V/A :: Aquarius (Dronarivm)

Liquidity has always been an apt metaphor for ambient music as well as for what this collection represents—the fluidity, if not downright irrelevance of boundaries, through which influence, admiration and seduction seep from Vancouver to Norway and Rotterdam, to Italy and Russia and Japan and wherever Simon Whetham happens to be at the moment.

aquariusFor its first compilation, young Russian ambient label Dronarivm invokes the astrological water-bearer in a deep investigation of the thingness of water. Liquidity has always been an apt metaphor for ambient music as well as for what this collection represents—the fluidity, if not downright irrelevance of boundaries, through which influence, admiration and seduction seep from Vancouver to Norway and Rotterdam, to Italy and Russia and Japan and wherever Simon Whetham happens to be at the moment. I don’t know if compiler Bartosz Dziadosz (aka Pleq) prepared a sea chart for the steller line-up of artists appearing on Aquarius. Track titles that rarely make any aquatic reference indicate otherwise, and yet each number runs exactly five minutes and dovetails almost seamlessly with what came before and what immediately follows after.

Federico Durand opens softly, The Green Kingdom seems to adorn Durand’s track with bells, and Pjusk morphs their ringing into a pittering beat, sending up wispy flares before splashing down. Having truly slipped into the depths with Offthesky’s “drone mix” of Melodium’s “Pistorius,” the mind’s eye periscopes. We float gracefully downward with Whetham, who initiates submarine sonar research, transmitting melodious signals and listening to them echo back to him.

The astrolab indicates horse latitudes as Loscil, Marsen Jules and Fabio Orsi take turns at the helm and steer effortlessly through the calm, Orsi’s main-mast blazing with blue St. Elmo’s fire in the form of a triumphal, fuzzed guitar drone. But Pillowdiver’s “Selected Ambient Falls” indicates a slight shift in conditions as the skies darken with Machinefabriek and Hakobune & Hiroki Sasajima open up the clouds.

Ship fever takes hold with Francisco López’ and Pleq & Mathieu Ruhlmann’s forcibly oxygenated contributions as we approach the end; they feel terribly sweaty and claustrophobic in what has hitherto been a smooth, refreshing voyage. Fortunately, Yann Novak succeeds in recapturing some of that invigorating openness as Aquarius closes.

Aquarius is available on Dronarivm. [Release page]

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