Review Summary: Meditative ambient exotica
Seattle-based ambient musician Norm Chambers has been releasing a constant stream of meditative analog synthesizer music as Panabrite for the better part of 5 years, amassing a prolific catalog of droning, ambient exotica of generally consistent quality for most of his career. With his music usually finding homes on smaller DIY labels with a large focus on the analog media nostalgia that has gained such massive popularity recently, Chamber’s aesthetic is one of respectful authenticity, looking backwards to the kinds of progressive electronic and ambient synthesizer music characteristic of the late 70’s and 80’s while adding enough fresh ideas so as to update the style rather than function simply as a nostalgic retrospective. After releasing several collections of music in 2014, Chambers has begun the new year by releasing what might be his most ambitious work yet, a single, nearly 50 minute track of sprawling synth textures, contorted samples, and droning ambiance that ends up being the most cohesive collection of ideas he has yet released under the moniker.
With an aesthetic usually dominated by washed out photographs of brutalist architecture of a pronounced Pacific Northwest flavor and image collages that reference many of the progenitors of the kind of synthetic, exotic ambient Chambers creates, Disintegrating Landscape
falls right in line with the kinds of music he has been releasing under this moniker since its inception. While the music of Panabrite has never been harsh or unpleasant to the ear, the massive palette of sounds Chamber’s is able to coax out of his array of analog electronic instruments usually makes for collections of songs that tend to be soothing and meditative while never being harmless to the point of disinterest. Disintegrating Landscape
sees Chambers force his music away from his normal practice of synthesizing unique textures and building structures around them into something much more compositionally focused, using textures and soundscapes to build momentum and tension rather than simply function as set pieces for ambient landscapes.
is a sprawling aural world punctuated by carefully repurposed samples of environmental and incidental noises situated within an undulating wash of arpeggiated synth patterns and crescendos of warm pads. Comprised of several movements that all revolve around a central idea that permeates the entire composition, the single track contained on this recording sees Chambers penchant for creative sound design thrive within the context of a single motif spread out over nearly 50 minutes. It affords each of the textures room to breathe and space to be drawn out to their logical conclusion instead of fighting for dominance in a single, much less lengthy song. This makes for Chamber’s most sparse recording to date; but it is precisely this use of negative space that allows Disintegrating Landscape
to work so well as a piece of ambient music. Indicative of exactly the kind of aural landscape included at the artwork to this release, this single, monolithic track proves to be one of the most fully realized pieces Chambers has managed to create under the Panabrite moniker.
While Disintegrating Landscape
doesn’t stray too far from the general aesthetic Chambers has been fleshing out for the length of his career, it is nonetheless the most engaging and thematically cohesive of his works, capitalizing on the strength of his sound design and the analog textures he is so experienced in creating and giving them room to develop over a much longer period of time. While certainly not a groundbreaking release, in general terms as well as relative to his own previous output, Disintegrating Landscape
functions as the most fully realized of Chamber’s ambient projects and one of the most successfully orchestrated releases within its own niche of music. For fans of transportative, meditative synthesizer music, Panabrite’s inaugural release of 2015 delivers on just about all fronts, and should be a welcome addition to any collection.