Words: Daniel Bromfield
Florian T M Zeisig makes ambient music with a humanistic, even moral perspective. Last year’s Coatcheck used muffled techno beats and snatches of distant conversation to approximate the artist’s day job at a Berlin club, bringing attention to the behind-the-scenes players who make your night out possible. Aging with OCA created a series of fond memories for an imagined person.
And here’s an album that throws a bone to the most underloved demographic in music, generally portrayed either as authority figures or distant voices of concern if they’re mentioned at all: parents. Inspired by his mother’s purchase of a vibroacoustic mattress, which uses specialty speakers to pump benign bass tones through the body, Zeisig, who studied sound design under glitch god Alva Noto at the Dresden Academy of Art, plunged into vibroacoustics. He emerged with the six long tracks on Music for Parents, intended as a present for his mom’s 60th birthday and as a nostalgic tribute to his childhood in the Bavarian countryside.
Coatcheck stood proudly in the tradition of soupy late-’90s variations on club music. Music for Parents is classic wallpaper music. It can’t really be sourced to classical or jazz or rock or club music, if only because the sounds themselves are so universal and vague: field recordings of water and birds, a constant low end, and the ubiquitous ambient pad that’s half strings, half choir, all bliss-out.
It sounds a little bit like Iasos’ Angelic Music, said to be the closest available approximation of what people hear when they have near-death experiences, or like Jonathan Goldman’s endless glistening shafts of light. In other words, it’s in a tradition of ambient music that’s less interested in creating an environment than it is in affecting the body, the mind, the soul (the science behind vibroacoustics is still a bit fuzzy). Even without vibroacoustic speakers, the low end flows through the body and centers it, and the first arrival of a subterranean bass tone after an introductory minute or so of field recordings is frightening before it’s calming.
Despite the research that went into this album, I find it less suited to my immersive ambient-music needs than Coatcheck or the dub techno-derived works of the underrated Spanish producer Agustin Mena, who likewise cranks up the bass to soothe rather than to shock and awe. The treble and the bass seem to float separately from each other, like oil and water, rather than converging into a wall of sound the way the music seems to desire.
The most alienating aspect of the album is the personal one. Zeisig seems to have artistic and supportive parents (his dad painted the cover), and his memories of his Bavarian childhood are fond. This will not be true of everyone’s relationship with their parents. Nor will everyone’s parents take kindly to music like this, least of all if your dad is the kind to make Enya jokes. But it’s still wonderful to see an artist like Zeisig bring such warmth and sentiment to the cold and academic catacombs of ambient music.
Music for Parents is out now on Metron Records
On a Different Note:
- Interview With Matt Finney (Finneyerkes)
- Stuff You Might've Missed – Interview With Matt Finney (Finneyerkes)
- Review // Warmth: The Darkest Place
- Nadja Mixtape – Live And Otherwise
- Absolute II – The Reviews Are In!