«Virtual Dreams», parfums d’ambient – Culture / Next

We called it ambient house: the compromise between two a priori contradictory functions of electronic music, dance and daydreaming, which emerged as evidence on the edge of the increasingly excessive raouts of acid house in the Kingdom. United, from the end of the 80s. A musical genre that was less a function than a function, that of occupying space in these oases where revelers came to recharge their batteries on a break or on their way down; in the early days, moreover, the first DJs to dare to play it, like Alex Paterson or Terry Farley, had to tinker with everything in their disco that was akin to a reassuring sound, B-sides of Pink Floyd, new age full of birdsong or dub…


But the multiplication of these white rooms increasingly popular and calls from the foot of record companies to complete compilations specifically dedicated to domestic listening quickly encouraged composers to return to music freed from the obligation to ignite the dance floor, and to do move to the foreground of songs with slower or more complex tempos, with more assertive melodies, relegated until then to the B sides of the maxis. So ambient house, a catch-all genre and pushed by the specialized press, quickly became the pretext to mutate all the house and techno at once, with some lucrative compilations and big high-profile albums (Chill Out by The KLF, 76:14 de Global Communication, The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld of The Orb) to hide a forest of inventions in all directions, from which would quickly emerge new genres with fuzzy outlines (trip-hop, intelligent dance music…) and a few essential artists.

Virtual Dreams is the first thematic anthology to attempt to encapsulate this explosion, in a critical and informed manner. Compiled by Jamie Tiller and Tako Reyenga, the two collectors at the head of the Music From Memory label, it focuses on the late golden age of the gentle explosion (1993-1997), when the desire to tripper had won all the house and techno subgenres.

There are several emblematic artists, such as Mark Pritchard, present twice with Link and a rarity under the name of Pulusha, the Berlin duo Sun Electric or Jonah Sharp, pioneer of the chill out culture with the Spacetime evenings, organized in London since 1990 ; but the main discoveries come from forgotten aesthetes (LA Synthesis, A Positive Life) or from artists’ treasures spotted for less ethereal expressions, such as the German deep house herald David Moufang with an extract from his one and only album on the label ambient radicalized Fax (Solitaire, a masterpiece) or LFO, whose fabulous Helen is retrieved from a compilation Trance Europe Express dating from 1995.


And the greatest pleasure of this sumptuous program, which will delight even connoisseurs as the rarities abound, is the immense variety that unfolds there, well beyond the sounds of tablecloths typical of their time – there is something disco as much as trance, hardcore or American minimalism in these long lush beaches, which depict extraordinarily diverse landscapes, from the Mediterranean island to the surface of Venus. Proof that after Brian Eno, the ambient, less a genre than the solution to a deep cultural need, is never a matter of constraint or subtraction, rather a pretext for musicians to create what they want, and to dive deep into the sound.

Olivier Lamm

Virtual Dreams : Ambient Explorations in the House and Techno Age, 1993-1997 (Music From Memory).


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