Sunday, February 21, 2016

ambient archaeology

Details, 1991 or 1992

text by Simon Reynolds


Brendan Murray said...

Hi Simon,

I'd love to know the story behind this article. How was it commissioned (or did you pitch it)? how did you research it? did you have input into the layout/design? what was the reaction? etc...

I reckon that'd be a great story too.



Details did a whole bunch of 'family tree' type charts for different genres. i think one was grunge / alternative - not sure who did that (might have been Ann Powers). There were a couple of others. there was one chart that was fantastically complicated and double backed on itself and ut was very hard to follow. Whereas my one I think is quite easy on the eye, which is mostly the skill of the designer but also had something to do with how I laid out the information. i didn't have any input into the design apart from the basic idea of the lines of evolution running in parallel and how they converged. and i went over and pointed things that had been missed. the editors wanted as many lines of connection and branching pathways as possible. I didn't do a ton of research - at that point the idea of how ambient had evolved and what were sort of parallel lines of evolution to it, that was fairly clear in my mind. it was a time when ambient was a big buzzword - there was ambient rock (what within a year or two would be called post-rock), there was ambient techno, and ambient rap was being talked about too (massive, tricky etc). ambient dub - The Orb etc. you had the chill out culture off the back of rave. i had done pieces on most of these ambient-hypen-genre phenomenon so the idea was in the my head. can't remember if i included this but there was even what i thought of as 'ambient grunge' - that band Earth, who are now considered drone metal. so ambient was a BIG buzzword at the time. i think i bought a few records and the editor had suggestions about what i'd missed. but i had earlier down a column on New Age for Details - not something i knew a lot about, but the assignment was to write a sort of semi-defence of it, which I was happy to do. in the process came across things like Pauline Oliveros and 'resonant music' and squeezed in ECM Records and other things that weren't really New Age but were tranquil. so this was also on my mind. yeah it was a real fun assignment. there are footnotes that are cut off from that scan, which i think i found on the web. not sure where my copy of the spread is - somewhere in my many many folders and boxes.