Boomkat Product Review:
David Toop's phantasmagorical '90s albums ‘Pink Noir’ (1996) and ’Spirit World’ (1997) have been remastered and melted into a single release, arriving on vinyl for the first time ever. It’s sublime and still deviously forward-thinking material that joins the dots between new age, jazz, improv, illbient, dub, rap and fourth world music - featuring appearances from Jon Hassell, Toshinori Kondo, Robert Hampson, Kaffe Matthews and others. Huge recommendation if yr into anything from Coil thru to Don Cherry, Bill Laswell, Conjoint, ECM, even classic Mo Wax.
For those unaware, via his books, reams of writing for magazines, and constant musical practice, David Toop has been instrumental in shaping western conceptions of ambient, electronic and ethnological musics since the ‘70s. His inimitably dilated musical weltanschauung joins the dots between farthest flung traditions and contemporary Western styles - from West African drumming disciplines to Jamaican dub, thru South East Asian ritual musics to rap and 4th world electro - giving rich context to the modern sound sphere while daring to suppose where it could go next.
On ‘Pink Spirit, Noir World’ we hear Toop building on some 20 years of practice that began with roots in the free jazz scene and came to embrace emergent spheres of ambient electronics via the avant garde and fascinations with ethnomusicology. While aided by longterm collaborators such as Max Eastley, Toshinoro Kondo, and Scanner, the pieces here were effectively some of Toop’s first longform solo recordings, collecting and projecting his thoughts and feelings on a polycultural music at a particularly ripe moment in musical history, when new age optimism and rave music arrived hand-in-hand at a real pinnacle in the ‘90s. Notably, the recordings arrived circa his seminal book ‘Ocean of Sound’, a sort of forerunner to Kodwo Eshun’s sonic fiction, that most beautifully illustrated the historic and modern link between myriad non- and western styles and loosely limned the idea of ambient music for a generation.
'Ceremony Viewed Through Iron Slit’ opens the set with evocative spoken word that sounds almost uncannily like Coil’s Jhonn Balance, underpinned by fuzzing static and undulating waves of electronics and rattling, formless percussion that imagines Giuseppe Ielasi & Nicola Ratti’s experiments as Bellows at least a decade in advance. The fourth-world shimmer of 'Almost Transparent Blue’ follows, featuring sound art veteran Kaffe Matthews on MIDI violin, complimenting Toop's arsenal of bells, flutes and gongs. 'Sunless' locks Toshinori Kondo's ECM-adjacent muted trumpet transmissions in swirling dub structures, curving ancient sounds into electronic frameworks before breaking everything apart again.
'Sleeping Powder' offsets Robert Hampson's desert blues guitar with dank industrial sound design from Scanner, and "Pink Noir" opener 'Mixed Blood' shows Toop's interests in "Artificial Intelligence"-era sounds, inserting bleep techno riffs into an ordered grid of noisy, dubwise rattles and glitches. 'Mamba Point’ is a hip-hop inspired collaboration with Congolese vocalist Musa Kalamulah who provides an emotional anchor for Toop's squashed rhythm experiments. It leads neatly into the swirling electronics of 'Phantoms Keeping Watch', and the almost 25-minute 'Spirits Shimmered Among The Live People', "Spirit World"'s sprawling centerpiece that now serves as this album's grand finale, a psychedelic and meditative downtempo fusion of Indian percussion (from London's Peter Lockett), trumpet and blunted bass.
In between, we can hear the mutual spirits of Jon Hassell or Eno & Byrne’s ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ seeping into the 4th world electro-jazz of ‘Slow Lorris Vs Poison Snail’ featuring Hassell on trumpet, plus proper humid electro-acoustic collages on ’Sugar Frosted Charcoal Scene’ and ‘Aether Talk’ which communes with ancient spirits, both earthly and cosmic.