Ok, so at some point in the last decade or so, some genius invented the term “IDM”. If you don’t know, this means “Intelligent Dance Music.” The term is basically reserved for more artistic (and often slower) melodic electronic music, ie not to dance to, but to “chill” to, unless you could dance and cogitate at the same time, which most people can’t. Honestly, I think it’s the dumbest genre term ever created. Granted, most dance music is suitable only for blaring from the cars of meatheads on the main drag on Saturday night, but this term suggests to me that anything above a certain BPM or anything not weird enough is “Not Intelligent”. But I digress immediately….
Carbon Based Lifeforms is the “IDM” (they say acid, techno and house, but I don’t see it, frankly) project of a couple of Swedes. Like a lot of music from the great Scandinavian north, it’s heavy on way-out atmosphere, basically melodic ambient with beats. I really enjoy a couple of their previous releases, Interloper and World of Sleepers. Lots of pretty melodies and swoopy synths, breathy girls, etc., accompanied by stately beats to bop your head to while engaged in some kind of task (or pleasurable activity, I guess, but that’s your business). I must admit it’s not usually my cuppa – that kind of music often gets too close to the kind of stuff you’d hear in a douchey lounge or cool ladies clothing store than intellectually satisfying tuneage. But these guys do it well, and kudos to them.
Now, Twentythree is a different kind of beastie, and I’d like to thank Carbon Based Lifeforms for reading my mind and making an album just for me! Cheers, guys. For here we have a fully formed monolith of space ambient, the kind we’re used to from the likes of Thom Brennan, Robert Rich and Steve Roach. And dare I say, yes, this is as good as any of the best albums produced by those grand masters. I’m not sure what inspired these chaps to venture wholeheartedly into this territory, but I’m hoping a bit that they never go back.
It sometimes seems pointless to try to review an ambient album, even one divided into many distinct tracks. The whole thing is designed to sweep over you like a soft, warm wave, transporting your mind off to your happy place, be it a land where joyful unicorns barf liquid candy rainbows, or your dead grandma is stroking your hair as you lie in a hammock, or some other paradise. Suffice it to say that from the first second, that’s what happens. Huge waves of harmonically perfect space synth, hints of melody, only the lightest and unobtrusive of sequencing-type sounds and not a hint of a beat anywhere. Occasionally some environmental noise (the chirping birdies on “Kensington Gardens”; who could resist birdies?) and vocal samples appear in the form of what sounds like radio chatter, but it’s never up front and intrusive (this sometimes ruins pieces by Biosphere for me).
Anyone who is hardcore into ambient music basically must get this album. And I mean must. If you don’t like it, God will give you your money back in Heaven then kick you down to Hell as punishment for your rubbish taste in music.