Artist: Pete Namlook and Mixmaster Morris
Label: Fax +49-69/450464
Summary: Worth it for one sublime track alone.
In 1993, Pete Namlook and Mixmaster Morris paired up to make Dreamfish,
an album that perfectly captures what the Fax +49-69/450464 record
label was about at the peak of its output.
The opening track, School of Fish, has to be one of my favourite
pieces of music of all time, right up there with Bach's Aria and
Brian Eno's An Ending (Ascent). In my opinion, this sublime track
is about as good as music gets. Like much ambient music, it's
composed of a few simple elements that blend together well: it has
stepped sequences, plenty of slowly evolving pads, a marimba for
rhythm and some filtered noise for effects. Such a technical
description doesn't begin to do it justice, however. Emotionally,
it's a wonderful, dreamy piece of music that washes over you like
the ocean washing over sand. It's simply beautiful.
Charting deeper waters, the second track, Hymn, is a much darker
piece. Fueled by short step sequences and swirling pads, it has an
ominous, almost scary atmosphere as Terence McKenna talks about
patriarchal monotheism. This track compliments the first well, but
personally I'd rather have had the chance to explore the happier,
more playful side of things more.
The third track, Fishology, is downright weird. The pair of musicians
worked out how to coax strange noises like frog calls out of
synthesisers, but I have to wonder why. This album is generally
seen favourably by most people who have actually heard it, so perhaps
I'm missing something, but I didn't think this swirly, bleepy track
was worth releasing.
Dreamfish ends with Under Water, which amounts to a bit of noodling
on a synth for ages. Again, it doesn't really contribute much to
the album. This time, I doubt it's just a matter of personal taste,
either: listening to it objectively, this track is embarrassingly
simple, featuring a few strange synth noises starting up and spinning
back down again. The whole thing's caked in reverb, naturally,
and... that's it. It just doesn't feel like much effort was put
into this track, as if the duo felt they needed to fill up the
remaining space on the CD.
This is a hard album to rate, because I'd recommend it to anybody
who likes ambient music for the first track alone. However, the
pair of musicians understandably seemed to run out of creative energy
after producing this sublime piece of music, leaving arguably most
of the album with what amounts to filler.
According to Mark Prendergast in his book The Ambient Century, this
album was created in only two days. While impressive, I think it
does show. Maybe if Pete Namlook and Mixmaster Morris had spent
more time together, they could have created a whole album that fulfils
the promise of the first track. That would have really been amazing.
If you can justify to yourself buying an album for just one track,
then I urge you to try to hunt down Dreamfish. At least the track
in question is over eighteen minutes long. Just don't expect the
whole album to live up to its fantastic start.