transported this to more pronounced statements in contrast.
Clocking in at over an hour, Inside is a Tarkovskyesque sci-fi movie of the mind, all subtlety, whispers, hints, and sometimes breathtaking presence. O'Brien's brothers abet the melodics perfectly, Chris occupying much more a musical percussive seat rather than a metronomic one, quite impressive, more than once mindful of Bill Bruford and Jamie Muir's inventiveness in the softer side of King Crimson's halcyon "Talking Drum" days. Inside III builds in majesty as it progresses, bracing the environment for the advent of something sublime, a something that never manifests, seeming to lurk just outside the fringes of the solar system but radiating and pulsing luminously nonetheless.
If you've never heard Anomalous Disturbance's work before, this is the ideal entry point. As a utopian blend of formlessness, beats, progressions, long melodies, and pure sonic ecology, it's cinematic, neoclassical, and outside, at once seamless, simultaneously glowing and dark, Impressionistically literate and definitive. And if Inside whets your appetite, then hop over to the review of Archive Two (here) and look into further distillations of this genre, still ambient but often markedly different from these peregrinations.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles