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Fossil Aerosol Mining Project
17 Years In Ektachrome David Stubbs , July 18th, 2014 13:30

It's hard to improve on the description in the accompanying notes for this album, the latest release from the label of Japan-based ex-pat Paul Thomsen Kirk, aka Akatombo, so I shan't try. It is "like stowing away on an ageing freight train as it winds its way from the balmy American South to an unnamed permafrost north." That's the premise of this album, which recalls everything from William Basinski (in its use of slightly decayed analogue tapes) to Chris Watson's field recordings, to the KLF's 1990 ambient trans-American odyssey Chill Out. Fossil Aerosol Mining Project are a shadowy collective who have been around since the early 1980s, long time associates of :zoviet*france, but for all the reminders it invokes and the ostensibly familiar topography it covers, this is an album, an experience like no other, 51 minutes of remote beauty and disquieting bliss.

As with their previous work, and hinted at in the cover photography of grassed-over, long demolished industrial complexes, Fossil Aerosol Mining Project are preoccupied with cultural debris, the ghostly outlines and traces of abandonment and obsolesence that abide on the landscape. This is evident on 'Transparency Of Limestone', over which the voice of some former human presence - a guide, or instructor to a mining facility reverberate and drift. 'Systems Clock', with its ticking motif, like a ghost train clacking along the railroad divides, is similarly unnerving. The centrepiece of the album, however, is the 21 minute 'Ice Falls/Taking On Water'. It contains the full gamut of 17 Years In Ektachrome motifs - smudgy, near-abstract intimations of small towns submerged to make way for giant dams, endless, barren, scorched plains, the clank of old pulleys and the creak of lovely weather vanes, the desultory trickle of rusty brown water, sepia tints and sonic mirages of an America that once was. It refuses to decay into absolute extinction, lingering in faded photo archives and distant memories, still able to yield the occasional, silver glimmer. Archeological ambient, you might say. All the listener need do is bed down like a hobo in a slow-moving carriage across the thousands of miles of terrain covered here, enjoy the slowly shifting view in all its deceptive permanence and awesome emptiness, as the mercury level drops on the thermometer. An album you'll want to journey across again and again. 

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