Whether you’ll enjoy Robert Miles’ new album Th1rt3en depends on how much you enjoy ambient music, or songs intended to create a mood or induce relaxation. Experimental electronic music artist Miles explores the genre, and adds certain elements of jazz and rock to create his own sound. He produces a pleasant background aura, intended to induce a chilled-out state rather than encourage close listening.
Miles incorporates rock, particularly the spacey and progressive rock stylings of Pink Floyd, into “Moving.” “Deep End” merges electric guitar with techno beats, with live drums adding to the organic tone. In addition, “Black Rubber” resembles straight-ahead rock, although it still bears the ambient traits of repetitive rhythms and riffs. “Miniature World” boasts a guitar-based motif, the furious drums adding a live sound, which is often missing in the ambient form.
However, he succeeds most when he injects some jazz into the tracks. “Everything or Nothing” combines techno with jazz-influenced beats, the electronic tones swirling around a shuffling rhythm. “Afterglow” starts out as ambient trance, but quickly transitions into a bass-and-drum-driven tune that skims the outer rims of jazz.
Miles does not neglect techno/dance influences, however, and they are best represented in “Antimony.” The throbbing, distorted, bass-driven beat would work well in a club. The warped-sounding guitar and bass lend the track an industrial, robotic tone. Similarly, “Archives” uses sound loops, programmed drums, and a dizzyingly intricate bass line to create another dance-friendly track.
For those who appreciate the meditative quality of ambient, “Voices From a Submerged Sea” should satisfy. The operatic voices and swirling keyboards encourage relaxation and reflection, similar to John Cage’s avant-garde classical compositions. Th1rt3en’s final track, “The Wolf,” continues this quiet mood with just solo piano, an interesting coda to an electronic-heavy album.
Since the ’90s, Miles has released several dance and electronica albums, and scored initial success with his 1996 hit “Children.” He then expanded his musical repertoire, collaborating with artists such as Nitin Sawhney and composing soundtracks for television and film.
With Th1rt3en, he clearly aims to move into fusion, blending rock and jazz with his electronica background. Unlike fusion albums like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, however, Th1rt3en is not intended for intense, close listening. Instead, the CD creates a mood, and would serve well as background music in film. Those who enjoy such ambient sounds should try Miles’ latest release; those who wish to closely study music should look elsewhere.
A companion album, Th1rt3en Remixes, will be released in the near future.