Sunset Mountain isn’t some getaway in the Whitsundays renowned for its spectacular beaches, beer-growing palms inhabited by beer-delivering species of butler monkeys and semi-naked matriarchal, cricket-playing and very accommodating native people*, it is in fact a new album by Will Wiesenfeld – a.k.a., Geotic.
The side project of Baths’ Will Wiesenfeld, Geotic takes you to Sunset Mountain on his second instrumental album using only his voice.
Sunset Mountain is the second of a three-album series by Geotic, with each album being an experiment in single-instrument ambience.Sunset Mountain only uses vocals, whilst its predecessor Morning Shore was guitar-only. The prospective third album, Evening Sky, will only use pianos. That’s a pretty cool idea, I guess we can all agree.
Right so as I said, Sunset Mountain is an album of the ambience genre. Or so Geotic says. I like ambience, I do, and I was rather excited when I saw, before playing the music, that Geotic is an ambient musician. However, after listening to the record only after a few songs, ‘ambient’ didn’t seem such a fitting description. Like Gandalf, I got on my hasty horse, rode across the world and past several kingdoms, to the biggest and most trustworthy sanctuary of knowledge in the world. The Wikipedia entry for ambient music has this rather handy quote, from Brian Eno, describing the genre: “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting”.
First of all, I should give a basic description of what this record sounds like: it’s the hippie ambient store music they put on at the Crystal Castle in Mullumbimby, combined with a stock CD of Christian hymnal acapella that a tightarse church uses instead of paying for an organist. Now that’s out of the way, as I was saying, there was something that immediately grabbed me about this record’s self-described ambience. As Eno said, ambient music doesn’t force itself on the listener. Summer Isle, on the other hand, is a loud as an obnoxious American.
I felt rather uncomfortable having the record’s umming and ahhing forcing itself upon me. The other half of Eno’s quote nods at ambient music’s other main element; its mysterious seductiveness. Unfortunately, for me I didn’t feel Geotic’s product was terribly interesting. I’ve listened to album about three times now, and I don’t really feel like there was anything to discover anew past the first listen.
That’s not to say though, that I think Sunset Mountain is a bad album. It’s alright. The feeling I have is that – and to be fair, maybe I’ve focused on this aspect too much – Geotic has been mistaken in misunderstanding what makes good ambient music. Sort of like all those bands that listened to Meshuggah and only came away with the chugga chugga, but none of that avant-garde attitude. Or Seth MacFarlane, who watched the Simpsons and mistook pop-culture references for jokes, and missed the part about coherent writing.
*Ed: If such a place exists, I’m quitting my job right now and moving!
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