There is no better time to dig through some older records than in the wake of a new year, when the music business hasn’t yet switched to full power. One of the first albums during this period that I was tasked with starting with was Paul Ellis’ I Am Here. A record published back in 2012 by Lotuspike, I Am Here is a nice piece of old-school ambient with a warm synthetic sound and long compositions, but sadly, pretty much nothing else.
The first thing that comes to mind is that 2012 wasn’t that long ago, right? Well, I Am Here takes you back much further than the three years that it has existed. Paul Ellis builds his pieces over warm low drones where sweeping pads move around your stereo panorama with slight frequency modulations. Over this you can’t expect anything else but some melodic introductions. They come into being on the verge of mystery and ambition; they can also sometimes sound slightly tense. These three elements pile on, then momentarily become quiet—it is in this moment that you’re hit by the final touch of a bassy closing tune—your ambient climax and drop-off. That’s basically the whole story for all three long pieces on I Am Here: they are all very melodic, soothing, and spacious. The best thing on this album was its general sound: warm, orthodox electronic, and, well, perfect.
I guess there will always be people who want ambient music to be exactly like that—a new age sonic experience, music to play while making yoga… or pancakes.
I Am Here is a nice album, but would have been better if it had appeared in the ’80s. Unless you’re a huge fan of the old sound, this album would only probably make you imagine a bunch of elders in white garb greeting the sunrise in a vast green meadow. A huge reason for that is also due to I Am Here‘s album art, which looks as if it was a commissioned work from a tourist agency. And the fact that the album is dedicated to a small island in the Columbia River Gorge doesn’t help. Nature has always been a great inspiration for ambient musicians, but if that wasn’t explained in the notes of I Am Here, I think I wouldn’t have imagined the concrete natural influences behind this particular collection of music. Some field recordings or another reproduction of the location or its temporary human inhabitants would have been nice.
Anyway, if you dig this kind of new age music, then this is undoubtedly your record, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.
01) She Who Watches
02) Chinook Wind
03) 1 AM on an Island in the Columbia River