Originally released on cassette in the mid-1980s, Over Ruins and Moving Climates provide abundant evidence of why Jeff Greinke is considered one of the founding masters of dark ambient music. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Projekt for re-releasing this long unavailable material on compact disc in their Archive series, which also gave us Greinke’s Cities In Fog in 1997.
Greinke earned his meteorology degree from Penn State before moving out to Seattle in 1982, so it’s little wonder that much of his early work strongly calls to mind various weather conditions and waterborne settings. “Canal” from Over Ruins is a good example. Small, repeated synth lines echo like ripples of black water lapping at the edges of a wide canal, while deep throbbing drones pass by periodically like huge barges drifting unseen through the fog-shrouded canal, occasionally echoing metallically as they jostle its edges. Most of the uniformly excellent tracks on Over Ruins have a similar dark, uneasy feel produced with various synth effects, though some like “Runaway Freight” rely more on percussives than the rest, while the soothing harmonics on “Pillars of Light” evoke a positively peaceful image of towering quartz crystals glowing ghostly white in the moonlight.
The tracks on the later album, Moving Climates, demonstrate the much expanded palette of effects Greinke had developed to sculpt his soundscapes, though the more industrial/noise territory he was exploring with these compositions doesn’t move me as much as Over Ruins. Still, there’s plenty of amazing material here, such as the alternately low and high-toned clattering and thumping electronic percussion accompanied by random blips and bursts of noise of “Gathering Force,” which perfectly captures the way I imagine atoms would sound as they bump into each other faster and faster and faster, whirled by the powerful electromagnetic fields of a synchrotron. And the slowly spreading synth sounds hovering over low “plucks” and pipe-sounds rumbling beneath on “Red Tide” have an exquisitely creepy quality, a feeling of something stealthily spreading on the deep, devouring all in its path, leaving only the gasping, belly-up bodies of choked fish in its wake.
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