Kolumbus – Fleeting Hope For False Optimists
Ambient music is something that I have found myself enjoying ever since I discovered and began listening to experimental forms of music. It has become somewhat of a hobby for me; an archive documenting interesting and unique sounds to explore and share. Sometimes the music is absent of any tangible musical properties, often being made up of noise in the form of feedback or static and it is this concept that I find myself to be fascinated with. The idea that noise, typically unwanted sound, can be arranged and layered in such a way that it creates something beautiful and truly unique is an amazing concept. As much as I feel that the previous statement is true there are many times that experimentation does not always work out the way it was intended, this is especially true when talking about ambient music. Sydney-based ambient/drone musician, Kolumbus attempts to explores the concept of arranging sound by making long compositions on his album Fleeting Hope For False Optimists. The album focuses on sparseness and atmosphere, ever shifting changes in sound and direction, and short interludes laced in-between movements. The album is comprised of 3 long songs each divided into various movements.
Ambient and drone music is a style of music that relies heavily on subtleties, ones that challenge the listener to pick up on minuet changes in sound, to engage in the atmosphere, and to listen deeper than what lies on the surface and with this last statement I mean it quite literally. On this release Kolumbus makes a type of ambient music that reflects certain cinematic qualities. The abundant application of synth combined with the distinct use of sampling makes Fleeting Hope for False Optimists seem like a film in some ways. Sampling has become a distinguishable trait within hip-hop and other forms of electronic music, often times being treated as an instrument just as much as a guitar or a drum set would be. Samples are also used to project a mood or make a statement in an otherwise instrumental piece of music. Kolumbus uses it in just that way, juxtaposing the dirge driven synths with news samples about drug use and the zero tolerance policy to create a disposition of sorts; to make his statement clear absent of the straightforwardness that vocals can inflict on a piece of music. As much as the samples work in terms of adding to the cinematic nature I can’t help but feel that their use throughout this music is out of place and far too abundant to not be distracting. Samples should not be used to the point where the music to sample ratio is leaning considerably more toward the latter. Instead they should act as an added effect, used to enhance the experience of the music as oppose to fragmenting it.
There are some defining moments in Kolumbus’ compositions that I find myself enjoying but, to my disappointment they don’t last long. The drums that come in during the first song ‘The Internal Wars’ create a fantastic mood giving one the feeling that something apocalyptic lies ahead. Unfortunately, the foreboding feeling is short lived because before it can be realized they stop short, echoing away to become lost under waves of rising synth. They just stop without warning which forces me to assume that Kolumbus was unsure of where to go with the rest of the track. Many of the songs on here work in this same non-linear aspect; a song will go on before mellowing out into these cinematic Godspeed You! Black Emperor-esque gaps. Albeit, unlike Godspeed there isn’t a whole lot of substance here.
‘Allusions to Electronic Illusions’ heads in a beat oriented direction and although they don’t do much in the way of anything innovative or groundbreaking the beats are an enjoyable element added to the otherwise ambient overtones. Toward the end, the track eventually mellows out, adhering to a more sensual ambient sound. The tone Kolumbus achieves with this sound is a beautifully crafted well structured piece of music. Voices drenched in reverse reverb rise and fall along with a body of gorgeous spacey noise. Kolumbus forms something alive with emotion and a plethora of palatable sounds yet distant and hollow at the same time, projecting a sense of something oceanic and vast. I could honestly listen to this part exclusively for the 9 minutes that the track goes on for. If Kolumbus had pursued this sound throughout the rest of the album I feel like ‘Fleeting Hope for False Optimists’ would have been a more enjoyable release but as I said before, the defining moments on this album are few and far between.
The final song, ‘In Our Dying Dreams’ starts out with a simple repeating bass beat. The beat meanders for far too long, even for drone music but it eventually pays off as the track picks up and the symphonic violin-like swells are introduced. Halfway through the song some vocals can be heard reciting something akin to spoken word poetry. The rest of the track redundantly recycles the beat until it suddenly stops, replaced with some tribal beats that loop bringing the track to a conclusion.
The name of this album seems fitting seeing as most of the sounds on this album attempt to create a brooding sense of atmosphere but at the end of it all I can’t help but feel like this attempt falls short. Even with lots of swells, various noises, samples, and some beats this release manages to remain very minimalistic, and not in a positive way. Fleeting Hope For False Optimists comes off in a way that it lacks substance; I found myself wanting more, something richer. It seems like there is so much potential but it is all lost, buried beneath loads of unnecessary meandering and scattered across 36 minutes of music that doesn’t go anywhere, at least not for me. Fleeting Hope for False Optimists shines in a few spots but cannot help but become consumed by the uneven and fractured structure of this music.
Overall Rating: 4.6
Favorite Track: Allusions to Electronic Illusions