The existence of netlabels has to be one of the most positive cultural developments of the Internet age. With the traditional music industry in a freefall, netlabels have rushed in to fill the void. And they do it in a new way: they take the works of talented musicians who may not be in the right genre to be of interest to people who sell, or they may be talented musicians who simply wish to get their work into as many ears as possible. A netlabel fulfills the same function as a record company, taking the music that they think is best and presenting it to you as a reliable source for said music. They want your trust as a place to find the best music and if it’s a good netlabel, it will earn that trust. Netlabel culture has been especially kind to ambient music, which wasn’t exactly a profitable endeavour anyway. Oh yeah, and the Creative Commons music put out by netlabels is usually free. I’ve got a hard drive full of it and I listen to this free music as much as anything else in my collection.
Earth Mantra is one of the finest such netlabels, providing a consistently high level of quality from some of the finest ambient artists in the world today. I’m eternally grateful to them for this service they provide. Or he provides, whoever he is. If I knew who he was, I’d send him a fancy gift basket or 24 beers, because he’s a saint.
Phillip Wilkerson is one of these artists who has gotten his start providing us with a stream of great music out of the goodness of his heart. While some of his music is for sale, and it should be, since it’s real good like, a lot of it is free to download. Wilkerson has dabbled in various ambient subgenres, but one of his specialties is classic spacy ambient, or “drift”, you might call it. This means bigass pads, billowy pillowy synthy goodness that takes your bad mood and turns it into bliss. It’s also good to fall asleep to, which is a compliment in this genre, as opposed to heavy metal, where it might be a hindrance to success. Let me tell you, this guy’s as good at this stuff as anyone who’s ever composed. You’d be doing him a disservice by not indulging in these pearls he throws to you, you swine.
Sun Tracer is typical of his composition in this genre. The Earth Mantra website says “Phillip reports that the inspiration for the album was some casual reading he had been doing on the science of stellar classification, a branch of astrophysics that considers stars based in part upon their luminosity and temperature characteristics.” And indeed, if stars weren’t so dang hot and would vapourize you long before you could get close to them, this music is JUST like floating into the brightness of a Class G and being absorbed.
Right from the start of track one, “Sun Tracer Part I” to the last note of the aptly titled “Adrift in Peace”, the tranquillity never lets up. There are a few more sprightly moments in the Berlin School (that’s mid-period Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze to you Philistines) inspired “Radial Velocity” and “Sun Tracer Part II” as well as a kind a grand massiveness to “Prominence”, a less harmonic number reminiscent of Robert Fripp’s harsher soundscape pieces, but these louder moments don’t detract from the nirvanic gloriousness of this work as a whole.
If you like ambient music at all and don’t know Wilkerson’s work, I suggest you correct that immediately.