A Closer Listen
January 8, 2014 esc.rec.39, Press
We Don’t Rock is just what ambient music could truly be if it dared to stretch its wings – mellow, without ever being saccharine, and innovative without straying too far into the left field. Presently, the ambient music scene isn’t what you would call wild, nor does it aspire to be. You won’t see ambient music in the ring, slugging it out with rock n’ roll. Emotionally, though, ambient music can frequently eclipse the brutal power chord and the failed stage jump.
Innovative in its sound, We Don’t Rock is loose ambient. Instrumental compositions take precedence over slow burning atmospherics. Surprisingly, staccato rhythms and electronic layers push their way into the sound, but perhaps even more surprisingly the music manages to paint a pretty paradise without any kind of a drone in sight. You won’t find the routine running stream of water that leads the way not only to the forest, but to ambient predictability, and with it the chiming chorus of birdsong.
For an ambient release, We Don’t Rock inverts the genre, weaving in sounds that would otherwise not only be considered an afterthought, but dismissed and excluded altogether. Throbbing bass notes point the way to a guitar-led refuge and blocks of beats crumble against the smash of the sea. Still, We Don’t Rock sounds like ambient music. There are calming moments, imbued with the clean, wet notes of a guitar submerged in constant reverb, and peaceful, sung moments that reaffirm the belief that ambient music can, if it tries, be found in all shapes and sizes.
Wild Wild Ambient Boys (Hidde van Schie and Jeroen S. Rozendaal) have a bright, playful and innocent sound that’s soft in the center. Think Labradford or Pan American, but with some electronic tweaking and you’re not too far away. The thumping, galactic “Girls Against Sci-Fi” is a close encounter with said electronica, but it still, somehow, stays ambient. The soft, shimmering haze of “David Hamilton’s Sisters” is lovely in its heat, but then comes “Drowning In A Sea Of Nu”, which flips the atmosphere, placing it upon a cool, placid lake. The elemental shift is just one transformation on an album that never fails to surprise. Indeed, “The Usual Effects Part 2?, while incredibly pretty, could be the duo’s retaliation at the state of the genre and its reliance on ‘pretty sound’. Just when does pretty sound make for calming music? Does ambient music have to be calming? Striking questions that are hard to answer, but ones which must be addressed if the ambient genre is to stay the course and stay refreshed.
We Don’t Rock manages to be diverse while keeping its ambient identity intact. “Double Female Connector” comes very close to the aforementioned power chord, which would surely be an ambient first. No doubt there’s just enough room for a new name to be given to the music Wild Wild Ambient Boys have created, but who cares about labels? Music has the right to be whatever she wants to be. Call it whatever you like – the labels don’t really count for much. Anything is possible with music. And labels aside, the duo have given ambient music a new direction to walk in, down what could have been a one way street.