Datacide: Flowerhead

Released:

1996

Reviewed:

3/3/00

Label:

Asphodel

Grade:

A

Synopsis: Extremely good, laid-back ambient electronic music, constructed with an unusual degree of care, wit and intelligence

Since a reviewer at www.datacide.org has already done an excellent job of encapsulating this album, I won't go on at excessive length about Flowerhead. Datacide is apparently a collaborative project between two fellows named Atom Heart, a German-turned-Chilean who enjoys very high regard amongst a select few who know his work, and Tetsu Inoue from Japan, who is apparently a major figure in ambient music. I can't say I knew of either of them before I bought this CD; to be honest, I picked it up nearly on impulse, by way of a casual recommendation from a fellow member of the Low email list.

It would be deceptive to call this album a knockout, because though it is a bit of a masterpiece, it's not really of the jaw-dropping sort. There are a fair number of incredible moments and sounds, but they tend to inspire admiration rather than astonishment, because this album's strengths are its understatement and its taste. I honestly don't know why I find Flowerhead so addictive, but addictive it is; for a while I was listening to it every night as I went to sleep at very low volume. Perhaps there are subliminal messages hidden somewhere in its depths?

The textures are lush but minimal, reminding me at times of nothing so much as middle-period videogame music like the soundtrack to Super Metroid. The sound selection was apparently a painstaking process that happened over a period of months, and it shows; rarely have I heard a CD with such a consistently rewarding palette of samples. The focus tends to be on fairly analog-sounding swells and pads, but there are plenty of chirps, throbs and even giggles, too. Drum loops are present, but far less out front in the mix, and given less structural importance, than in they would be in, say, a Boards of Canada album (let alone your average techno disc). For example, in the first track the percussion loop doesn't enter until five minutes into the song.

Furthermore, an impressive degree of attention was clearly paid to the mixing and mastering of Flowerhead. Each sound enjoys its own sonic space, and is articulated clearly within the overall texture, yet each blends perfectly with everything else. There's an overall feeling of richness and depth to this album that makes listening to it a real pleasure. It could be misleading to call it "warm", although one could argue the point either way. But it's certainly not misleading to call it deep, and in its depths lie many impressive sonic jewels. Overall, Flowerhead is a great example of Brian Eno's definition of ambient music: though it does not demand close attention, it unequivocally rewards it.