As a die-hard Pink Floyd fan who owns almost every Floyd album, I was puzzled to hear a remixed version of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” in a New York Lebanese restaurant. That evening I began poking around the internet and discovered “Pink Floyd: Absolutely Ambient,” to my great surprise a Pink Floyd album I had not yet experienced.
When I say this is a Pink Floyd CD, I mean that loosely. From the lack of information available about the release and its limited availability, I gather that it is pretty rare. According to several sites, it is a bootleg album which rules out iTunes and other digital music distribution sites. There is a CD for sale on Amazon, although the seller might be slightly confused as they referred to it as a paperback. Or maybe they are in a hazy state of mind, because before delving into this album you need to be prepared for a whole lot of trippy tracks.
While only five tracks long, “Pink Floyd: Absolutely Ambient” clocks in at 64 minutes. The songs themselves are pretty varied. It begins with “Echoes (Deep Sea Mix),” originally found on their album “Meddle.” One aspect I appreciate is that each remix is given a name that references the title track. “Sheep” is the “Grazing mix,” “Another Brick in the Wall is the Cement Mix,” and so forth. That being said, the names are just that: names. For instance the “Deep Sea Mix” doesn’t feature wave crashing sounds or dolphin wails. Rather, the remixes are characterized by repetitious synth riffs and musical layering. The original songs have been cut and sampled so as to provide the backing for head-bob inducing synth and bass. Branded trance remixes, the tracks will put you into a trance. In part this can be attributed the methodic pulsing of the added instrumentation and looped sections of Floyd songs. While listening I kept discerning what sounded like real-world snippets, such as a helicopter noise on “Another Brick in the Wall (Cement Mix),” which arises periodically until the 8:50 mark. In this way it reminded me in part of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s album “F#A#∞.”
The sample-based remixes use recognizable snippets from the songs they remix. “Another Brick in the Wall (Cement Mix)” uses the chorus, albeit split up and with an additional echo effect. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Madman Mix)” employs the several memorable riffs all layered, reordered, and repeated. The ambient sections feature a catchy bass piece to give it a slight reggae dance-mix feel. From the 10 minute mark on it may sound like a CD skipping, but don’t exit your music playing software, that is actually normal. It cuts back to a relatively normal song after a minute. I suspect that, in reference to the name, this track is supposed to feature offbeat, discordant sections. For those who don’t know, the Pink Floyd album “Wish You Were Here,” upon which the original track can be found, was inspired by former Floyd member Syd Barrett’s plunge into insanity.
Although the entire album is worth a listen, the tracks get better as the album progresses. It culminates with “Time (Minute Mix).” The song opens with a sample of Samuel L. Jackson’s Ezekiel 25:17 speech from “Pulp Fiction,” one of my favorite films. It may sound like a strange combination, and I guess it is, but it works. Towards the end of the song it even samples the offbeat money clinking sounds from “Money,” and the “is there” part of “Is There Anybody Out There?”
Whether you are a Pink Floyd fan, searching for new takes on classic tracks, or just looking for a relaxing album, this is a great choice. Unlike what I usually suggest, a straight playthrough isn’t really necessary. I would however recommend downloading the cover art. As someone who prefers vinyl to digital, I feel that music is an experience incomplete without the artwork. Especially with the cover art from this album. Reminiscent of a Salvador Dali painting, it depicts a field of muted brown, orange, and green. There is a prominent mountain with a mouth and nose and bushes which look like human torsos with satellite dish heads. Looking at this while listening to the songs really enhances the psychedelic nature of the music.
Overall, the album features a soothing blend of trip-hop and psych-rock. Just don’t expect to get any work done while listening, if you’re like me you’ll probably just zone out. For your safety and the safety of those around you, don’t attempt to play this album at the gym. As I mentioned earlier, this album is difficult to come by legally, but you if you check Ebay and Amazon, you’ll find a few copies. Or you can pursue more disreputable means of procuring a copy.