Three A.D. and Kin Review

[Three A.D. Cover][Kin Cover]

by Gavin Stok April 27 1996

It is hard to review Three A.D. (Various Artists) and Kin (Sounds from the Ground) because you have to give an explanation of what 'ambient dub' means! The blurb states that it is "the non-specific experimentation and a forward looking disregard for fashion and compartmentalism". A musical description may be that it is a mixture of the soothing electronic chords and instruments that ambient provides mixed with a hypnotic beat, but this description will not apply to all tracks. Furthermore, the sound of 'ambient dub' has changed a lot since Waveform Record's popular first compilation One A.D.. Below is a small review of two newer releases.

Three A.D. by Various Artists

When I listened to Two A.D., a compilation of ambient dub music, I commented on how the style had subtly changed since the release of their first compilation One A.D.. Now listening to Three A.D. it seems that the style has majorly changed! The beats are stronger, and the tracks seem more dub than ambient orientated through the speed of their beat and use of samples. However the tracks still continue to "merge with their surroundings or insinuate a strange inspirational calm into human listeners and their environment" as the blurb to the CD states. Indeed the CD is better used for chilling out or as something playing in the background than something you sit down and physically concentrate on. Stand out tracks on the album are:

  • Higher Intelligence Agency's Skank which brilliantly moulds the beat and samples to create a hypnotic sound;
  • A Positive Life's Lighten Up!. I consider this track to be more dance-like than ambient dub but, like all of his work, the track is still great!;
  • The Starseeds' Regina from the Future which uses vocals and harmonies well.

For people who have not yet heard ambient dub, then One A.D. or Two A.D. will be better starters than this release (Enigma fans will be interested to know that A Positive Life's The Calling is on One A.D.. Parts of this track were samples for The CROSS of Changes). For people who already know what ambient dub is, however, this release will only be enjoyed if you are wanting a less ambient-focused sound. Regardless, Three A.D. is pleasing evidence that the music genre is further expanding and seems like it will continue to do so for a long time to come.

Kin by Sounds from the Ground

Made up of Elliot Morgan-Jones and Nick Woolfson, this UK album has had two tracks appear on the A.D. Compilations, with Triangle appearing on Two A.D. and Drawn to the Woman on Three A.D.. The music on the album reminds me more of the 'ambient dub' style from the Two A.D. days of early 1995 than today, with a focus on bassy rhythms that go along at their own casual pace with other electronic sounds coming and going.

One pleasing thing about the album is that some of the ideas and samples are both original and work well, all heightened by a good use of stereo sound. For example, on Pearl the track mixes a woman giving dialogue with the music. While many artists have done it before, it's always relied on the music creating the right sense of atmosphere to work. In Pearl the right atmosphere is there. Gather and Triangle also mix that right combination of samples, ideas, and stereo sound, to give, as the promotional blurb puts it, "Imaginative sound manipulation and wide-screen electronic panoramas". Overall the album has many worthwhile tracks which, unlike the A.D. compilations, do not jump wildly from one style to another. Definitely worth a listen!

Thanks to Waveform Records for providing these CDs for review.