Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pieter Nooten and Michael Brook - Sleeps With the Fishes (4AD, 1987)

On my annual winter way down memory lane, I always revisit that 80's 4AD sound. It had a phenomenal impact on me as a teenager. Hearing This Mortal Coil was life changing. I remember the moment I realized that these embarrassing tendencies I had of listening to Hearts of Space radio and Brian Eno's ambient work were ok. 4AD artists were dark and mysterious and goth. It was ok. Right? Maybe my punk / metal friends wouldn't get it but I suddenly didn't care.

This year's excursion has yielded this lovely discovery. By late 1987, Pieter Nooten had left Clan Of Xymox, but Ivo (bossman) continued to be intrigued by the tapes Pieter would send him. He suggested a team-up with guitarist/producer Michael Brook, who had been working with Brian Eno as well as recording for Eno's Opal label. The result was a quiet album of fragile songs and dreamlike soundscapes entitled Sleeps With The Fishes.

I don't know how I missed this album for so many years, as I'm also a big fan of Michael Mann. His album 'Night Song' with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Peter Gabriel's Secret World label) was educating and necessary listening for me. I was also very into his film scores (Captive, Heat).

This album produces a elegantly beautiful mix of ambient and chamber music, drifting between faux film score and ethereal vocal melodies. The strings, guitar and synthesizers are definitive 4AD but Nooten and Brook have their own particular chemistry that distinguishes them. Wonderfully somber.

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