It’s Wednesday. I have an Anatomy test on Friday that I was trying to revise for, but having gone over most of the material previously in the week, having a sore neck and having given a presentation a few hours previously I really am not in the mood to do any more work. I’ve thrown myself onto the bed and find myself staring up at the ceiling, and as I crane my eyes further backwards I can see out the window. Oddly, it appears that the window and the wall aren’t completely parallel, so the distance between window and curtains is greater at the left hand side than at the right. I look further backwards and see a lovely blue sky interspersed with wispy stratus clouds. It’s a great day, yet I’m stuck inside. I was meant to have lunch with a friend of mine but she cancelled yesterday, leaving me at something of a loose end. I’m not in the mood to work at the minute and I just want this week and its presentations and tests to be over. So I’ve lain down in bed with some music on. Global Communication – 76:14. It’s been a while since this album and I have spent some quality time together. Too long. I hope it can forgive me.
76:14 is the sort of album that’s best reserved for moments like these, moment when you need a little bit of clarity and peace of mind. It’s pure and natural, like the cold chill of a winter wind or a solitary snowflake. And in a lot of ways, this album does have a wintery feeling about it. Its richly textured ambience and swashes of synthesizer aren’t unlike that of the group’s contemporary Biosphere, whose 1997 album Substrata was similarly ambient but also integrated the sound of howling winds and running water. Ironic of course that I should be listening to it and writing this while indoors. But I feel this is somewhat in keeping with the mood of the album. It’s one of those musical creations that must be felt and experienced, not simply listened to. It demands your solitude, your mind’s wanderings and lonely musings. 76:14 is mostly wordless, sometimes beatless and softly textured, pervading your mind not as a vulgar jab of musical inoculation but as a slow release drug, gradually oozing its way into your consciousness and procuring its effects. If it doesn’t catch you in a mood of contemplation, it surely will put you in one if you let it.
I must mention that it’s not often ambient music has a notable impact on me. I find the idea interesting but all too often it can just become very monotonous and dry. The reason 76:14 succeeds in my mind is because of its stylistic variety yet thematic concordance. If I could quote the father of ambient music, Brian Eno, ambient music “is intended to induce calm and a space to think.” That’s exactly what 76:14 does throughout, yet it does this by exploring various styles. There are very soft, minimalist atmospheric pieces, more upbeat, dance-like tracks and a few with some darker, louder instrumentation and drums. Yet the whole mood of the album is a mood of contemplation. Sometimes the album might be edging us a bit towards the upbeat, other times heading for the dark side, but they’re merely guides, we don’t have to follow them. In fact, this was the intention. The album is named 76:14 because that’s the length of the album, and each of the tracks are named after their length too. Supposedly this was so nobody could take any specific meaning from the track names and were free to interpret the music themselves. While the music might appear to be leading us one way or another, it is up to us to decide our interpretation. Although best enjoyed as a whole, there are naturally a number of highlights. The second track 14:31 is the longest and perhaps most ambient, with the beat supplied solely by the dreamy ticking of a clock. Ambient swashes of sound are layered over a synthesizer loop and soft contemplative electric piano. I picture it snowing every time I listen to this song. The third song 9:25 actually has a beat to it, and is driven by that wonderful synth again along with ethereal, bittersweet, wordless singing. It’s truly marvelous. The final track 12:18 is completely beatless, featuring only angelic chanting backed by dreamy soundscapes.
I don’t want to say too much more about 76:14. All I am convinced about is that it’s an album that can take you places you didn’t know music could. It can be spellbindingly beautiful, agonizingly solitary and transcendental, sometimes all at once. But one must let it take its natural course, even the slightest bit of resistance will likely deter you from the music. Just let it wash over you like a cleansing water.
Words - Adam