Disquiet, Volume I is like an all-star mid-season game. Eluvium, Mint Julep, Benoit Pioulard, Christina Vantzou, Hammock, Balmorhea, Helios (Keith Kenniff and his label, Unseen Music, commissioned the compilation), Ben Lukas Boysen, The Album Leaf, Synkro and even long-time droners Windy & Carl all bring new and exclusive sounds to the compilation. With 2016’s unfortunate vote in the UK (I don’t even want to name that word anymore), along with the American debacle, it’s either a moment for laughing or crying, and it appears to be the latter.
Starting off lightly and optimistically, like the American Dream itself, things soon devolve into a slightly unsettling state, like a sudden wave of unexpected nausea, the music taking advantage of upsets in the everyday; music for disquieting times. Not everything is rosy, and that only makes things more realistic. It’s the job of the artist to articulate and reinterpret what they see when they look outside. It’s like a thesis, or a diary, depicting life in a world that lost its mind an age ago, with grotesque leaders and shouting matches being par for the course. Music can shout louder than any of them, however, giving a crucial voice to those who are in need of one the most.
Disquiet is a benefit compilation – the first of at least three – with one hundred percent of the proceeds being donated to nonprofit organizations (supporting the environment, providing REAL news with educated, intelligent journalism, and standing up for women and minorities). It fights for things bigger than itself, declaring equality and liberty for all, the music itself like the statue of liberty in its prime (she was herself a gift from a foreign land, let’s not forget), standing bravely, majestically, guarding the entrance to an ill country that is perhaps in the grip of some form of dementia, as she seems to have forgotten many of her founding values (but not the right to bear arms). Is this the land of the free?
Life isn’t an easy ride, and ambient music can be cool and harsh, too. Like a pretty flower, it’s capable of producing a thorn while at the same time creating leviathan-like lakes of space and inlets of air. It would be incredibly naive to think that ambient music always aims to relax, and Disquiet, Volume I covers a broad spectrum. A quiet and thoughtful piano drifts in and out of reality with a series of strange chords, and although pretty in itself, the compilation as a whole is a sobering one. Some tracks are leaden with sorrow. It is a sad fugue: eulogies for a weeping nation. Its red, white and blue has turned to the black of mourning, and its necessity weighs the soul down. It asks brutal questions of society and of ourselves. But the compilation is a shining torch-beam in the dark light of a teenage century. The new millennium hasn’t even reached maturity, but the music provides a perfect time to reflect. Sure, it’s a mess, but let’s take this mess as a chance to reevaluate and advance our dreams. After all, lessons are learned and improvements are made after an accident. Music is a progressive force, a force robed in love. A force for good.
Mint Julep’s ‘Longshore Drift’ is imbued with hope. Here, melting vocals and glowing electronics help to demonstrate deep love. ‘Windmills’ is another reflection on a rainy day. The music pricks a finger on sharp, worldly situations, sending it swooning into an ambient dream-world populated by other sleeping beauties. While Disquiet is an important stand in a cruel and unjust age, it’s also a quiet, stealth-like weapon in a loud war of ideals, against a slew of current horrors which continue to unfurl. It’s as powerful as a sleek and silver broad sword. This age is a nasty virus, seeping into the fragile and corruptible legal system and then into the police force, who then aim at the innocent, There are equal measures of resistance and disgust, and I suppose that’s heartening, because if you don’t fight against evil, you’re complicit in it. Instead of promising to Make Ambient Great Again, it forgets that it was already great. Like a rippling flag it waves the most important message of all: love each another.