Smoking The Century Away - Animated Weightlessnes

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Nuggetphase Productions (dist. Fossil Records)
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 39:20:00

Smoking The Century Away create ambient sonicscapes that aren't exactly smooth synth washes or moody, modular dirges but somewhere in between. The first piece, "Even More Glueland" lasts well over 20 minutes (on an album that that is just about 40 minutes long) and includes sections that are middle-eastern accented and percussion heavy while another section trumpets its arrival with something that sounds like a squished kazoo, before being joined by other blips, bloops and whirs. It is a mix that takes a variety of styles and refashions them in a new, and chillier, context. While there are some angular edges, they aren't so akimbo that one can't find some softer purchase on which to hang.

Odd sound effects permeate most of Animated Weightlessness' seven tracks, the exception being the moody, soundtrack like "Smoked Psalm," where whatever is being shown on screen is murky and indistinct. But the second longest piece, the nearly ten minute "Alice Of Glazer" begins with a clang ? like shattering dishes or glasses, or?chains falling away and yet something that sounds like all of them and none of simultaneously. The cacophony leads into screaming strings that end suddenly. The piece then becomes, over time, an edgy and anxious study in angularity, full of sounds that are awfully hard to describe. Chitterings, loose bass lines, children's voices, a baby's cry, strings, flat percussion, everything but (and maybe including) the kitchen sink.

"Denizen," the third longest piece at 5-plus minutes, is darker, a bit martial in theme, and again with some middle-eastern over tones. Along side a brief, lyrical acoustic guitar passage, we get some whirring effects (like a helicopter heard in a druggy hallucination). The piece is slinky, like whisps of smoke dancing up through the air against a multi-hued background.

The rest of the album is filled with short vignettes, the shortest being 44 seconds, the longest 1:59. The most developed of these pieces is "Zoot Rescue" which is based around the bass, deep dark tones hum and throb in what in a happy manner, the surrounding atmospherics ? chitterings, warped synth lines, and sustained synth washes ? suggest something ironic. Like a slow-witted beast contentedly heading for its death ? a zoot perhaps (though isn't that a baggy suit?). The other short pieces include, "Nephrite," which is but a beginning to some to something that never develops.

STCA are Jorge Beltran on acoustic 12-string guitar, synths, percussion, soundtrack and fx, and Victor Basurto multiple basses, iron Chinese bells, blue-print percussion (2), tone controlled Wal bass and serves as digital curator. Guests include Carlos Bonequi on percussion and voices on "Even More?," Brenda and Pamela Barber voices on "Even More?," and Francesco Cecchi on violin for "Zoot Rescue." Most of the material for the album was recorded in both Mexico and The Netherlands in 1999, though some of it, the duo note, dates from 1985.

What I dislike is that some of the tones used are at an ear-piercing pitch, even if they aren't especially loud. Depending on the quality of your hearing, you will either notice the same thing, or it won't register. Don't tell my friends, but I hear just fine and often at pitches others don't hear, so maybe I'm just hypersensitive. But on the other hand, there is a chilly, silvery effect that the percussion gives this album that has always struck a wrong chord with me.

Bands that come to mind in terms of genre and style are Mushroom and Escapade. And yet, I find that this particular suite becomes trying after a more than a few listens. Especially listening to "Alice?" as that anxiety leads to some real anxiety. While it's not awful, it thus is not a an album that you'd spend a lot of time listening to over and over ? and sort of defeats the purpose. Most of the points here then go towards technique and arrangement rather than the resulting sonics.

Even More Glueland (20:30) / Denizen (5:00) / Nephrite (1:03) / Smoked Psalm (1:51) / Zoot Rescue (1:39) / Alice Of Glazer (9:53) / Molting Into Morning Cellophane (0:44)

Jorge Beltran - acoustic 12-string guitar, synths, percussion, soundtrack and fx
Victor Basurto - multiple basses, iron Chinese bells, blue-print percussion (2), tone controlled Wal bass and digital curator

Carlos Bonequi - percussion and voices (1)
Brenda and Pamela Barber voices ? (1)
Francesco Cecchi -- violin (5)

Smoking The Century Away (1997)
Animated Weightlessness (2001)

Genre: Ambient

Origin VA

Added: January 27th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 927
Language: english


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