Ethno Ambient is the crossroads where the drone and distortion of dark ambient music meets the ethnic sounds of neo folk. I have to admit; I don’t have a lot of experience in this field of music. Only recently was I even made aware of its existence. Though upon further thought, it’s inevitable that it would exist. Dark ambient and neo folk were bound to meet at some point, it was only a matter of time. They are two genres that are largely ignored for their musical contribution, dark ambient being seen as not even music and neo folk being reduced to what people play when they want to pretend they are connected to the earth. A blending of these two genres sounds, in my opinion, nothing like either. Though my sample pool is admittedly small, I think I can say that the sum is greater than the parts. Ujjaya, the French ethno ambient project put out a “live” album last year and I have had the pleasure to look it over to see what I could see. The Landing Zone was something new.
While listening I came up with several comparisons I could make (and will for the sake of education) that were nearly there but missed the mark. One comparison I thought was spot on in my first listen didn’t really fit in the second. I wanted to liken the album to one of those new age nature albums that are pure field recordings for about an hour. There were a lot of nature sounds, a lot of field recordings on The Landing Zone but comparing them is really inexact, there was a lot more to the album than just the sounds of nature, which add been mixed with distorted singing and groans to darken the sound quite a bit. I couldn’t say this is a really dark album, filled with harrowing sounds but it’s not the light, carefree kind of music that infests new age music. I thought about comparing it to some of the ethnic music that I’m familiar with like duduk or tribal chanting and while they were not incorrect, again the comparisons did not to justice to the music of Ujjaya.
The sounds that are reproduced, refined, and coordinated are much more complex than I originally gave it credit. It’s easy to dismiss an album that has a lot of ethnic qualities because they always come off folksy and cheesy, they don’t balance the ambient with the ethnic. But Ujjaya doesn’t have that problem. The Landing Zone is really a testament to balance of different styles so that they blend perfectly. The album has a rough, fuzzy quality to the production, but then again the album is supposedly performed live for a radio show so the fact that the sound is just a little rough means relatively little. The sound is well balanced and each song follows the pattern of the song previous, giving it a very fluid, unbroken feel. Ujjaya could have done the album in one long track but I’m thankful he didn’t, breaking up the songs the way he did allows each side of the project to shine, so to speak.
I still have a lot to learn about ethno ambient music, that is the clearest thing that I think has come out of this review. Yet, I know that I am eager to hear more of it, to soak it in so to speak and familiarize myself with it the same way I have with other forms of dark ambient music. I would highly encourage everyone else do the same, and that they start with The Landing Zone by Ujjaya.
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