Ambient Moods (Polygram TV, 1996)

Review
Ambient Moods is more of a companion piece to 1994’s Senses rather than being directly connected with Virgin’s Moods series. Having said that, there would have been no harm in being associated with the latter. The sleeve boasts of “17 atmospheric moods” and making the name cut are Orb, Dubstar, Cocteau Twins, Beloved, Enigna, Leftfield featuring Toni Halliday, Bjork & David Arnold, Everything But The Girl, Massive Attack & Tracey Thorn, Jah Wobble & Sinéad O’Connor. Naturally the cover image is of some fluffy clouds.

Like the aforementioned Senses, the opening track is also Bjork and David Arnold’s Play Dead. This time we get the regular version as opposed to the Tim Simenon Instrumental. A haunting start which is followed by the blunted beats of Massive Attack’s Protection where they loop in Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn for a sublime slice of trip hop. And then it’s the glorious Mother Dub mix of Dubstar’s Stars before the perfectly pitched sonic picnic Evangeline. Four-Calendar Café’s release coincided with the beginning of second year in university; an album which manages to evoke melancholic walks & cycles in and out of Belfield. The single came out a month beforehand and its oblique B-sides, Mud And Dark & Summer-Blink both worthy additions to their ever-growing soundscape of dreams. Next comes Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart with Sinéad O’Connor in tow. Visions Of You is a late night MTV memory, top bass and angelic vocals. File under mellow magic.

The home run continues with another collaboration, this one comprising of Leftfield and Curve’s Toni Halliday. Original (Radio Edit) is a gloomy cracker from March 1995 and the centrepiece of Leftism. Enter EBTG: in August 1994, Amplified Heart begat Missing, a troubled tune of romance gone sour. #69 in the charts. Step forward Todd Terry who gives it a much-needed sunrise to sunset shot of dance energy, an absolute classic that reached #3. Next Goldie’s dreamy drum ‘n’ bass monster Inner City Life before the ubiquitous Little Fluffy Clouds, still a staple of late night flatland in 1996. Mmmmm yes – Kate Bush’s The Sensual World is a most welcome inclusion; the gorgeous title track from her sixth album. And then The Beloved’s The Sun Rising, a sublime dawnbreaker and fabulously uplifting classic. The sample used is O Euchari sung by Gothic Voices’ Emily Van Evera.

Bjork gets a second outing here; the orchestral Isobel, the Tank Girl theme which also featured in BBC Radio’s Blue Jam. Evoking the spirit of this CD and the era is my 2018 Mixcloud project The Blue Jam Tapes. Moving backwards – and in a rather random fashion – we go to 1990 and for Saint Etienne’s wonderful Only Love Can Break Your Heart which is then followed by Enigma’s Sadeness, an act that implies some pinning-tail-on-donkey activity. Now it’s time for the token in-house single, the eponymous Raindance, an ambient musical experience inspired by Native American chants. Against all the odds, this is really affecting and hits the spot. We finish up with two classics from the early ’80s; Art Of Noise – Moments In Love, now a key work in the chill out genre. And the last band standing are Japan with Ghosts. One of my formative Top Of The Pops memories was seeing this performed on 18 March 1982. Dry ice and special effects, audience mesmerised.

Favourite tracks
Cocteau Twins – Evangeline

Japan – Ghosts

Lest we forget
Raindance – Raindance

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