Russell Mills And Undark - Strange Familiar

Album cover

  1. Red Scatter (7:26)
  2. Ice in the Sleeve (7:03)
  3. Stone's Eggs (14:34)
  4. Blood is Climbing (8:57)
  5. Rain in Our Room (10:57)
  6. How Safe is Deep? (7:41)
  7. Underground Kite (9:05)
  8. Her 200 Bones (6:54)

Instinct Records / Virtual, 1996

Russell Mills was better known as a visual artist, in particular for cover designs, but here he leads an ambient supergroup known as Undark, its illustrious cast including David Sylvian, Brian Eno, The Edge and Robin Guthrie. These luminaries provide cameos above 70 minutes of varied ambient flavours, with an overarching mood of 90's chill-techno. Dubby beats, flourishes of strings and other organic sounds, sampled voices and interestingly swampy bass riffs make it reasonably interesting, but it does gravitate towards the generic. For example, the ominous rumbling background and Sylvian's lead vocal on "How Safe Is Deep" are marred by the gratuitous addition of beats near the end. "Blood is Climbing" is a welcome foray into darker sound-texturing ambient, with squirming clusters of violins and cellos. Most elegant is "Stone's Eggs", based around Michael Brook's "infinite" guitar, swaying patiently away to silence.

May 25, 2008

7 out of 10

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