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Album: Dreamfish
Artist: Pete Namlook and Mixmaster Morris
Label: Fax +49-69/450464
Year: 1993
Rating: 4/5
Summary: Worth it for one sublime track alone.

In 1993, Pete Namlook and Mixmaster Morris paired up to make Dreamfish, an album that perfectly captures what the Fax +49-69/450464 record label was about at the peak of its output.

The opening track, School of Fish, has to be one of my favourite pieces of music of all time, right up there with Bach's Aria and Brian Eno's An Ending (Ascent). In my opinion, this sublime track is about as good as music gets. Like much ambient music, it's composed of a few simple elements that blend together well: it has stepped sequences, plenty of slowly evolving pads, a marimba for rhythm and some filtered noise for effects. Such a technical description doesn't begin to do it justice, however. Emotionally, it's a wonderful, dreamy piece of music that washes over you like the ocean washing over sand. It's simply beautiful.

Charting deeper waters, the second track, Hymn, is a much darker piece. Fueled by short step sequences and swirling pads, it has an ominous, almost scary atmosphere as Terence McKenna talks about patriarchal monotheism. This track compliments the first well, but personally I'd rather have had the chance to explore the happier, more playful side of things more.

The third track, Fishology, is downright weird. The pair of musicians worked out how to coax strange noises like frog calls out of synthesisers, but I have to wonder why. This album is generally seen favourably by most people who have actually heard it, so perhaps I'm missing something, but I didn't think this swirly, bleepy track was worth releasing.

Dreamfish ends with Under Water, which amounts to a bit of noodling on a synth for ages. Again, it doesn't really contribute much to the album. This time, I doubt it's just a matter of personal taste, either: listening to it objectively, this track is embarrassingly simple, featuring a few strange synth noises starting up and spinning back down again. The whole thing's caked in reverb, naturally, and... that's it. It just doesn't feel like much effort was put into this track, as if the duo felt they needed to fill up the remaining space on the CD.

This is a hard album to rate, because I'd recommend it to anybody who likes ambient music for the first track alone. However, the pair of musicians understandably seemed to run out of creative energy after producing this sublime piece of music, leaving arguably most of the album with what amounts to filler.

According to Mark Prendergast in his book The Ambient Century, this album was created in only two days. While impressive, I think it does show. Maybe if Pete Namlook and Mixmaster Morris had spent more time together, they could have created a whole album that fulfils the promise of the first track. That would have really been amazing.

If you can justify to yourself buying an album for just one track, then I urge you to try to hunt down Dreamfish. At least the track in question is over eighteen minutes long. Just don't expect the whole album to live up to its fantastic start.

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