International Peoples Gang

To list IPG's musical references and styles would take pages of text; what matters is that they know what to do with it all...what makes their music so special is that they are able to translate what could easily be a private language into something warm and accessible, even if listeners struggle to put a name to it all. If only more experimental ambience was like this.

artist:
International Peoples Gang

country of origin: 
UK

style(s): 
Ambient, downtempo, experimental pop, psychedelic, electronica

decades active:
90's - 10's

essential releases: 

  • International Peoples Gang (1995, Emit Records)
  • Action Painting (2006, Emit Records)

Reviewed by Mike G

In its first and second incarnations (1992-1998 and 2003-2006) the UK label Emit Records left us a legacy of around two dozen albums. Many of them are among the most striking, beautiful and forward ambient music of our times, including these two albums by the duo of Ric Peet and Martyn Watson aka International Peoples Gang.

The first album simply called International People's Gang (1995) sounds like the aural equivalent of Alice In Wonderland for grown-ups, a paisley-coloured playground anchored here and there by techy pulses and dubby beats. The composers have created a surreal, kaleidoscopic wonder that blends samples and original melodies with a sense of fun and playfulness that sets it apart from a lot of other serious electronica. "Airplane" and "Nine Churchill Drive" are stand-outs. The former weaves a stoned woman's voice around a ricocheting melody and bursts of pretty paisley-colored acoustic guitar. The latter borrows a section from Brian Eno's angelic "Ascent" (uncredited) and loops it with a dubby bassline, bagpipes and god-knows what else. It's a most auspicious debut album and a defining moment in 90's electronica.

About the only thing to be said for waiting eleven years to release another album is that there is no excuse for not jettisoning the rubbish. Action Painting (2006) is a wondrous thing, perhaps a tad less surreal and more direct than its predecessor but on close inspection no less playful or inventive. Some of the beats are more rocking, with "That Time Already" and "Mornin" being virtual rock jams were it not for the added strings, backward effects and zany looped sounds. Mountains of weird voice bytes aside, this is an instrumental album except for "Fireworks", an floating, oddly-textured ambient pop song that stays on course thanks to its sweet and simple vocal.

To list IPG's musical references and styles would take pages of text; what matters is that they know what to do with it all. Their albums weave a middle path between pure electronic programming and live performance and that in itself is nothing new. What makes their music so special is that they are able to translate what could easily be a private language into something warm and accessible, even if we listeners struggle to put a name to it all. If only more experimental ambience and downtempo was like this.

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