July 19, 2003

Rothko "A Continual Search for Origins"

In the quest for inner peace, one learns that when you simply listen to nature, you're hearing a song. Yes, nature provides its own ambiance, and from that realization, many artists have taken it upon themselves to create music that would recreate that experience. Perhaps the most famous of these artists is Brian Eno, whose Music for Airports and Music for Films have provided the template for many, many others, including Harold Budd, Banco de Gaia, Bark Psychosis, Acid Mothers Temple and, yes, even Yanni. Ambient music and New Age music often go hand-in-hand, much to each other's resentment.

Rothko's Mark Beazley frequently spends time at a friend's house in a small village in Switzerland. On one such trip, something inspired him to take a tape recorder and simply record the outdoor sounds of nature and life in this little town. On returning to London, he used these as the basis for his next album, A Continual Search for Origins. This version of Rothko differed greatly from previous incarnations, mainly because the once three-bass guitars had dwindled down to one. While the novelty of the lineup--which had gained them attention--was gone, Rothko was now somewhat of a clean slate.

This rhythmic shift, however, should not be mourned, for Beazley's found sounds serve as a wonderful basis for his music. Indeed, the music on A Continual Search for Origins is driven by the slow sounds of small-town Switzerland, and it's all the better for it. While Rothko continue to have an electronica purr, the true heartbeat of A Continual Search for Origins comes from these quiet tapes of even quieter nature; you'll hear the buzzing of insects, the sounds of the street, the quiet violence of mother nature, tempered with some pretty songs. Once you hear these slight little additions to the songs, you'll be listening for them

Indeed, the songs on A Continual Search for Origins almost seems secondary; it's quiet, soothing, and relaxing--certainly proving that Beazley has succeeded at creating the quiet sounds of Switzerland. In fact, I don't really think that naming these songs was necessary; the album flows together wonderfully, and trying to seperate elements from the whole seems a bit wrong. Same thing with the singing; while Caroline Ross provides beautiful singing, it doesn't really seem necessary; in fact, the vocals seemed to interrupt the soothing, smooth musical flow.

This change in direction reminds me of Slowdive, another band who did a similar change. While Rothko owe nothing to Slowdive, their change from driving instrumental rock to slow, meditative ambient music is quite shocking, especially considering Rothko's past. Apparently, this record was their final album for Too Pure, and let's hope that this album--not released in the United States, by the way--is not condemned to the din of post-label obscurity.While this record might be a little more difficult to find, it is certainly worth seeking out.

--Joseph Kyle

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