CHAIN DLK: Sound Years
“Sound Years” is a Michel Banabila sampler, segueing selected tracks from ten previous albums along with one new work into two gentle, chilled-out continuous pieces. This has the diversity and variation of a various artists chillout compilation, but impressively, it’s all the work of one man (and a couple of guest appearances).
Smoothness is the order of the day here. Gentle piano melodies, occasional plaintive guitar strums, and found sounds including the classics such as falling rain ambiences and tropical birds, blend with the mellowest flavours of electronica chill-out such as the deftly twisted and re-pitched vocal samples in “Earth Visitor”. Other sections are more pared-down, simple warm drones, deep vocal sustains and cultured resonance.
The second side opens with a slightly more cinematic bent- a real orchestra warming up alongside a virtual one, broad sci-fi choral pads and robotic noises have us floating outside a spaceship. The ambience gradually gets more down-to-earth, with plaintive violin lines (from guest Oene Van Geel I think) and micro-cut vocal snippets glitching away in “Radio Spelonk”.
While some of the elements are cliché, they are used tastefully in a way that freshens them up. Even the cockerel crowing sound, used to great effect by The Orb, makes an appearance. In fact The Orb is a comparison worth making; if you like either of The Orb’s most recent two albums, then you should absolutely check “Sound Years” out.
To someone unfamiliar with Banabila’s work, this is a seriously impressive and accomplished retrospective. A wide orchestral palette and some absolutely top-notch production, with a beautiful sense of space and an ability to shift subtly between warm and cold atmospheres, makes this an aural joy in its own right. The transitions are seamless and this absolutely stands up as its own work, without any of the unsatisfying incompleteness you sometimes get in compilations.
It’s released on Banabila’s own Tapu Records. Several of the original albums from which these tracks are sourced are legitimately available to download for free online, and this compilation will definitely make you want to peruse things further. (Stuart Bruce)