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Gate/Sol - PS 08/47
Release Date: 9 May 1994
all tracks written by Charles Gate & Victor Sol
In many ways this is a simple disc but the two tracks are distinctly different; one based on a Moorish/Arabian ambient theme, the other a soft atmospheric piano solo. The colour tracknames as much reflect the subtle variations in heat and cool of the two tracks or our synaesthetic response to the music as we drift along.
Red: A glowing envelope of sound opens up while chattering atmospheric sounds flit about. A synth builds a monolithic sequence repeated through the rest of the track sporadically as a kind of sad but triumphal anthem. I assume it is Gate's treated guitar which is used here to add colour to the Eastern percussion which marks out the time. Don't expect to go anywhere with this one, just chill as the subtle rhythms as the guitar dies away only to drift back intertwining with the synth theme and the swirling ambience. As the percussion becomes more emphatic so does the synth while the guitar draws ever more emotive circles around us and an orchestral aspect to the music opens up. This distant cousin of the Sultan is a reminder of the need for subtlety and invention in ambient music and a warmth that we seem to have moved well away from.
Blue: The sound of like light rain opens this piece while birdsong melts away as the piano player starts. Chiming piano notes (a little like Bob Charlesworth's Music for the Third Ear) are sound given the environmental treatment with warm synths emphasizing each piano phrase to produce an uplifting but slow and meditative track. Cheesy though some will find this track its Enoesque piano signature and undoubted new-ageyness is never taken too far making it a pleasant but isolationist track to be enjoyed with a late night cuppa or a glass of chilled wine while the summer sun sets. After five minutes the piano takes a more pronounced and classical tone with the birds flocking overhead while rippling waves are suggestive of a film soundtrack. The final 'movement' brings back the synth and birdsong to play out a careful theme that is finally developed after the rambling patterns of notes in the earlier section. The echoing notes and warm lapping of water produce an affecting quality to the music, as much apiece to think about the significance of life or just one to float casually away to.
(review by Rowland Atkinson)
I know several people's impressions of this disc are somewhat less then favorable, but I recently got a hold of one of these for myself, after briefly hearing it a couple years back, and decided that I could say a few good things about it. One thing to remember is not to build expectations based on other Sublabel releases, as it pretty much stands alone in its category. This disc is filled with pleasant, relaxing dinner music, plain and simple. There is no drumming, other then the occasional tabla in track 1, and extremely minimal use of synthesized waveforms. The involvement of Victor Sol suggests that the songs will be filled with bizarre analog tweaks and slight timing nuances in rhythm and looped patterns. None of this exists on Gate/Sol, as the 2 half-hour long tracks are nothing to do with proper "techno" at all, but rather seem to be an exercise in emulating the music of past times. And this might convey a false impression or sense of paradox, as this disc also reminds me of Blade Runner, particularly the second track. Both songs contain the kind of slow melancholic sentiment one feels in between the scenes of that film. It's not the spacey, futuristic qualities and landscapes often associated with the movie that I'm referring to, but rather the more bleak feeling of aftermath or the emotionally incongruous situations the characters find themselves in: lost memories of green grass and towering trees, fantastic creatures, and now of people crowding everywhere but not a soul to speak to. But this music also has a more dominant uplifting aspect to it that might even be thought of as "romantic." Like I mentioned before, it's perfect background music for a quiet evening meal, and I would recommend this disc for just such an occasion. Perhaps this is your opportunity to cook up some Chicken Breast Namlook for your guest? See recipe in the Ambient Cookbook for details....
Red: Starts out with a low drone of sorts, and some quiet synths blanket the background. Definitely appropriate for either waking up or winding down, though the track name seems to imply a soft sunset or evening clouds. Eventually, the overall sound of the piece is determined by some sort of stringed instrument that elaborates upon a main theme in various ways. At around 10 minutes and 20 minutes, the tablas become a little more obvious. Debating whether these instruments are synthetic or genuine ("real") acoustic might bypass the intended mood entirely. We encounter more dense passages of solo string activity interspersed with other areas where the sound is more spontaneous or improvised, and everything is always at a relaxed and unconcerned pace.
Blue: A demonstration in freestyle keyboarding. Cascading piano notes and resounding tones continue unlooped for the length of the entire track. At about 5 minutes a more ambitious series of chords pulls you from the reverie, but the relaxed tone is sooner-established. This track is just an endless evening atmosphere preserved sonically, and it would stand up nicely to the Discman "repeat" mode. This piece seems to change every 5 minutes or so, forming a chain of successive stages that the listener progresses through. The mood is perfect for a restful evening after the long shadows have departed.
(review by no@h)
Excellent music for unwinding, falling asleep, or calming down tense situations (start this disc in the middle of an argument with your spouse, and the conversation soon calms down!). Two tracks, each around 30 minutes, each with their own mood. Some say this disc is too close to New Age (maybe the strings on Red), but I don't have that bias here. Basically these are two warm, melodic tracks with minimal rhythm and a wonderful tonal quality more reminiscent of Eno's On Land or Kit Walkins' Thought Tones (albeit more actively composed than the latter) than most new agey stuff. rating: 10/10.
(review by Michael Lekas)
With the polarization of opinion on this disc, it was with some interest that I secured myself a copy. These two tracks reek of New Age. You may take this a compliment to the composers or as a sleight, but I can now say that I side with the more negative views expressed on this site. This disc bores and, after a couple of minutes, irritates. If you are a fan of New Age you will find something to your liking here, otherwise distance yourself accordingly !
(review by Ian Ainslie)
I just picked up Gate/Sol, and I have to say it's very nice. My friend Kuri says it's very new-agey, with it's floating synths and piano lines, and while I won't disagree strongly, I will say it is very nice listening music. It makes for good conversation music, that is, it seems to stimulate good talks between individuals. It's something to listen to when you're having that big discussion with the significant other ;) Which is not to say it's boring, quite the contrary, it's highly structured and never seems to meander. But it's also very pleasant. _Listening_ music is the best term for this release, sort of halfway between ambient and, well, new age. Good for the home, but not psychedelic enough for the chill room.
(review by Wallace Winfrey)
The Gate/Sol disc bored me. Two lifeless tracks that make me long for the sound of my dishwasher. Save your money, and invest it another Fax CD.
(review by Paul Rafanello)
I picked up Gate/Sol (FAX PS 08/47) last weekend, It's quite an interesting release. I know it's a couple of years old, but I still think it's worth commenting on today.
Red builds up slowly, a la Fripp/Eno's "Heavenly Music Corporation", but with synth sounds. Real Tablas add a touch of groove, and quiet environmental noises fill things out - insects, breeze through the trees, etc. Eventually, a keyboard playing a classical guitar patch starts up, noodling gently in the foreground. And that's it. For 28 minutes. It doesn't go anywhere at all. This is a criticism commonly leveled at ambient by outsiders, but "Red" really deserves it. Even "Music For Airports" has more in the way of musical dynamics. And no, "Red" by Gate/Sol has nothing to do with King Crimson!
The two tracks segue together via a rainstorm, with gentle thunder rolls in the background. Against a background of jungle insect noises, louder than on "Red", a sampled string section forms a bed for a fluent piano line. This definitely works better, even incorporating a chord change at one point.
My main criticism of Gate/Sol must be the quality of the sounds used. The piano is OK, the strings are reasonable, but a classical guitar patch just can't compare to the real thing, no matter how well played. Little things like fret noise, and the sound of the guitar body creaking, make all the difference. The real tablas added depth, but could have been more dynamic.
(review by Brian Thomson)