Album Reviews

Rainstick Orchestra – The Floating Glass Key in the Sky

(Author Name) UK release date: 1 November 2004

Tsunado and Tanaka met each other DJing (of course!) in Tokyo, with backgrounds playing in a Yellow Magic Orchestra covers band and a Parliament-style funk group. However, you’d be hard pressed to find the jet-trail’s of either band on this album.

On first listen The Floating Glass Key In The Sky is a set of easily comparable instrumental tracks, but subsequent airings provide definition and a quietly distinct set of inspirations.

Though the digital finery of Powderly contains some shifting female vocals, the remainder of Floating Glass relies on the considerable instrumental and programming skills of its two-man orchestra. And judging from the evidence there’s enough of those skills to fill out a symphony hall or two.

Yes, the duo has already claimed a lineage with minimalist progenitors Terry Riley and John Cage, but the depth of moods on Floating Glass are no slaves to singular visions. Similarly, while there is a profoundly Japanese identity to this record, it also betrays a fascination with the west.

The flutes and cowbells of Kiteletu mix with quietly resonant drumming recall nothing less than the wandering global eye of exotica prince Les Baxter, while Waltz For A Little Bird sees the strangely disconcerting lift muzac of Martin Denny re-cast as 21st Century chamber jazz.

There are so many subtle emotional shifts that, if you’re looking for categories, Floating Glass is a firmly ambient work rather than chill-out. The polka of Overflow may contain some mollifying vibes, but has a bustle that sets it apart from works of pure meditation. Similarly, Closed Circuit blossoms cautiously before drifting through plains laden with delicate breaks and benefits greatly from some sympathetic drum programming.

Lead-in track Trick is also full of a briskness that belies its balm-like textures, while Electric Counterpoint Fast is the only piece on Floating Glass where the duo sound as if they are on autopilot, where the preoccupation with repetition becomes, for once, uninspired.

Though Floating Glass delivers just seven individual tracks, the real strength of this crystalline work is that, even at 45 minutes, it feels as if it’s understayed its welcome. So successful is its fluttering weightlessness that it’s hard to believe that it exists – it becomes almost imaginary music.

For those who value unobtrusiveness for their listening pleasure, all your ambient Christmases have come at once. Just don’t make a big noise about it.

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Rainstick Orchestra – The Floating Glass Key in the Sky