Cultural Bulletin
Cultural Bulletin is a quarterly magazine that provides an international view of creative work. We look to film, music, design and art as signifiers of our cultural moment.

Revisiting: Waveform Transmission - V 2.0 - 2.9 


Label: Astral Industries


In 1996, Silent Records released Rod Modell (who also goes by the name DeepChord) and Chris Troy’s first collaboration as Waveform Transmission: V 1.0 - 1.9. The soundscapes, which were recorded live during ‘peak-periods of paranormal activity’, gave us an eerie and idiosyncratic ambient event that delivered on intrigue and uniqueness. 

After this, London based record label Astral Industries have championed DeepChord’s subsequent work and in 2014 they released his album Lanterns, which was followed up with Chi Factory’s wonderful remix of it: Red Lantern at the Kallikatsou (2017).  And, 21 years after V 1.0 - 1.9, the label gave us Waveform Transmission’s reunion and second outing, V 2.0 - 2.9

When listening to an album such as this, and finding the experience both fulfilling and challenging, there is always a risk that one will come out of it waxing lyrical to the extent where it is inordinate, unwarranted and even tiresome. Perhaps this is a danger with all ambient music. After all, how can wordless noises possibly provide more than relaxing background music? Surely an examination of the deeper meanings behind such esoteric offerings are so subjective that we should just keep them to ourselves and be on our merry way? Doesn’t it just serve as a platform for the self-righteous and pretentious among us to spout our empty views to those who are unfortunate enough to listen? 

On the other hand, however, perhaps great music challenges and provokes such responses. Surely it isn’t happy to simply generate popularity and success. Maybe it’s more interested in taking you to places you haven’t been before and creating an interior tapestry full of memories and challenging emotions. Even for someone who has a fairly sturdy defence against mawkish sentiments, after consuming V 2.0 - 2.9, there was a clear and lingering feeling that it had provided an experience that warrants this level of discussion. 

At the beginning, we are taken outside: nature and space are present through the sounds of water, echoes and distant splashes. Slow loops ebb and flow and that allow for an instant calming and a sense that we are somewhere untouched by civilisation. In the second of the four pieces, the sense of being near water becomes greater and clearer: waves, rain, droplets. One can’t help but feel uneasy that this lush and tranquil setting will not stay for long; such things of beauty are soon exploited and destroyed.

And then, a shift becomes apparent. The mood sways to a darkness that evokes the sound of human interruption. Perhaps this was an interruption made with good intentions - for survival and for necessity. We are still given the sense of water but the static is now scattered and less fluid. No longer the sound of rain. No longer the airy spaces. These are replaced with more solid, hypnotic beats. Whatever has disturbed the initial tranquillity is now spoiling, creating, building. Then, finally, there is the certain presence of something new. Irregular jets of steam and droid-like chirps and whistles give an eerie touch of technology. Is it transport? AI? 

The record has the most impact when swallowed whole. Only then can one feel the impact of its subtle yet undeniable scope and power. Over the course of the four 18 minute tracks, it somehow exhibits what feels like a slow but destructive path: a path that brings parallels to the lure of humanity by an unspoiled area of nature, then its domination and ultimately self-destruction. 

Modell and Troy may or may not have intended this to be the effect on whoever listens to V 2.0 - 2.9. In honesty, it doesn’t really matter. The underlying meaning of this art is not explicit. It is personal. 

Brian Eno, famous for his pioneering work in this field, stated that ambient music should be as ignorable as it is interesting. On the surface, V 2.0 - 2.9 could indeed be listened to without much consideration. However, when investing in it, it’s apparent that it can take you to places that other genres and bands simply can’t. And it’s for this reason why labels like Astral Industries are putting this type of record out there. In a world that’s completely smothered with music that is content with sitting within predefined perimeters, it’s vitally important to so. TS