Carbon Based Lifeform or CBL is made up of two Swedish artists, Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Segerstad who formed the band in 1996 in Gothenburg, Sweden originally as a side project to their original band called “Notch”.
Notch released an album in 1998 called The Path but that album has since been rebranded under the CBL name, they seem to have left Notch by the wayside and have concentrated mainly on CBL since.
Their first album released as Carbon Based Lifeforms in 2003 was Hydroponic Garden which is the album I am reviewing for you today.
Hydroponic Garden is a journey over, within and around a strange planet, one that we would not immediately recognise as our own, I am sensing something Avataresque in nature as we are taken on our quest. The first portion of the album is more structured that than those tracks that come towards the end, nice bass lines coupled with various instruments weave a story in our minds as to the look of this planet that we exploring. Along the way there will be moments that sound epic, allowing us to visualise vast panoramic vistas that lay before us. The story though can be almost anything you want it to be, your imagination is set free, I find that that is the beauty of music, especially music that has no singing, you can close your eyes and imagine anything.
There are so many different genres that people have given to music over the years, it is difficult not to get bogged down in trying to label them to fit a specific pigeon hole, I would tend to class this album broadly speaking as ambient, although looking at the album page if you follow the link it is also listed as acid ambient and psybient, what the nuances are of those genres I am unsure. Regardless of what you would like to call it this album delivers some beautiful music that is, I suggest, better listened to through a nice set of headphones in a place where you can relax, close your eyes and immerse yourself in the soundscape.
I have highlighted a few tracks that are my favourites on this album but really the whole thing is worth a listen. If you click the highlighted track you will hear that track, if you click the album name you will be presented with the entire album to listen to and you can listen to the entire album for free from Ultimae. Silent Running is one of those tracks that sounds epic to me, like an entire orchestra is in front of you playing their instruments and pulling you into a deep story, I wonder if the track name took influence from the 1972 film of the same name. Given the name of this album and the underlying story of the film I fail to see where it cannot be related. This also still is valid when I think of the feeling I get from this track of being, this time, set around a planet, I can certainly visualise this film and this soundtrack together. (if you have not seen the film I recommend it, Ill admit it is dated now but I think the message still relevant).
Hydroponic Garden is for me at least set underwater, vast oceans filled with weird and wonderful creatures all around as we glide effortlessly through the water and see the wonder of what is around us. There is an underlying sadness to the small vocal element that comes with this track too and I think that is the main emotional hook for me, I would love to listen to this with my girl, both of us sitting crossed legged facing each other, headphones on, noise reduction on too so all we can hear is this track and the ebbs ad flows of the ocean that I imagine with it. Exosphere moves almost into a dark ambient realm (another of those genres) but begins to obtain structure just before the 2 minute mark. Whilst the title of the track still makes me think of being underwater, maybe a discovery of some kind the light piano (I think that is piano) notes make me think of communication maybe trying to converse with another lifeform (carbon based :)?), but the track is a perfect highlight of the different, and yet complimentary styles on the album, where the beginning is more structured and the later tracks mainly soundscapes.
lastly from my highlights we have Comsat and pretty much as the name implies I think of a communications satellite in orbit around a planet, the camera in my mind is behind the satellite looking down towards the planet where you can see all the atmospherics. Ill admit that this track is a little repetitive, but I would expect that of an autonomous satellite just mindlessly performing its tasks, this thing that captures the track for me is again the piano (again I have no real idea if it is actually a piano), but it 1. reminds me of the film Halloween (totally random thought there) but also that instrument seems so crystal clear, so pure that is it almost like diamonds dropping into a perfectly still water of a dark lake.
1. Central Plains 08:19
2. Tensor 06:08
3. MOS 6581 (Album Version) 07:20
4. Silent Running 07:44
5. Neurotransmitter 07:36
6. Hydroponic Garden 08:28
7. Exosphere 09:19
8. Comsat 07:40
9. Epicentre (First Movement) 06:14
10. Artificial Island 05:10
11. Refraction 1.33 08:12
I found an online interview with Johannes from October 2014 that may be of interest to some to get some kind of idea about the thinking behind what they do.
I hope that you listened to the tracks highlighted, or even the entire album if you have time. We rush about so much today that we rarely have time for the simple pleasures like music, especially in this day and age of shuffle. I would love to know your thoughts on the album/tracks and how it made you feel, what you visualised when listening, even how you listened to it (i.e what kit you heard it on), let me know your thoughts?