1/ Synthetic Forest (Laswell,Inoue,Atom Heart) 28.42 2/ Green Paste (Laswell,Inoue,Atom Heart) 16.59 3/ Artificial Seaside (Laswell,Inoue,Atom Heart) 16.29 4/ Landing Circle (Laswell,Inoue,Atom Heart) 6.25 Created at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York Engineered by Robert Musso Assistant Engineer: Layng Martine Digital Edtigin by Layng Martine All tracks arranged and produced by Bill Laswell, Tetsu Inoue & Atom HeartBill Laswell: sounds, bass; Tetsu Inoue: sounds; Atom Heart: sounds.
1995 - FAX +49-69/4504674 (Germany), PS 08/78 (CD) 1996 - Submeta (USA), SM-9802-2 (CD) 2016 - Bill Laswell Bandcamp (digital only)Note: Track 4 is titled "Landing Cycle" on the FAX +49-69/4504674 version.
Needless to say, when I saw Bill Laswell's name on a promo that read, "Second Nature is... A series of sound environments that depict the world at micro level...", I got scared. Was a founder of ambient and "sound" based music making New Age, department store, crap? I didn't even put the disc in for a day because I was so worried.
I didn't need to be. Fortunately, Second Nature is the real thing. Bill Laswell and his friends Atom Heart and Tetsu Inoue have composed a work which is immediately original, invigorating, and captivating. This is true ambient music played by people who played long before you could buy a computer that would sequence everything for you. The result is that these three musicians can be labeled "musician" without vocals, a chorus, or a house beat.
Second Nature is a truly interesting work. The four tracks run over 66 minutes combined. They are filled with both electronic pulses and sampled sounds of nature. True to the title of the album, each of these tracks creates a "second nature". "Synthetic Forest", "Green Paste", and "Artificial Seaside" each reflect a mirrored world that Heart, Inoue, and Laswell have created.
The album explores each nature with reverberating drum beats and echoed voices both electric and organic. For the most part, the "form" of each track is established by seemingly random sound effects. This illusion is maintain until you realize the tracks have swirled the incoherent samples into a writhing yet soothing beat. The worlds in Second Nature are vivid and lush. The colors of the foliage bleed in vibrant hues and the landscapes are massive and majestic.
"Landing Circle" is a fitting end to this album. At a "short" 6 minutes and 25 seconds, it signals that this adventure has come to a complete stop. Your journey through the artifical, yet all too familiar, world is over. The ship is landing to take you away, and you are lifted slowly, just as quietly as it started, back to Earth.
I'm not sure if they started this project to make a concept album or not, but Second Nature is brilliantly thought through. If, in today's hectic world, you can find a room or pair of headphones that are quiet enough, you can escape to this ambient world. This is a prime example of how good ambient music can be and a good place for beginners who have thought those department store albums are so cheesy.
Jon Steltenpohl (courtesy of the Consumable Online website)
With "Second Nature", a trio of FAX personalities present us with a highly theme-oriented disc and a captivating excursion into synthesized organics. All three musicians involved (Tetsu Inoue, Atom Heart, Bill Laswell) seem to take a background role all at once, allowing their three distinct styles to interweave quite masterfully throughout the entirety of the work. This disc is full of subtleties and harmonic interaction, each artist producing consistently understated contributions which results in the best form of collaboration: a perfect meshing of musical styles which form a solid, unique whole. I receive similar emotions from this disc as i do from Schmidt/Inoue's "Flowerhead", but contrasted with the dreamy suede finish of that work, "Second Nature" seems positively gritty. A scratchy, all-analog feel throughout the disc strengthens the theme and provides a convincingly raw emotion to all of the tracks presented here.
Synthetic Forest - - -This opening track is a lengthy one, but the experience starts up quickly as a thicket of synthetic and distorted samples fade in, providing us with a tranquil but intense nature setting. Echoing, screechy synthetic birds surround us with electric wildlife, and there are bugs everywhere! A calm and rather indecipherable melody pipes along the the background and soon harsh but immersive noises pan in from all sides. The forest is very much alive with a fuzzy form of ambience that begins to include samples of a more human origin, along with some bending and melancholy tones. Distorted human breathing surges in the right channel and is rather disconcerting due to the fact that one can't quite tell if it's synthetic or not. Whatever the case, the effect is wonderful. Bright and shimmery melodies abstractly drift along. Somehow our trio gives us a very "green" sound here, hitting their intended mark dead on. More repetitive loops enter and the pace begins to pick up playfully. The track is beginning to take on much more structure as humming bass repeats softly from the lower regions. These lush-sounding organic textures juxtapose nicely with their own electric sources, with wonderful reference again to the title of the piece. This is convincing stuff! :) Elements intensify and recede like the sun shining through foliage, accenting and subduing. Some soft, snappy double-percussion invades the right channel like two robotic woodpeckers having a conversation: Uwe's here! They're joined by a third companion, a more present snare in the middle pipes up and *eep!*, a sudden thumping bassline jumps in! The track immediately gains lots of rich structure as we're visited by the first of Laswell's bass. In the course of the past couple minutes our track has progressed from abstract, melodic ambient to a funky, drum-filled textural jam! The movement of the rhythm is very steady and not overbearing whatsoever, as Inoue's masterful backgrounds prove equally important as Atom Heart's asymmetrical rhythmic work. Our artists continue to paint a vivid picture: Laswell describes the thick forms of the forest-the rugged terrain, redwoods and logs stand looming, Atom Heart shows us the wildlife of the forest-birds, rodents and bugs fill up the airspace, while Inoue provides a sense of space, the light filtering between all the physicality in a hazy drifting. We're treated to a warbling solo of some kind as the thumping excursion continues. Things progress nicely for several minutes (the elements thinning and thickening like the forest), until a sudden decomposition tells us we've reached a clearing. A rest is needed after that rugged journey, time for a lie in the grass. Some kind of live instrumental samples and the recurring bending tones provide a calmer, still organic feel as Inoue takes the reins for the track's finale. Clouds roll by in a summertime haze and the memory of wildlife returns with the breeze. The track's total 28:42 passes in no time. A wonderful opening experience.
Green Paste - - -A soft Inouean vista opens before us and the intangibility of the melody is strikingly beautiful. This is somewhat of a night piece, and we can see a massive forest filled with futuristic air traffic, the air is very clean. Floating staticy noises and tones drift like fireflies in the dark, together with intrusive elements that vanish as quickly as they appear. A garbling insectile whisper fills the left channel, with a matching oddity in the right, and a sweetly meandering moonlight melody fills it all out peacefully. Intermittently, sounds like jets traverse the night sky high above and in places the energy of this environment becomes somewhat chaotic. There are wonderfully processed textures here. Harmonic washes and computerized ramblings fill the air. The moonlight melody returns, but by now the track has entered into a state of fragile unrest..the sunrise is imminent. Some warmer analog synths take the forefront in a night breeze, the fireflies dancing in its gusts. The beautiful Inouean expanse again makes itself known as the sun rises....
Artificial Seaside - - -Synthetic gulls and tidal washings open the track in an amusingly accurate interpretation, along with some subdued and grand echoes. A vast-sounding tone gives a nice sparse but massive sea view. More vocal samples make a return appearance, and this track in general appears to be a more laid back return to the emotions of "Synthetic Forest". A gusty, sandy and dry feel predominates and some bubbly preliminary percussive sounds begins to filter in. Drawn out tones and stretched synths combine with a shimmering watery texture and some ghostly washings: Inoue is at work. The interesting harmonic tapestry effect that characterizes this cd is exemplified here. Notes that seem unrelated establish links somehow. Gently vibrating bass and airy, electric analog melodies fade in with a ticking hi-hat. Tasty subtle percussive interaction begins to knock and softly cycle and soon another round of Laswell bass begins to throb. The light beats play around the plodding bass playfully, with an odd and pleasing time signature. It's very relaxed here :) Elements return and leave dreamily. The gentle rolling of sand dunes and the windswept grooves are described here. Things float around gently until gradually fading away, leaving the lingering bass wobble pulsing along with the tide and wind-swept tones.
Landing Cycle - - -A much darker ambient piece ends the disc. This seems much more technological than the rest, focusing on the aforementioned air traffic above our synthetic landscape. Deep and dark drones contain a wonderful doppler effect as aircraft come and go, invisible in the nightscape. Beautiful bending harmonic progressions intrude. A deep, slow, repeating melody adds a super-subtle underlayer to lingering drones and one of Inoue's trademarks: thin, stretched notes which seem to implode upon themselves as they gain their highest pitch. The dark cyclings continue and then fade as some more lonely, calling instruments join the deepening night-mesh.
Overall this is one of my favorite and most comfortable-feeling FAX releases. The wonderful collaboratory aspect of it is a particular draw, and the way the theme is so subtly executed make this an outstanding collection of music. The subdued psychedelia present here is highly entertaining and immersive, but anyone hoping for same ol' same ol' from Atom Heart or Inoue here will be disappointed. Fun, interesting, and fuzzy!