Ambient & electronica represent a musical compromise with technology and modernity, one that humbly acknowledges that even with the repetitiveness and surface level contact afforded by the pace of urban working life, it’s still life. Kodomo’s first offering is thin, but still life.
Minimalist Chemical Brothers, Kodomo’s Still Life occupies a useful place between that hard charging, beat driven play on sound and Enya. For my money, I missed the fullness of base and find the higher pitched electronica grating without something to tie it down. The first two songs raise the energy, stir it with staccato, uneven strokes that generate a feeling of anxious tension which is then drawn down through the ensuing seven tracks. Still Life is a concept album that starts with compressed intensity and lets the lid off. But the intensity wasn’t channelled enough to have produced gemstones, instead we are left with faux pearls. Still pretty, still life.
I won’t be doing yoga to this CD; the high pitched staccato percussion halts rather than smooths the breath. I use music when I practice for it’s energetic quality, and this album has no quality I want to absorb fully. That said, I appreciate it in the same vein but with less intensity than Charles Ives or Kronos Quartet, who also work with minimalist, experimental, abstract, concept driven music. Kodomo, whose given surname is Child for which “kodomo” is Japanese, used photography as his inspiration, each track motivated by an image. The images included in the artful jacket are spare, repetitive, everyday images of the technological infrastructure of our lives.
The telephone poles and phone lines of the images are mirrored by the recursive, inter-referential rhythms of the tracks. I had the feelings both of driving the loneliest road in the country at night – East out of Clayton, NM there isn’t even an AM radio station to break the constant drone of rubber on asphalt, and of the sound that a hyperspace being would make on Star Trek. An odd juxtaposition that makes sense only in a state home to the Roswell Alien phenom. My husband said he might play it at the Boxing gym but otherwise “It doesn’t take me anywhere.” And maybe that’s the point of ambient electronica: to give the illusion of motion without moving us to anywhere new.
If you’d like to review this album yourself, or want to take a stab at the meaning of “alkaloid recreation” in the above haiku, then drop me a haiku about ambient music at christine at yogaeveryday dot org. The best two (as determined by me & my husband over tea while listening to Kodomo) will win a free copy of Kodomo’s debut album Still Life, just out. Enter as often as you’d like, but be sure to leave me contact info so I can justly reward your efforts.