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Gnome & Spybey - Collective

Gnome & Spybey aka Tony D'Oporto and Mark Spybey come from different backgrounds and pursue different musical approaches. Gnome, whose music I'm not accustomed to, appears to work in electronic dance music, while Spybey who after leaving Zoviet*France went on to form Dead Voices on Air and to subsequently work with everyone from Mick Harris, Jarboe, James Plotkin as well as the industrial group Download. Somehow their paths crossed and in 2010 they released their first album on the now sadly missing in action Tourette Records label. Collective compiles 12 tracks from 6 of their albums some of which were only released digitally and for much of it it takes conventional ambient music into more experimental areas. Yet the small details. processing, location recordings and occasional voices don't detract from the soothing flow of moody atmospheric and ambient electronics the duo create. In reading up on this, I found that they regard this as more of an art project with an emphasis on sound design rather than conventional compositions. A number of other artists including David Thrussell, Robert Rich, Tom Shear and Michael Morton also appear on Collective but the overall effect of is of dreamy, soothing experimental ambience.

Opening with 'Achim' where the sound of lapping waves are interspersed and woven with the bleeping melodic electronics complete with sound pings over atmospheric synths. The electronics are pure and pristine exerting a Kosmische Musik influence. Gnome & Spybey excel at dreamy ambient and you can hear it in 'In The Colour Of The Red Bull', the first track ever recorded by the duo, that swells from ululating drone into synth layers with a sort of oriental chime just as a laidback rhythm positions this as an ambient dance number. Those rhythms are perhaps not too surprising as Gnome is better known for dance music under the name Gnomes of Kush. This isn't an album of downtempo ambient dance though at times you are reminded of things like the output of Namlook's Fax label and some releases from Silent Records. 'Spacelec' is another good track continuing this theme; its synth based atmospheric movements underpinned by beats capturing an almost folk like melody in a repeated motif of whir and chime.

What's good about this is that while those earlier mentioned tracks are relatively conventional the duo aren't afraid to include more experimental sounds to slip into the ambience. The swirling, circling ambience of 'Phosphor' resonates with textured, grating and beeping tones as it passes through quiet passages of stillness into graceful ambient synths, while the moody ambient layers of 'Gigantic' are accompanied by the chatter of tiny glinting processed bleeps gathering assorted sound elements in the form of running water, thunder and bird calls. Location recordings feature more heavily on 'Tetsusaygo' where the gentle synth ambience is laced with environmental sounds such as street voices, hydraulic drill, ringing telephone as it pursues a flow of sound propelled by hand rhythms, soft flutes and an almost squawking jazz sound. This one really brings together a lot of the different elements and techniques the duo employ to great effect.

Other tracks on Collective are filled with smaller, micro sound details and experimental techniques and none more so than 'Atomes', featuring Robert Rich, where sombre tumbling piano chords are interspersed and spliced with glitch and sound processing. '3.1.6', meanwhile, unfolds to a series of Radiophonic sound waves and tweets over a low ululating drone as it slowly coalesces into an experimental electronic journey into celestial realms.

Gnome & Spybey don't go for vocals in the conventional sense but a number of tracks feature narration of poetic excerpts. 'Dreamed Of Being A River' casts a whispered accented voice over flickering buzzes, tones, pings and thuds with sound shifts. It's another track displaying their experimental tendencies with a rhythmless sound which at times almost seems collaged. Despite its construction it doesn't detract from the flow of sound found within Collective. Neither does 'The Murmur Of The Rivers Mouth' with its spoken and hushed poetic utterances. Here faint glinting electronics slip into icy keyed notes and the tinkling of bells. A passage of experimental tinkering and textures shroud the hushed intonations repeating "And I stand with empty hands in the murmur of the river's mouth", as it swells into beatless lush symphonic ambience, of the sort the duo do so well.

Collective finishes on two tracks from the duo's Communist Companions album. The first of those opens with an intriguing monologue from a speech on Communism and the importance of education before the music enters and envelops in swirls of spacious spacey chimes. The final track, with David Thrussell, digs deeper with the darkest sound found on Collective where resonating drones are daubed with grainy hues, as slow shifting harmonious synths edge towards the light and dissipate in a blur of scratchy tones and textures.

Dealing with the type of ambient music Gnome & Spybey produce it's difficult to make an immediate strong impression and especially when tracks are lifted from various albums any sense of cohesion is lost. Collective doesn't deviate too far from its ambient roots but it displays a subtlety bridging dreamy ambience with experimental sound design. Gnome & Spybey have been collaborating for years now and this collection on Ant-Zen is a worthwhile entry point if like me you've missed their earlier releases. For more information go to Ant-Zen bandcamp