It's a bit odd to think of Swedish duo Vibrasphere - now disbanded - as having helped write the book on dubby psychedelic chillout, given that their first full downtempo album didn't appear until seven years into their recording career. Yet I can't think of any other act in the 2000's which set standards higher in this sub-genre than they did.
country of origin:
Ambient dub, psyambient, lounge, electronica
90's - 00's
- Selected Downbeats volume 1 (2006, Cloud 99)
- Selected Downbeats volume 2 (2009, Cloud 99)
Reviewed by Mike G
It's a bit odd to think of Swedish duo Vibrasphere - now disbanded - as having helped write the book on dubby psychedelic chillout, given that their first full downtempo album didn't appear until seven years into their recording career. Yet I can't think of any other act in the 2000's which set standards higher in this sub-genre than they did. Rickard Berglof and Robert Elstermain's main forte was progressive psytrance for the dancefloor - a genre which they did very well - but Vibrasphere's less-frequent ambient outings allowed them more variety and was arguably a better showcase of their remarkable melodic gifts.
Over the years, scattered one-off downtempo tracks of outstanding quality graced both their own dance albums and downtempo compilations from labels like Ultimae Records. It's these that make up Selected Downbeats volume 1 (2006), with the addition of a couple of newly minted compositions. The duo's dub production techniques are impeccable - big basslines, reverberating snares, massive space - and they are masters at adapting this Jamaican invention into something new, exotic and much more multi-cultural. Most unique is how their arrangements resemble massive pieces of architecture - complex, huge, futuristic structures with clean edges and spacious surrounds, full of light and colour and warmth. Its exceptionally visual music, of which "Ice Flow" is but one fine example. And those melodies...dear god, there are tunes on Selected Downbeats volume 1 to die for. Minor gripes: the sublime "San Pedro" isn't here, and a remix of "Manzanilla" mutes the upfront acoustic guitar lines of the original to rather detrimental effect.
The follow-up Selected Downbeats Volume 2 (2009) is a little less obvious then Volume 1 but on repeated listens proves to be a fine companion piece. The high point is "Mountain Lake", a stunning, beautifully sad piece of music with a piano pattern that - on its own - resembles a 19th Century Romantic concerto. Yet it's a track without any classical pretensions and is expertly arranged with a loping beat, acoustic guitars and those spacious, sparkling synthetic forms that Vibrasphere does so well.