Sunday, 12 August 2012

Review: Johann Kotze – Ambient Nasqueron: Ambient Space Sci-Fi

Honestly, don’t ask me how the fuck I found out about this album. When you abscond into the musical non-space of Spotify you can very easily end up listening to an album only three other people on Earth are aware of – the musician, the musician’s mum and the musician’s mum’s dog. It’s a great way of divorcing music from its critical surroundings so you have an unbiased perspective, I suppose.

Being Ambient Music is apparently the label of yoga trainer and new age musical waffler Johann Kotze. It’s basically space music of the kind I’ve banged on about numerous times before – the kind of floaty, spacey, predominantly pad-based galactic audio wallpaper that I tend to stick on when I want to fall asleep or when I get in from work. This review would be totally redundant, if this weren’t such a hilarious artefact of the new age music world.

This album doesn’t really exist in any official sense – it’s self-published and Kotze has managed to upload it to a few online stores and Spotify, but there isn’t even an official artist on the MP3 tagging. It’s also apparently “Mixed by Prana” (who I initially took to mean the psy-trance artist), even though it isn’t really mixed at all in a DJing sense and the music was probably all created with one keyboard and usually consists of maximum three layers, so doesn’t require much mixing in a production sense either. Your guess is as good as mine.

What initially intrigued me to carry on listening even after I realised I was in the hands of a new age guffmeister was the claim on his website that this album is inspired by Ian M Banks’ sci-fi novel The Algebraist. I haven’t read The Algebraist yet, but Banks is one of my favourite authors and so I was hooked in. Without having read the novel it wouldn’t be fair to comment on whether Kotze has captured the mood of the story, but what I can say is that Ambient Nasqueron is about as
predictable approximation of “space music” as you can ask for. You can probably imagine exactly how it sounds in your head. The structure of the album is also quite odd. 27 tracks is a pretty large number for an ambient record, and there is a weird modulation of running times – tracks varying from twelve seconds to twelve minutes in length in a manner that is so random as to seem pointlessly deliberate. Yet the musical content is largely interchangeable, all of the tracks being extremely bland and too clichéd to be remotely absorbing.

Kotze is pretty unashamed about the wallpaper nature of his music. In fact, it seems to be quite a proud selling point, as his website claims:

His Ambient Music [is] ideal for therapists and spas, yoga, meditation, for use in cafes, lounges and other public spaces with an interest in Consciousness Music.

Pass me the healing crystals, I’m sold. In all, rather predictable honesty, this is rubbish. It’s not even as pleasantly pretty as the other forgettable space-junk I review around these parts, although some of the shorter skits may actually come in handy for future ambient DJ sets. In fairness to Johann Kozte though, he does have another spacey album called Ethereal Chime which is actually a lot better than this, so he’s not a totally useless musician.

Genre: Galactic audio wallpaper
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 4/10

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