Various Artists

Driftless Ambient II

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Driftless Ambient II, the second compilation from small New York-based label Driftless Recordings, features submissions from the label's regulars as well as newcomers, and the collection demonstrates how wide-ranging the boundaries of the genre can stretch. Some of the more well-known artists are represented by tracks that differ from their usual material; two brief tracks by Wild Nothing's Jack Tatum feature bright, rapid arpeggio patterns, with "S" even including new agey pan pipe sounds. Matt Mondanile's contribution is a short, abstract piece called "The Canonical Office," which consists of eerie scrapes and ticks, revisiting the experimental spirit of the early days of his Ducktails project but taking it in a much different direction than the sun-baked lo-fi guitar jams he was once known for. Of the label regulars, Megafortress uses the word "ambient" in a literal sense on his piece "Two Birds," as woodwinds blend in with the sounds of chirping birds, footsteps, and distant voices. Montreal's CFCF combines chiming gamelan percussion with vocodered vocals on "Dissecting," and "Over USB" is a surprising diversion into tense downtempo, with a crunchy, circular rhythm and a slightly growling, distorted bassline. Several other selections get much darker and more distorted, such as JSHUA's "Kyoto Realisms," a 12-minute epic of failure and hopelessness. North Americans' "Diana" starts out with glitchy guitars and shakers, and eventually gets swarmed with harsh distortion, which cuts in and out without warning. Lost Trail's "Gloaming Drew Down and Was Gone" is even more noisy and distraught, surrounding a simple, wistful melody in blown-out fuzz, burying a half-remembered family recording underneath. The release is a diverse collection of textures reflecting various moods and states of the world surrounding us.

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