“Ocean Of Sound” is a 2 CD compilation released in 1996 and compiled by musician and writer David Toop. It is a brilliant tour through the outer reaches of music. I wrote something about it tonight for my book. In a short chapter about five compilations I love. I thought I’d share it with you.
And that leaves number five. The masterpiece. A compilation so audacious in its scope, so challenging in its intentions, which was to bring a world of different music under the theme of ambience: but not as background music, rather something you could really immerse yourself in. The album was “Ocean Of Sound”, compiled by David Toop, avant garde musician and writer, associated with punk and new wave, but moving so far beyond that. As I looked back to check my facts I was reminded that he was a member of the Flying Lizards. That figures.
The album came out in early 1996, preceded by a book on the subject, with interviews by some of the artists who appeared on the album. I never got around to reading it – I really should. But the music was superb. An intriguing, exciting mix of sounds from the outer reaches of modern music, be it electro, jazz, classical, reggae, world or rock’n’roll. Or indeed the sound of the natural world: there are recordings of howler monkeys and bearded seals, which really are not out of place. The bearded seals flow from an awesome piece of noise from the Velvet Underground called “I Heard Her Call My Name”, which I hadn’t encountered until I heard “Ocean Of Sound”. For me it is one of the great Velvets tracks. Likewise, one of the best reggae dub tracks I have ever heard is the opening piece on the first CD, “Dub Fi Gwan”, by King Tubby. It’s so cool, so laid back and atmospheric – you can imagine yourself high up in the Jamaican hills, maybe supping from a coconut with a bit of rum in it. It’s followed by “Rain Dance” by Herbie Hancock, a bubbling bit of free jazz that amazingly was recorded in 1973, but sounds like it could be 2003. And then you get “Analogue Bubblebath 1” by Aphex Twin, pioneering electro, “Empire” by John Hassell which is wavering jazz saxophones with African beats, and then an Indonesian piece, some stately gamelan, by Ujang Suryana. And then it’s into a rendition of Claude Debussy’s “Prelude A L’Apres Midi D’Un Faune”. It’s so good! It really is a journey of musical discovery like no other.
Eno gets a look in of course, as do My Bloody Valentine, with “Loomer. I reckon Massive Attack could just about have sneaked in – maybe a track off “Mezzanine”. Bowie too – something off “Heroes” or “Low”. But they didn’t. This is an album that took me to new places, and to this day I still marvel at it.
The compilation to end all compilations!
Get it if you can…
While the album travels the world – geographically and musically – the Velvet Underground song, for me lies at its heart. It’s wild, discordant, anarchic – one of the greatest pieces of rock’n’roll noise I have ever heard.
Here it is on YouTube. You may hate it. You might even think it’s boring. But then again, you might just love it, like me…
Good one, John! A small correction. You mention the VU song as “I Heard Her Name” in the text.
Well spotted! Duly corrected.
Interesting that people even do compilations, and I love the idea. Adore the Velvet underground piece!