The Curse Of Vale Do Lobo CD

Two guys from Ireland and an extensive journey through all sorts of electronic tinkering, that's basically what the band name Ambulance stands for. Their debut full-length album shows an immense fascination for complex arrangements and advanced rhythms.

First thing I noticed about "The Curse Of Vale Do Lobo" was that 1970ies' style cover artwork with a fake 3-D painting of a multi-coloured and ever changing waveform that seems to go nowhere. Still, no hint at the curse of that infamous Portuguese holiday resort Vale Do Lobo.

Let's have a listen to the music: "Tickle" is the first tune on the CD, and it's a pretty wild ride through polyrhythmic patterns and a whole bunch of small musical ideas phased in and suddenly disappearing again. Witness Ambulance's fascination for unexpectable changes in the arrangement - it's almost a mathematical sense for successfully combining elements that wouldn't normally go together.

"Dead Weight" is next, and this tune has a more straightforward ambient feeling. On to the title track that slowly grows into a simple sequence that is thwarted by surrounding glitches and samples. "Jettii" is another example of an almost ambient tune, built upon a rich bass line and a constantly altered drum beat. "Rodeo" by contrast is a lot more aggressive with its punchy rhythm and humming melody line - it sounds almost like a giant insect in for the attack. Harmony returns with "Hymn" and its slightly Eastern flair that progresses into a forward moving rhythm layered with massive chords in the second part of the song.

Time for a short interlude ("Taxi For John Of God") before the "Antique's Roadshow" comes to your home. This title has been released on a 7-inch single before and makes extensive use of vocal samples played backwards - oh, those hidden messages! "Liam Bugler" starts with a saxophone arrangement underlined by sombre synthesizer sounds and blends into another interlude called "Teen Filler" (mainly a vocal sample), which in turn blends into "Cad Quad Qui", a conversation between two sampled voices, built upon an astonishingly minimal beat and spheric melody lines.

Now follows "The Best Ever", again an interlude based on a vocal sample, paving the way for the very calm tune "The Tams", placing a fragile and ethereal melody that would make a good soundtrack for a beautiful sunset amidst a thicket of nasty hisses - ouch! "Kurant" starts with the hard beats back in place, but later turns out to have a very ambient vibe, complete with wobbly and voice-like sounds from the synthesizer. "Eight Cakes B.C." - yes, another interlude, before "It's Curtains For You" enters the stage: a driving beat, surrounded by all sorts of sounds, both friendly and fierce, before dissolving into a sequence that sounds like a dying robot. Oh well, and listen to the talking horse on the hidden track before summing up your impressions.

"The Curse Of Vale Do Lobo" is a highly intellectualized album, full of advanced rhythms and complex arrangements - this is certainly not music you would feel you had to dance to. If all of that reminds a bit of Autechre, well, that's pretty close. But then again, this is by no means a bad thing.

(rh 08/MMIII)

Label: Planet Mu Records

>> Planet Mu Website

Sophisticated tunes - but where is the curse of Vale Do Lobo?