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OpethGuitarist View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Atmospheres and Textures: The Unsung Heroes
    Posted: April 24 2007 at 17:10
Oftentimes you will find works lauded for their brilliant technical displays or inspiring melodies (examples: time signatures, awe-inspiring riffs, cool instrumental breakdowns, etc.) However, much of the beauty I see in music, and indeed in most good prog music, is the atmosphere that is crafted around these melodies, the textures, the little things, that really take a quite ordinary song and make it something more, that make it distinctive, unique, and almost human in quality.

Such bands that focus on the atmosphere as much as the music are rare to find, and even if they are found, they are still not rewarded and discussed as much as they should be.

What are others thoughts on the matter? I realize this is a more advanced feature (at least in my opinion) as it is much more difficult to create certain atmospheres than a cool melody (I should know as a musician) and it's also much less appreciated than a neat lick,fill, pattern, etc.


Edited by OpethGuitarist - April 24 2007 at 18:38
back from the dead, i will begin posting reviews again and musing through the forums
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 17:16
I absolutely agree, in fact, music that lacks these things is of little interest to me, such as some technical prog metal. Music that has nothing but these things, on the other hand, is often amazing, for example Kluster, Merzbow, Klaus Schulze...Approve
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 18:06
My, I'm all about textures. Hence my positive review of the new PT album. It's got riffs, but that Barbieri's got texture!

I personally think the world owes a debt to the inventors of delay (Echoplex or otherwise), which allowed guitar players to make 'em!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 18:16
I find its the melding of atmospher and texture, technical ability (both in playing and composing) and the sense of melody that is what makes certain music so strong. I can easily appreciate an album that has 1or 2 of these aspects perfected but the masterpieces are the albums that successfully meld these aspects together that garner the most praise from me.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 18:31
Atmosphere and Texture before technical ability... I'd mention "Florian" by Le Orme. Sometimes the violin gets slightly out of tune, the overall impression is divinely naive, but what a charming album.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 18:33
I love textures, the whole reason I dont like DT is because of the lack of textures, and the reson I love post rock is because of the textures.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 18:36
DT had good textures on Images and Words, I believe. They lost the great textures except for a song here and there.

I would agree with Porcupine Tree, Klaus Schulze, Cluster and will add an Ashra, Tangerine Dream, and Edgar Froese.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 18:40
in my opinion GYBE! is the god of atmosphere and texture
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 18:58
For me, textures are very a critical articulation in music. I listen to a lot atonal music, in the drone (electronic type) and electroacoustic realms of music, a large part of the musicians ideologies are creating intricate textures and atomspheres, especially within the boundries of field recordings.

A lot of people would notice my tastes tend towards the RIO/avant-prog section of this site. My 'favourites' from the genre nearly always veer towards Chamber Rock for this reason. Bands like Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, Aksak Maboul, all produce amazing atomspheres. I think this also might be the reason I tend towards the French Zeuhl and the Canterbury Scene, the jazzy approach gives the music a very laid back and textural feeling.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 19:02

Textures is a Dutch band that sounds a lot like Meshuggah. They are great, extremely proficient in what they do; any "technical" metal fan should give them a try. And they are called Textures for a (good) reason. Oh my, what shall we do with these ambiguous terms? Wink

"Atmospheres" are in our minds, not contained a priori in the music. They aren't "something" you swallow without chewing. If they are, then you're probably listening to Michael Bolton. We, listeners, make our own work of art from what we hear. Of course Porcupine Tree make things very obvious - that's precisely why they sell so well. That doesn't mean that more cryptic, "dry" music is devoid of these valences. There is potential beauty in everything and it's often a matter of education whether or not we "get" it.



Edited by Uroboros - April 24 2007 at 19:07
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 19:35
 
Kayo Dot - in my opinion extremely textural and somewhat underappreciated


Edited by stomp - April 24 2007 at 19:43
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 20:30
One thing I fell in love with when I fell in love with Porcupine Tree was all of the textures.  Now for some reason I can't write a song without something going on in the background that builds up the song
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 21:13
Brian Eno (and Fripp during their collaborations) was a champion of Texture and Mood.  If you want an album based a fantastic album based solely on texture, not melody or special effects (which many krautrock bands such as TD got too caught up with on occasion), then check out Eno's Another Green World, probably his best album, and its truly amazing!

also, many post-rock bands focus on textures, though I feel that their texturing is a bit obtuse at times, taking too much time to develop a particular ploy of the music and forgetting about texture for the moment, or not fully evolving the texture before moving on.  Sigur Ros is very good at texturing, yet I think something is still lacking from their sound... oh well.

But I completely agree on bands like Univers Zero, Heressie is one of kind in its dark moody textures.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 22:12
In terms of texture and atmosphere, I'd say the most important recent musicians I've heard are Toby Driver (Kayo Dot) and Mark Hollis (Talk Talk).

Kayo Dot's The Antique might be their most profound composition in terms of atmosphere. The initial five minutes of the piece, taken by themselves, seem merely consist of uninspired improvisational work, but in hearing the entire piece, these five minutes are necessary to create the brooding atmosphere that leads up to the chaos later in the piece. This composition feels almost like being pulled into the mind of a murderer: a brooding build-up, a chaotic, brutal middle section, and a brooding and almost mournful conclusion.

The other band I mentioned, Talk Talk, uses texture as a means to reaching an incredibly unique atmosphere. Despite being labeled as minimalistic works by some, Laughing Stock and its predecessor Spirit of Eden typically have no less than three to four instruments playing at a given time, and while this may not seem like an impressive feat, the array of instruments used on these albums is more diverse than most any band I've heard, excepting maybe Gentle Giant. The atmosphere created using improvisational tidbits atop raw song structures that is so characteristic of Talk Talk's later albums hasn't even been scratched by any modern post-rock band, IMO. Mark Hollis' solo album reaches similar depth but without the aforementioned improvisation -- this album is more meticulously composed and probably more personal (though not necessarily better) than Talk Talk's.

It seems like a sin to me to close this reply without mentioning some classical music though. In terms of texture and atmosphere, my favorite composer is Maurice Ravel. Many of Ravel's contemporaries were either interested in perpetuating the Romantic idiom or in devising their own compositional techniques, such as Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, Debussy's infatuation with whole-tone scales, and Messiaen's entirely newly devised harmonic system. Ravel was dabbling in his own experiments himself, and indeed he was a rather unconventional composer, but he seemed to mostly rely on the established tonal system for his compositions, whereas many of his aforementioned contemporaries left me a bit cold with their avant-garde experimentalism. I've never heard any music as harmonically brilliant as Ravel's piano works. While his output was unusually unprolific for a classical composer, each of his compositions was superlative.

But this is a prog forum...!

So yeah, to summarize, post-rock bands are usually more interested in creating atmospheres than simple melodies. I think this is one of the genre's defining characteristics. Avant-Garde bands like Univers Zero, Kayo Dot, Art Zoyd, are usually pretty crazy when it comes to that as well.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 22:32
Bravo and well said, Joey!

In my mind, a sense of atmosphere is one of the most important aspects of music, if not the most.  The atmosphere or mood you create with your music is the first thing a listener notices, and most of what they will remember.  If you create an interesting atmosphere, you will leave a lasting impression.

Naturally, post-rock is great for this, but i believe it originated in rock with the space-rock of the 70's.  Hawkwind is awesome for this. 

Being a metal kid, I prefer dark atmospheres, so for the ultimate in atmospheric experimentation, there's always SunnO))) Wink
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 22:42
I must say you freakin nailed it OP... God, I cant stop using those words...
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2007 at 01:10
david helpling & jon jenkins are the KINGS of atmospheric music!

Edited by greenback - April 25 2007 at 01:11
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2007 at 01:51
I have always loved Yes for their textures, almost evocative of the Roger Dean album artwork; it's the vocal harmonies that do it, not necessarily the keyboards. The best example of that is Siberian Khatru; it's just Jon, Steve, and Chris singing, with keyboard taking a rest for that section; the "Bluetail...Tailfly" part.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2007 at 11:40
Originally posted by The Miracle The Miracle wrote:

I absolutely agree, in fact, music that lacks these things is of little interest to me, such as some technical prog metal. Music that has nothing but these things, on the other hand, is often amazing, for example Kluster, Merzbow, Klaus Schulze...Approve


Well done for mentioning Merzbow. I am listening to him at the moment. He is the perfect example of brilliant use of atmosphere.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2007 at 13:41
i think alot of black metal and avant garde- rock and metal bands have really experienced with this more than anyone, and the best examples i can think of where textures are really used would have to be cynic's focus album and any early opeth up to still life. Cynic did a brilliant job with their recording, alot of people tend to bash them for it, but if you open your mind and let your ears hear everything that is going on within that album then you appreciate a whole lot more. Atmosphere is probably one of the reasons that Cynic became one of my favorite bands. And for people who say the band doesn't have atmosphere or textures they have a bloody song name "textures". Opeth's acoustic interludes also use alot of atmospheric sound, and it adds alot. Also check out kayo-dot they probably experiment with atmosphere more than anybody.
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