Carbon Based Lifeforms
Hydroponic Garden


4.5
superb

Review

by ComeToDaddy USER (48 Reviews)
February 28th, 2015 | 82 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Escapists with a lust for quality world building, look no further – this is your next pit-stop.

Very rarely has a band managed to retain the thematic and conceptual consistency that ambient/electronic artists Carbon Based Lifeforms have. On their website, it is stated that their goal is “to combine earth and space in fine-tuned, but still solid, musical visions” - and everything from the music, right down to the artist and album title, reflects this idea. Hydroponic Garden succeeds in forging an alternative artificial world, designed as a mockery of the real thing, and throws you into the centre. It contrasts the organic with the synthetic; a surface world containing all of the essential building blocks for life, with none of the depth that nature provides. It’s like staring at a mannequins face for too long, or seeing a robot’s slightly clunky imitation of human movement, sending you down uncanny valley and becoming more unsettling with every second you spend looking. It’s almost uncomfortably relatable, and the feelings invoked add a significant weight to the album that is sorely lacking in many spacey ambient counterparts.

Carbon Based Lifeforms specializes in a form of electronic ambience, but rather than drifting aimlessly through space, there’s a pulsating rhythm that keeps it firmly grounded on this distant planet. The album is front-loaded with livelier tracks, featuring a heavy focus on percussion and varied melodies to carry momentum. However, as the album progresses, ambience comes to the fore and song structure falls by the wayside. It’s designed for you to become complacent, adjusting to their sonic palette throughout the first half so you don’t notice the world around you becoming more and more foreign by the second. The final tracks are particularly indicative of this progression, featuring no percussion at all and steadily becoming stranger as the album nears the closer. ‘Epicentre’ is an almost stately imitation of an orchestral movement; atypical for electronic ambience, but human enough to calm the listener after the decidedly unsettling ‘Comsat’. But whilst ‘Epicentre’ is an attempt at recapturing humanity on unfamiliar soil, ‘Artifical World’ is a stark reminder of the world’s fabricated nature. Whirring synths spiral about aimlessly, raising their voices to speak over one another without ever really settling on a purpose or goal. On early listens, ‘Refraction 1.33’ seems to be the antithesis to everything Hydroponic Garden has built in its runtime, but the warmth of the closer is the only real conclusion the album could have had. It’s learning to deal with the manufactured world, and finding beauty in what’s new rather than regretting what’s missing.

These tracks can still be comfortably enjoyed with no attention to concept, and the highlights ‘MOS 6581’ and ‘Central Plains’ are unique and diverse enough to arrest your attention from whatever you’re trying to accomplish at the same time. But whilst other similar artists may have greater accessibility or stronger individual songs, sonic consistency and immersion is what truly separates Carbon Based Lifeforms from their peers. Ultimately this leads to a degree of repetition, but rarely does consistency ever amount to stagnation, and the subtly evolving melodies become easier to immerse yourself in. Escapists with a lust for quality world building, look no further – this is your next pit-stop.



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user ratings (144)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Zebra (2)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
ComeToDaddy
February 28th 2015


1774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Another genre I'm unfamiliar with reviewing, but I'm planning to do more writeups for my favorite electronic ambient albums in the database that are missing reviews (Steve Roach - Towards the Dream, Solar Fields - Movements in particular) so constructive criticism would be fantastic.



MOS 6581 can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtPTvyjtx3g

Digging: Ojne - Prima Che Tutto Bruci

ComeToDaddy
February 28th 2015


1774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Shame someone randomly 1'd this yesterday to kick it down from the 4.1 average. But yeah, much prefer this to WoS, feels more grounded and unique to me. Phenomenal band across the board though

Archelirion
February 28th 2015


5593 Comments


I can honestly see nowt wrong with this. Although I can't anymore I'd pos this hard if the option was there.

It's an intriguing concept for an album, and the way you've described it I might just check it out.

Digging: The Body - O God who avenges, shine forth. Rise up, Judge of

Ryus
February 28th 2015


16548 Comments


awesome

Hyperion1001
Emeritus
February 28th 2015


19982 Comments


the only real criticism i can offer on this review (which is wonderfully written btw) is that, for an album that has a 4.5 rating, the descriptions seem almost a bit too critical of the "syntheticness" of the album, if you get what im saying. using words like "mockery" in the first paragraph set a sort of negative tone for the rest of the kind of descriptions you give.

i also dont think name dropping a band that you've not addressed in the review in the closing paragraph doesnt really work, because while anyone who knows this artist will know who solar fields are, the comparison wont make sense to anyone else who does (unless you build up that comparison earlier in the review).

those are only minor critiques though and more have to do with approach than style, because their isnt anything wrong with your writing at all. great work dude!

Digging: Drexciya - Harnessed The Storm

Shoteru
February 28th 2015


512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

After 8 years this album finally gets the review it deserves! Nicely written, mental-pos.

Digging: Fishmans - 98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare

DrJohn
February 28th 2015


1041 Comments


yep, nice write-up

ComeToDaddy
February 28th 2015


1774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@hyp, That second paragraph is a really good point actually, will fix that up right away. I actually love the synthetic feeling, and meant 'mockery' in a good way because it furthers the discomfort, but I guess people are accustomed to that being a negative descriptor in muscial circles. If I can come up with an alternative way to get my point across, I'll use it, thanks a heap for the feedback!



Thanks for the kind words guys, appreciate it.

cryptside
February 28th 2015


2397 Comments


Amazing review, been on a downloading kick this weekend for ambient that I have to catch up on. I've got a bunch of Biosphere, Loscil, and Hammock. Just added this to my list to download tomorrow.

bloc
February 28th 2015


52880 Comments


MOS 6581 is God mode

Digging: Sparks - No. 1 in Heaven

ExplosiveOranges
February 28th 2015


4408 Comments


Finally, a good review for this album. Now, if only I got around to jamming it....

ComeToDaddy
February 28th 2015


1774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@sig it's pretty different to the ambient you've been jamming, but hopefully you'll find it a refreshing change of pace (:



Yeah edited in a link to MOS 6581 in the lead comment. Even if I think it's better listened to as an album, that'll be song to convince someone if any

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 1st 2015


32190 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The review it deserves

Mort.
Contributing Reviewer
March 1st 2015


14065 Comments


Yeah great review, well deserved contrib position

Digging: $uicideboy$ - I Want To Die In New Orleans

ScuroFantasma
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2015


11585 Comments


Sweet rev CTD, gonna skip because this isn't my kind of music

Digging: Dekagram - May Flights Of Devils Guide

Keyblade
March 2nd 2015


26153 Comments


That's a shame, you're really missing out.

Top rev CTD

ComeToDaddy
March 2nd 2015


1774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cheers guys, appreciate the kind words.



@Keyy, your dig something I would dig? I've been hearing good things but have no idea what I'd be getting into

Keyblade
March 2nd 2015


26153 Comments


Hell yeah man. Best gaze record of the last few years honestly. If you're familiar with their EP, it's even better

ComeToDaddy
March 2nd 2015


1774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ooooh I haven't heard their ep, but will check them both

Trigonometric
May 7th 2015


2 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I wasn't even a teenager when this album came out, but can imagine the excitement felt by fans of the genre, I can imagine them experiencing the bar being lifted.



After listening to all of their albums quite extensively, I think this one comes out on top. The attention to detail is ridiculous and you can just feel the love and care they've put in each track. Its less grounded than CBLs other albums in the sense that very few sounds, melodies or atmospheres are Earth-like (or even universe-like) and it has a narrower scope too. It seams to be describing something in great detail, something with a complex,enigmatic, yet fundamental structure. Agreed it is sometimes repetitive but I feel its necessary to keep us stable otherwise we would get completely lost.



This album has been revolutionary for me, I try and get everyone to listen it.



'Whirring synths spiral about aimlessly, raising their voices to speak over one another without ever really settling on a purpose or goal.' Amazing description! I look forward to checking out other music you have reviewed.



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