Inside the Rain Chamber is the third release from Neu Gestalt, the ambient producer/musician also known as Les Scott. The 12-song set continues the progression begun with Altered Carbon (2008) and Weightless Hours (2012). For those who follow this type of music, Inside the Rain Chamber will not disappoint. Although Gestalt have not abandoned the ambient sounds of the past, Inside the Rain Chamber does add glitches, breakdowns and cut-up vocals to create a very adventurous sound.
The Scottish musician looked to the East for inspiration this time around, and the use of Japanese speech fragments and the shakuhachi flute add an intriguing flavor. An excerpt from his liner notes provides a nice capsule of his thinking: “Blade Runner’s fusing of Oriental images and sounds with those of the rain-drenched futuristic city left me with a permanent association between the two.”
The opening “Voyager” contains many familiar elements, but Scott shakes things up at key points with unexpected glitches, drops, and snatches of a woman speaking in Japanese. “Capsule” takes these elements even further, and in many ways defines the current approach.
Part of the fun of “Landing Lights” is in trying to figure out exactly what instruments Scott is even using. The piano on “Islands” is gorgeous, reminiscent of Brian Eno on his superb Apollo album. “Tokyo Tipping Point” is possibly the most abstract song of the set, while “Twilight of Tears” and “A Year Without Sun” almost seem to make amends for the new approach. “Weightlessness” contains the most overt Eastern references, and it provides a lovely finale to the album.
The most salient point about this disc is not that Scott has mixed things up musically, it is the unforgettable melodies contained within. Forget about prog, new age, or any Ibiza-type “electronic music,” Inside the Rain Chamber is something completely different. As a fan of the genre for at least 25 years now, I still have trouble defining it. Autechre’s Incunabula and Amber inspired Radiohead’s Kid A, among others, but by that point the originators had already moved on. The music of Gestalt is similarly groundbreaking and ahead of its time.
One of the biggest attractions I have to the music of Neu Gestalt is the feeling of long misty days it evokes in this lifetime Seattle-area resident. The rain comforts me, and while I have never spoken to the artist, I get a similar impression from his music. This recording is both beautiful and disconcerting, electronic yet oddly human. Released by the independent Scottish Alex Tronic Records, Inside the Rain Chamber may not be the easiest disc to find, but it is well worth the effort.
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