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Woob - 1194


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This is a long-OOP album which you can pretty much only get via the, ahem, 'usual sources' if not for £50-100 on ebay. I can't quite remember how I found out about it, probably reading a review of an ambient album I liked (which I like to do to point me to other possible good stuff) but I eventually acquired it and.. wow.

It starts out with a 31-minute long track that seems to be a kind of musical journey through the lost cities of the South American jungle or something. A couple of long interludes of background sounds (birdsong, tribal chants, crowds etc) break up beat and bass-driven sections that chug unstoppably ahead like a bulldozer. Next you've got three tracks of pretty dark oddness, with a very coolly-utilised sample of a Star Trek TOS episode overlaid on chanting amongst... other things. All is scattered with samples from scifi and horror films which is a nice quirk.

The final two tracks are rising and falling dark tones stuffed with reversed effects and samples from "Night of Dark Shadows" which breaks with a nasty shock that I never expected on a music CD, before plunging into the depths of musical solemnity (best word I could come up with ;)). Then you've got a kind of desolate arctic soundscape for the last track full of, er, emperor penguins.

Get it. Despite my rubbish review, it's great.

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This is a bit better:

My experience with Woob began one sultry afternoon at the office in the middle of August, the air conditioning having called in sick the night before.

I was a bit antsy and unsettled and looking for some new music. My wanderings brought me to, of all places, the streaming electronic webcast of mtv.com. I hung out there, casting my line for something I haven't heard before. Yep, an unlikely place, but the sound quality was above average and the stream wasn't breaking up at all.

That's where I first heard a nine minute edit of the track 'On Earth'. Blew my mind. I was literally carried away by the beats and the bassline. The edit I heard started around the 10 minute mark of the album version.

The album version of 'On Earth' begins with percussion rolled out on a tabla, layered intermittently with a Moroccan street scene crowd effect, strong yet mellow sincere chords in the background. Moves to feature a middle-eastern female vocal. Sounds pretty serious. A chugging beat off a kit sample rolls in and becomes a link between the parts of the track.

Fades to only thick chords with a sample from "Quantum Leap," then off to near silence. If it's a journey, we're quite far from home at this point, or perhaps things have simply begun to kick in. Orbiting the Earth, we've moved to the night side.

We hit paydirt around the ten minute mark. I just can't get this out of my head. Beauty and majesty. Bird sounds. A chugging percussive track. Then the hook. Hollow, distant, approaching. Some sort of horn, sounds like its being played from a mountaintop and we're hearing it in the jungle. At night. Maybe coming up on some sort of lost village.

A more prominent, dub-influenced bassline emerges from the depths, followed by the kit drum sample from the beginning of the track. We're there folks, one of the greatest moments in music. This is why the album hardly ever comes up on E-Bay, and when it does, you have to give up an arm and a leg for it.

It's just a chugging, groovy, mellow, alive thing, rolling along. Organically mechanical and natural. Like realizing that no matter how powerful we humans think we are, nature is in charge, and we're in the engine room, beholding the inner workings of the planet, where mountains and jungles and thunderstorms are born.

One of the best places music has ever taken me.

We're there, we roll along for quite some time, but not quite long enough. Elements begin to fade out, the tabla from the beginning reappears. We're coming back to the light side of the earth, back to the human reality perhaps.

Thirty one minutes of pure bliss. I honestly can't name another track that I could say the same thing about.

Drifts into the next track, 'Odonna'. A track with three different personalities. Far out ambient at the outset, high, almost nasal, thin chords. A spoken sample denotes a transition. Sparse but intense percussion. Very serious, percussion only, slow tempo, almost plodding pace. Gets thicker and louder, keeps same tempo. The high chords from the beginning roll in.

Percussion fades out, the chords thin to a constant note, and a synth sound that sounds almost like a chorus in a cathedral fades in and dominates. Powerful.

'Amoeba' is great. Starts with what sounds like an old teletype chugging away, fades into a Parisian-sounding guitar/harmonica affair, trebly and aged. Quite beautiful. Sentimental.

'Wuub' starts sinister, with a sample from a movie, "Alex, you know there's only one way we're going to end all this..."

Chugging, not quite dominant percussion drives the piece. A female vocal sample, ethereal and drifting provides the hook. Probably Middle-Eastern. Percussion sounds like a slowed-down tabala sample. Light but eerie, not quite mellow.

'Strange Air' is a clear night sky with plenty of stars. 70 degrees, you've decided to sleep out tonight. No mosquitoes. Looking at the blazing firmament, you're able to pick out a single star and comprehend the distance between.

Powerful, extended, throbbing chords that start out on the low end of medium and drift downward to fully basic subsonic everything.

My analogy would be perfect except for the horror film samples in the middle and at the end. Could this be where John Roome draws inspiration?

'Emperor' starts thick and deep. The house is shaking. A deep, throbbing, sustained note that rises just a bit, then settles back in, sort of fades in and out in intensity. Then a slowed sample of an emperor penguin call is threaded through, followed by a drifiting, rounded synth.

The thickness fades out, high synth and the slowed down penguin samples. Almost as if we've been ushered into the emperor's throne room. Like some twisted dream where it turns out a five hundred foot tall emperor penguin is in fact the ruler of the universe.

Devolves to only the penguin sample, very sparse, fades to nothingness.

Overall the work is an incredible journey. Smooth with intriguing percussive structures and an excellent sense of sonic space and majesty. It's everything ambient music is supposed to be.

Overall Rating (1-100): 95


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It's everything ambient music is supposed to be.

Without doubt, this is a really powerful listening experience. Its mood is consistant and focused - listening to this in the dark will give you some fucked up dreams. :lol:

The stand-out track has to go to the opener, "On Earth", a sound impression of what it would feel like to take a half-hour trek along a dense Amazonian trail whilst conscious of being secretly watched by the locals, who obviously enjoy eating exactly the type of people caught spending too much time in front of a computer.

From then on in, the album gets a little darker.

Shorter tracks from now on, but far more minimal and threatening in nature. Imagine John Cage and John Carpenter got together to do the soundtrack for a new nature documentary and you're still none the wiser.

Ambient albums are bastards. On one hand you've got a bunch of stuff which wraps music around an ambience...and on the other, you get hour-long 'listening experiences' with little more than a glance towards the ideas of a tune. This one fall somewhere between the cracks, but in a good way.

My main challenge in listening to this for the first couple of times was the fact that it had a certain cheesy thing about it. Using samples of Nature is usually a Bad Thing, stylistically at least. I'm guessing it has something to do with your brain being ripped out of its fantastical, imaginary place by sounds that it can suddenly be identified with. Who knows?

Anyways, play the album a few more times and those initially cheesy samples become perfectly acceptable within the framework. So that's good.

This album is a subtle gem. Patently beautiful in places, intensely threatening in others. Interesting and aesthetically pleasing.

Just don't put it on when the vicar's round for tea.

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