Ambient Song Of The Month: February 2012
What happens when a band mixes primarily electronic sound elements with modern classical music? It depends on your viewpoint whether this intermixture is successful or not. Nobody can deny, though, that two different worlds collide which remain distinct and separated. Think of The Propellerhead's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, where the deepest basslines and funky wah-wah guitars are merged with the first of the two famous James Bond themes and additional sections of the 1979 film Moonraker that are overloaded with pressing violin segments and intimidating brass sections. A good song, certainly, but definitely neither awe-inspiring nor Ambient by nature.
However, there is one Ambient song of utter beauty that skillfully intertwines gorgeously mellow synth strings and Prog Rock guitars with John Adams' iconic modern classical string suite Shaker Loops from 1978, which Adams reworked in 1983. The band who accomplished this is System 7, their result is named Faydeaudeau and is featured on their 1993 album 777. Steve Hillage of Gong fame and his wife Miquette Giraudy use an enormously blissful, approximately 4 second long loop off Shaker Loops: II. Hymning Slews as the main base of Faydeaudeau. Adams himself cites the loop-based music of Steve Reich as a prominent inspiration, and System 7 take this approach further by featuring the unaltered, original version of Adams' loop and spicing it with oscillating synth strings, thus amplifying the eclectically ecstatic mood of the original loop. Both sources, the modern classical strings and the added ambience of synthesizers are equally important and work marvelously harmonious together. Progressive, dreamy strings of Hillage's electric guitar are added as the third important element in order to create a spacey out of body experience.
If there is one song that reconciles the listening habits of three highly diverse groups – electronic Ambient lovers, Modern Classical afficionados and Psychedelic Rock followers –, it is without a doubt Faydeaudeau. Each layer harmonizes with the other and it is the cherubically hymnic quality of John Adams' Shaker Loops that carries the whole song. Even though this string loop is the most important element, the other ones don't feel gimmicky or out of place but enhance the etherial experience instead. System 7 nowadays concentrates on pumping Goa and Dance tracks, and John Adams moved on as well. Faydeaudeau is a destillate of the highpoints of both acts and the proof that classical music can be entangled with synhesizers without sounding clichéd or alienating. One of the best Ambient tracks ever produced, absolutely essential and of a pristine beauty and power that is incredibly rare. I am moved by this masterpiece even after the hundredth listening session. Life-enhancing? Maybe. But definitely essential.
Ambient Song Of The Month Review for February 2012: System 7 – Faydeaudeau (1994). Originally published on Feb. 2, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.