Artist: Dr. Atmo & Ramin
Title: Sad World I & II
Released: 1995 (93 and 94 originally)
Label: Instinct Records (originally on FAX)
Genre: Ambient, soundscape
Originally released as two separate volumes in Germany on Pete Namlook’s world famous FAX label, Dr. Atmo and Ramin are brought together in splendid fair for the first official release of their “Sad World” project stateside. Volume one features more of their recognized tracks that have been featured on numerous ambient compilations while volume two features two amazingly long tracks, both of which I believe are exclusive to that album..
A strong drippy ambient piece with a thumping dub-like beat opens the first album. It is rich with fitting Middle Eastern vocal samples which have been mixed flawlessly into the tune. This really sounds amazing on head phones. Track two, “Glyan” opens with radio news feeds, ranging from a report about President Clinton’s stance on logging restrictions to a gunman at a mall. The synth arrives shortly thereafter, sounding a bit dated but not overwhelmingly so; it’s typical sounding from the early 90s. Again, they fuse the radio samples in nicely, even when the radio gives way to distortion and high pitched swooshes. We finally float along some ambient acid squelches and crickets, still accompanied by the radio static. Things get a bit more mellow here, a bit more like FSOL’s “Lifeforms” and in all honesty, this sounds like a whole new track entirely, at least until the ‘chorus’ of dated synth kicks back in. This track clocks in at over half an hour. Not the best track, but not horrible by any means.
The next track picks up with a nice sitar drone, flute samples and a spoken word bit in an eastern dialect. Superb. Several minutes later, we get a nice set of tablas. Near the end, the track abruptly changes pace by cutting out everything except the voice and the radio static and adding a spiffy acoustic guitar sample and finally, some light synth. “Kirkuk” rolls in with a highly repetitive orchestral sample that gets quickly layered with Middle Eastern instruments, synth and a few vocal choral pads. Nice track but redundant. Finally, we arrive in “Terasury.” This is probably the most well-known track from the album, and for good reason. It is a decent layered piece, barrowing synth and vocal samples from the opening track but adding more instrumentation and a different beat. Not bad really, a true ambient gem. I know that’s a funny thing to say considering this isn’t much more than a remix of the first song. But, I should point out that this is the same way “The Fires of Ork” ended
One of two tracks, “Somarra” clocks in at 40:29. It kicks in so gently that you almost don’t notice it. The synth is soft and it’s not until you get the strange fundamentalist preacher samples that this piece takes off. We get some pads that are similar in nature to the tracks on volume one but it’s not redundant enough to really warrant a worry. If you have the two disc reissue like I do, it makes it feel like a complete set and it is one gigantic mix.
We get a little more organic with some guitar samples intertwined with the synth. The preacher resurfaces now and then and it’s clear we’re in for a relaxing ride. And it’s a long one. The motif here doesn’t change much. There are some reoccurring synth pads, sea birds, the preacher comes and goes, and there’s an occasional textured choir sample. And while I am making it sound like this is a repetitive track, it’s really not so bad. It gives it a feeling like it’s a daydream with reoccurring themes and images.
Our final track is “Cordoba.” After some soft seagull squawking, we move into some sitar drones and some gently hissing synth. It likens to some of the tracks on the first album, but again, it’s not enough for me to feel like it’s a repeat. The percussion is organic, more or less, and feels a lot more genuine and true to the style it was going for. The track soon layers on a few more subtle stringed instruments to tie in with the sitar and the Mid-eastern vibe is complete. Now, it’s not as heavily into that style as Namlook’s Sultan project; it still ties in some western styled ambient synth as the track progresses. Eventually, this meets up with some ocean waves and before too long, I’ve reached a Zen state. At this point, the live drumming and vocals don’t shake me from my meditative state. This is a prime piece of audio.
This two CD set is extremely ambient and shows off some of the best tracks of mid 90s FAX material. Should you buy this? Some tracks sound dated, and those lurk on the first disc. I would say the better deal is in the second disc, but there are some real gems on disc one as well. Getting them separately can be pricey as neither of these have been reissue individually. This two disc set, released on Instinct, gets them together in one package. However, this has long gone out of print as well, running between 20$ and 50$, typically. If that’s out of your range, as it is with me, skip this one and maybe settle for the vinyl single for disc one or a few tracks that pop up on compilations.
4.5 out of 5.