Jet Chamber (1993)

The previous two posts covered what I consider pretty much “classic ambient” – mostly beatless, ethereal and/or droning pieces of music. In the third post of my “essential ambient” series, I’m looking at an album that is certainly different. Is it “modern ambient”, is it ambient at all? It probably raises the question what “ambient” actually is.

I became aware of Pete Namlook’s “Fax” label and its incredible output of electronic music relatively late. I was in love with the techno/trance sound that he did as “4Voice” (partly with Maik Maurice), but other than that, his work pretty much passed me by at the time. Yes, being a blissfully ignorant philistine was always one of my greatest strengths when it comes to music. 😉 (example: Autechre. I don’t know any of their music. Zero. Zilch. Nix. Nada. Blasphemy? Maybe.)

When I became more interested in ambient and different types of electronic music (besides trance/goa/ebm) I got into some kind of a “Fax feeding frenzy” 🙂 and was happy to discover that some of the at-the-time classic series where also available as MP3 compilations. Among others, I bought the “Jet Chamber Collection” which consists of all five Jet Chamber releases on a single (data) disc. (does anyone still use the word CD-Rom?!)

Jet Chamber is a collaboration between Peter Kuhlmann (Pete Namlook) and Uwe Schmidt (Atom Heart) – both extremely prolific music producers. As a sidenote, in those days of the Fax label, it was common that the project/series title (like “Jet Chamber”) also became the artist/collaboration name (at some point this became quite a dispute over on discogs.com – I sent an email to Peter, simply asked him, and he confirmed it… he was such a great and totally normal guy, well in touch with his fan base until his untimely passing in November 2012).

Jet Chamber cover
Jet Chamber
I can honestly say that the first, original Jet Chamber release is by far my favorite. When I listen to it (YouTube, iTunes), images of vast, empty industrial spaces with soaring ceilings are conjured up before my inner eye, dirt and grit in the corners, but also shining metal of futuristic machinery, light filters through skylights in fat rays that are rendered visible by dust particles. And there’s a constant hum, and heavy reverberation. Listening to Jet Chamber in the main hall of San Diego’s Convention Center would be a great match. This record is 22 years old in 2015, and it hasn’t lost it’s futuristic atmosphere and modern appeal.

Why is this different? Beats. Rhythm. Clicks. And yet, it has this overall calming quality of ambient music, somehow. I guess it’s somewhat similar to good Drum’n Bass – the nervous shuffling of the beats fades into the background as you focus on bass and pads.

Quite naturally, the definition of what “ambient” actually is will differ for most of us, since we all have different tastes, moods, personalities. For me, “ambient” music in its pure sense is mostly beatless… but Jet Chamber shows that it also is about the images it conjures up, the atmospheres it creates, and the mood it transports. I guess for me, ambient is more successful in doing all this than other types of music. And that’s why Jet Chamber is ambient for me.

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5 Comments

  1. I turn 70 years old this November and grew up on jazz, early rock and roll, and the last years of Big Band. I subscribed to your site for its photography, but I gotta say I love your discussion of ambient music!! I had no idea such a world existed! Nice going! Tanks.

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    1. Hello Earl, thanks, happy to hear that! 🙂 Music knows no boundaries, no languages, and no age for sure…

      And about the photography – yeah… I’ve reverted this site more to a blog about photography, and more personal stuff. I’m posting more regularly to my main photography site now: http://www.alex-kunz.com – you can follow through the WordPress reader there, too (you just need to manually add the address to the list of sites you’re following).

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  2. Here’s a thought. I’m with Earl, I’m really enjoying your discussion of ambient music, too. I like how you’re letting your inner poet off the leash a bit. Maybe I’m wrong, but I sense it in your titles and descriptions lately as well. It’s a good thing.
    I’m listening to this album as I type. I’m enjoying it. Very evocative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jeff. Well, the titles of my photos have always been inspired by music, directly or indirectly. And when I look at some scenery the first thing that crosses my mind is some line of a song’s lyrics. Maybe it’s a special kind of synesthesia. 😉 With writing about music it all comes together.

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