Wild Wild Ambient Boys – We Don’t Rock
Review in Yeah I Know It Sucks
by Alex Spalding
ARE YOU READY TO ROCK!?!?
I SAID… ARE YOUUU… READDYYY… TO ROOOCCCKKK!?!?!
… No? Good, because We Don’t Rock is the next album up for review. It’s from an artsy, Devo-esque Rotterdam-based group called the Wild Wild Ambient Boys, and while I can’t assure you without having yet listened to it, I think I’m safe in assuming that it isn’t going to rock. So, no worries grouchsters.
The album, according to the press release I dug around for, was inspired by porcelain flamingos, Microsoft Office, David Hamilton and memories of horses in the late 60s!
If you’ve got your speakers set to a reasonable volume (if it’s too quiet, you’re too young!!!), it’s time to dip our toes into the NotRock genre!
This album begins with ‘Indoor Archeology’ and for maybe just a second you’re thinking it’s gonna rock, but it’s just your imagination and it doesn’t happen. Instead, we hear footsteps and a creeping ambiance of indeterminable motivation and mood. Then there are some laughs and clippy noises…
… oh, and then it’s time for ‘White Limousine / Scarface Interior Design’. Chopped and randomized drum elements come in, and there are some really lovely guitarmonics and maybe some harp happening in the mix, glimmering sweetly in our ears like a soft dew upon a field of pixies. I’m really feeling the Microsoft Office influence here, especially Excel. I could spreadsheet to this all day. Wah-warped synth sounds thrum with deep bass.
In a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, these guys chose paper and won, smothering the rock in an impenetrable layer of wood pulp and glue. Then there was ‘Sweet Oblivion And A Soft Headache Singing’, which is even more blissful than the last piece, with whispery electronic flourishes above a soft filtered electro micro-groove and warm guitar. Notes ring out and are sustained, we hardly notice the beautiful silences in our quiet vale under the willow tree.
Then, all of a sudden, it rocks. Just kidding. ‘Porcelain Pink Flamengo’ marries the target of its infatuation admirably, at first sounding like a stagnant pool. A massive bass bumps in periodically, followed by what almost sounded like a tiny sample of a Jarre sequence from Oxygène. I’m imagining a flock of porcelain flamingos as acoustic guitar enters the mix. It’s joined by a second, creating odd, seductive chords, as alien spaceship noises threaten to abduct us to the skies.
Since we can’t rock, we’ll just roll. We will gently roll down a hill in a meadow filled with daisies, while horses from the 1960s traipse and frolic around us with slight anatomical difficulty. ’7/8 Just Wild’ is folksy and spaciously minimal. Very pretty atmosphere. Upright bass, a wind instrument, occasional expansions of the space of the mix, ride cymbals. Some might say this rocks, if only just a tiny bit, but those people would be fools. This is just groovy. By this point in the album I’m feeling really like… I had no idea the record would sound anything like this. It’s really nice. Very chill. I love the sudden pads. It’s kind of like that feeling when you’re lost in thought or daydreaming and then become self-aware and kind of shaken out of it, like if someone interrupts to ask you a meaningless question, like if you’re alright or whatever. Space leads enter! Very nice… reminds me of maybe a Moog Satellite.
‘Girls Against Sci-fi’ brings in an organ, some fuzzy distorted rhythmic sounds that are far away and hard to make out. This is definitely… ugh, and I hate to use the word… quirky. I mean, it is, very… and in a great way. Is there a such thing as pizzicato dings? Because, I think I heard something like that. This is like finding an extra-terrestrial pig digging through your refrigerator and throwing assorted foods that would never work together into a blender and then mixing it all up and drinking it and then noticing you and being like, “Want to watch tv?” Then… the sound profile changes, as you grab your keys and get into your car to go find a slice of pizza.
‘David Hamilton’s Sisters’ is dark, majestic acoustic work with sci-fi theremin sounds. It’s really so nice! I think I love this track most… probably why it’s so hard for me to write any more than this last line right here.
A pied piper blows through a distorted wind in a vacuum on ‘Drowning In A Sea Of Nu’, which then unfolds into a strangely provocative bit of melodic ambient folk, like a pilgrimage in a blue forest covered in raspberries, in which dwell elves in paisley mythril and probably some other strange creatures who’ve arrived on spaceships. This would be perfect for a magickal mood mixtape for coven rituals or something, or maybe just some good old-fashioned tantric sex.
We rocking yet? Of course not! And now, we come to ‘Double Female Connector’, a sensual song for an rca input, perhaps? It’s pretty, just like really this whole album has been so far. Then, a dark, distorted thud, some heavy guitar… shit, man, it sounds like it’s gonna rock… what do we do!? I guess… it’s not really, it just keeps sounding like it’s about to… reverse-electric guitar leads… lots of crackles, inducing a very ticklish feeling, as acoustic harmonies float in.
‘The Usual Effects Part.2? is pretty nice, lots of floating string brushes echoing into a chamber. I’m loving the subtle, electronic flute sounds.
Vocals? Hmm… that’s new. Odd, for just the second-to-last piece! It’s titled ‘Fake Diamond Tears’ and has dual vocal harmonies, a click-clock metronome, light piano. It’s strange, because it sounds almost like American accented vocals!
Last, we come to a piece titled ‘Memories Of White Horses In The 70s’ and right now I can tell you that I am dismayed, because the press release specifically cited memories of horses (colour undisclosed) in the 60s as a major influence here, and yet now we’re talking about these white horses from the 70s, it’s like, what the fuck man!? I don’t know how I’m supposed to take this, I feel like I’ve gotta completely change gears, start all over again as far as how I approach this work. Especially because, this entire time, I’ve been imagining yellowed slides depicting paint horses being walked through a pastoral setting by a naked hippie, and now I’m just seeing… a technicolor Burt Reynolds on a white horse in a magazine ad for Marlboro cigarettes or something, it’s just a total deal breaker. This is so Rotterdam, playing with your head like that. A real sucker punch at the end. Anyway, it still sounds nice. Acoustic guitars run and run with urgency carrying us harried passengers through glades at sunrise. Then, we halt, as a synthesizer squeals and neighs.
Very nice to hear something like this! Very different… because, when I think of Rotterdam, for years the immediate effect for me was to hear those hoovers blasting away over some distorted 4/4 Gabba House beat at 200 bpms. Now… I can think of the Wild Wild Ambient Boys, and their hardline stance about not rocking, and very pretty music. And, really, in 2014… that’s worth it.
It’s really a great album that you should explore. I had originally hesitated hearing it, due to thinking it would probably be a long, minimal ambient work by two art school grads, but no… it’s worth delving into for real. Very emotional stuff, and it’s clear in listening that they put a lot of work into the sound and production.