The other Zeiter
It’s not necessarily a big surprise when artists that have a good hand for Dub Techno occasionally cross over to Ambient spheres. It makes sense. Especially for those who love to spend time crafting their pads and soundscapes, creating spaces and atmospheres. And yet, I was a little surprised when I read that Techno veteran James Zeiter dropped an Ambient EP last month.
But then – what do we know about Zeiter? Apart from his discography, basically nothing. Maybe he has been working on Ambient stuff for decades and just not released any of it yet? We don’t know. At least not for sure. We can only guess when we’re listening to this EP. And it sure doesn’t sound like Zeiter had just recently discovered his passion for Ambient and Drone.
It’s the first release on a new label called Expanding Vision, set up as a sub label of Furthur Electronix to focus on Ambient and IDM. It doesn’t carry any information other than what is etched into the runouts: “Expanded Vision by J.S. Zeiter”. Six tacks, all of them untitled. The one thing that is clearly a constant in Zeiter’s work – letting it speak for itself and keeping himself out of even the faintest bit of spotlight.
So how does Zeiter sound as an Ambient artist? The very first track already won me over, I’ve got to admit. Classy and pure, simple and voluminous, gentle and slowly turning waves, no added flavours, no need for a lot of scenery or hints at storytelling, it’s as infinite and calm and pure as the middle of an ocean on a mildly sunny day with just a breeze, the distances between the waves as large as the body of water they belong to.
It really doesn’t get much more complex than that on most of the other tracks. The second one ads a repetitive two note theme to a more airy set of waves, the third one adds melodic elements and even a touch of romance and nostalgia, sounding like an early Ambient classic. This first side of the EP is a nice progression in itself, from solitude and serenity to something that could well feel an improvisation in search for a song.
The back side continues this progression in a way, combining the airy waves of the second track with the sketchy emotionality of the third one. To nice effect, this fourth track being richer in consequence, a mix that could have come from a universe close to Loscil. The thought that Zeiter might have been doing a lot of Ambient excursions just for himself over the years resurfaces – it doesn’t seem as if this is a sonic world that doesn’t have much history in the artist’s life.
Track number five turns towards warm and moderately dynamic arpeggios and choirs as sole elements of a piece that does add a layer of drama, again like a theme or a sketch, something that could accompany a story or just a scene, more a sentiment than a soundtrack, something that is repeated with a more serene touch and an air of contemplation.
The air of mystery that surrounds Zeiter is enriched by another interesting facet. It will have people wonder where this EP comes from, what its motivation might have been, whether it is based on years of exploration in Ambient styles and a search of an individual approach to it – or just something that rose from the strangeness of our days. We won’t know. But there’s an upside to this as we will not be guided by conceptual explanations or glimpses of the artist’s personal history. We just listen. And either we get into it and like it – or not. I for one like what I hear.
Release for review:
J.S. ZEITER – EV 001 – EXPANDING VISION – EV001