Andrew Thomas
Fearsome Jewel





Andrew Thomas, a production designer and music producer hailing from New Zealand, is one of the most important Ambient artists signed on Kompakt Records. At the time of writing, he has released three albums so far and is almost incessantly featured on the famous Pop Ambient series of the same label, always providing one of the very best tunes on there. His commitment to Kompakt started in 2003 with the release of Fearsome Jewel, one of the most cohesive and beautifully structured Ambient albums ever made. Thomas doesn't try to fool anyone: the track titles are labeled 1 till 10 and are always based on the same theme – a mystically iridescent melody, slightly altered and variably instrumented – which makes Fearsome Jewel sort of a remix album or, alternatively, a 33+ minute track divided into ten distinctive and diversified parts. Two renditions, Fearsome Jewels 3 and 9 are also featured on Pop Ambient 2004, but they are just the tip of the iceberg, with equally interesting things to come on the album.


Fearsome Jewel 1 slowly fades in and already contains the most important and soon-to-be familiar elements: fleckered piano notes, harp-like electronic strings, multilayered synth pulses and purposeful vinyl crackles. This cocktail is presented in a seeming gallimaufry of all layers playing at the same time, but a slight crackle functions as an arraying beat-like element and thus morphs the disorder into full-fledged loops of a mysterious, but welcoming nature. The 2nd mix adds more dominant crackles and hisses, quieter synths in different tone pitchs and a slightly changed high piano loops. Fearsome Jewel 3 is probably the signature track most people are aware of due to its inclusion in the Pop Ambient series. It is a beautiful mix consisting of a single loop of intensely encompassing upswells of strings and repeated piano notes. In between each loop a careful cymbal adds another rhythmical backing. This is a perfect example for the importance of a cleverly thought-out loop, for Ambient music is by its nature repetitive, monotonous and often times just plain diffuse. All the more essential is a loop that works literally time and again without boring the listener but whose highly repetitive nature is used to surprise him or her about just how well it works without being pesky. Fearsome Jewel 4 is the brightest, most ecstatic track on here, again based on a 7-second string loop and flickering pianos with added robotic static noises in the track's second half. The whole mood is joyous and free of any obligation. The strings are of a permanent vigor and there is no pause or empty space in the mix as every second is filled with sonorous layers. Fearsome Jewel 5 features the familiar piano dots but the strings now transform from their former brightness into a salvaged, mysterious deepness that harmonizes well with the shimmering piano. Fearsome Jewel 7 focuses on percussive elements like bass bursts and vinyl crackles while the melodious ingredients are pushed back. On Fearsome Jewel 9, again featured on the Pop Ambient series, Thomas extends the formula of Fearsome Jewel 7 and focuses once more on percussive elements and quieter pianos and strings. Fearsome Jewel 10 ends the album on an elegiac note with melancholic strings and a repeated harp-like synth, somehow in the fashion of the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. 


This creation of Andrew Thomas is of a melodious and mystic nature that captures the listener's imagination and demands full attention even on tracks that are composed of nothing but one repeated hypnotic loop. The ubiquitous piano adds purity and brightness to Fearsome Jewel because it is always played on the far right of the note array. The aforementioned bursts of bass eventually add a raw power and can be seen as a counterpart to the fragility of the piano and the mysticism of the strings. This album serves most kinds of Ambient listeners as the theme is composed differently each time while retaining the album's structural arch. If you like your Ambient music to be pervasive and room filling, you will be equally pleased with Fearsome Jewel as fans of fragile tunes that leave room for lingering sounds which are able to shine due to the certain quiet and empty locations between the respective layers. A successful Ambient debut and my favorite Andrew Thomas release by far. One of very few concept albums that work greatly.



Further listening:

Listen to the whole album on the entry of Fearsome Jewel.




Ambient Review 010: Andrew Thomas – Fearsome Jewel (2003). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at