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Rickshaw Driver: Wes Dog and Chicago Ambience
by Dr. Binoy Kampmark
2011-04-08 09:46:24
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He calls himself with a certain gritty pride Wes Dog.  What a sprightly musical creature he is.  From an aesthetic cul de sac in Chicago he dips into the fine waters of the Chicago music tradition. 

He has been involved in various musical efforts before, attempting to chart a unique genre that simultaneously mocks and embraces.  An album of American-British collaboration called Phil featured a meth sufferer who became part of art.  The rapper can be the alchemist of human emotion.  The sufferer is a subject, and in time, becomes the beat.  The human being might be decrepit, but the music produced in the name of that being is not.

Here, Wes Dog has gone into the cerebral, styling himself as an ambient composer. This an instrumental feast of the mind. Knock off those slippers, mix yourself an evening drink (or a morning one) and sip those rich, languorous tones.  Feel the padded beat, find the delicate pulse.

The risk with such ambient compositions is that variety may strip the beast of composing bare.  There might, at times, be too many possibilities available for the synthesising composer.  Music theorist Brian Eno, being one of principal founders of ambient music suggested that such variety needs narrowing. ‘I limit choices.  I confine people to a small area of manoeuvre.’

Rickshaw Driver is a nod to a kingdom of oblivion while still keeping the listener within that set field of manoeuvre.  The album employs ‘acoustic guitar, a roland 606 and various effects.’  It pulsates in a neatly tuned, rhythm through psychedelic scapes.  The driver is not so much in rickshaw as a gliding chariot.  It doesn’t stop. 

The trajectories are clear.  Importantly, one doesn’t miss that driver.  You follow closely behind. You might even be in the vehicle.  This is stream of consciousness in action, the music equivalent of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.  And what Imel has done here is convey a sense of movement, a journey in rich manipulations that enable the listener to escape on a well chartered course.  The entire production might read as a soundtrack to Isaac Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation.

The first track ‘riding’ is a delicious, synthesised muttering, the pitter-patter that grows gradually to a point where there shall be ecstasy, explosion, release.  (Oh, if Ravel might have heard this in terms of his emerging, rising Bolero – quiet stutter eventually rising to dominant roar.)  One is building it to the point where the climax is inevitable.  The second, Beedi, releases the acoustic guitar’s absorbing richness which might come across to some as a touch heavy.  But in a sense, this is preparation for the next stage.  In the final track, suitably titled ‘Dreams’ one reaches a clearing.  The driver comes to a standstill.  The built up beats gradually subside.  The shot of life is taking hold for one last gasp.  Then, freedom…


[The downloadable mp3 is available at: http://www.sendspace.com/file/mx42k5]


Binoy Kampmark
was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

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