Essential albums: Heavenly Music Corporation

The four albums that Silent Records founder Kim Cascone recorded as Heavenly Music Corporation were creative highpoints in the rebirth of ambient via the burgeoning dance music and rave scenes of the 1990's in the USA, Britain, Europe and the Asia Pacific.

Heavenly Music Corporation

country of origin:

Ambient techno/trance, environmental, psychedelic, drone

decades active:

essential releases:

  • In A Garden Of Eden (1993, Silent Records)
  • Consciousness III (1994, Silent Records)
  • Luna Phase (1995, Silent Records)
  • Anechoic (1996, Silent Records)

Reviewed by Mike G

The four albums that Silent Records founder Kim Cascone recorded as Heavenly Music Corporation remain creative highpoints in the rebirth of ambient via the burgeoning rave and dance music scenes of the 90's in the Britain, Europe, USA and the Asia Pacific. The San Francisco-based Silent came to epitomise for many the open spirit of ambient techno's "golden era". While the prolific Cascone has recorded much experimental electronica before and since, HMC offers by far his most accessible and uplifting music, and arguably his most enduring.

In A Garden Of Eden (1993) and Lunar Phase (1995) are blissful "environmental" ambience of a rare standard. Imagine the surface attractions of new age music married with depth and substance, music that actually delivers its promise of tranquil gardens, esoteric worlds and psychedelic mind trips. On both these albums a myriad of sound pictures - gardens, oceans, forests - are created with exceptional skill. The rich, floating harmonies slowly build and dissolve in the most intoxicating way, a blend of spiraling tones, floating chords, nature sounds and occasional feather-light percussion or gently throbbing bass patterns. On Eden the liquid sounds of the chill room at early rave parties are are a tangible influence. The music was originally created for a "technomystical" chill room in Goa India, once a popular party destination for Westerners and not incidentally also one of the birthplaces of psy-trance. The slow ebb and flow of Lunar Phase takes its inspiration more directly from nature, based on a 24-hour ambient radio station in Japan that soundtracked the movement of the tides.

The album Consciousness III (1995) leans more heavily on the drum programming and motoric pulses of early techno, or at least an ambient version of it. Cascone at the time called it "a gentle kick against the aural ambi-niotic sack that encloses us all". For sheer mystical power, the title track is unrivalled in Cascone's work, a series of exquisitely beautiful pulses and melodies built around a single minor chord and simple snare/kick pattern. Although the album's structures are clearer and sharper than Garden Of Eden or Lunar Phase, texturally and melodically Consciousness III is just as rich. It's the rebirth of ambient trance for the techno age, owing as much to the German psy-ambient of the 70's as it does to the early dance music of the Detroit or Chicago.

Some of the music on the final HMC album Anechoic (1996) is quite abstract, with intriguing alien soundscapes and atmospheres that anticipate the Cascone's move back into more avant-garde territory and experimental computer music. Other tracks, however, are more tonal and euphoric. The endless swirls of "Octal" particularly show HMC's genius for relaxing the body while stimulating the mind. It's an underrated release and one of the last great albums from the original incarnation of Silent Records. The label passed from Cascone's hands in 1996, became a dance music label and disappeared into financial oblivion two years later.

Re-released in 2016 as part of Kim Cascone's Silent Records reboot, Heavenly Music Corporation's albums remain classics of ambient techno's first wave, after which the genre narrowed and gradually drifted towards digital glitches, clicks and abrasion. The transcendental sound of classic Silent does live on in other ways, however, notably in the trippy sounds of new-school ambient trance, downtempo psychedelia and exotic dub.

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