Air Friction, from 1995, is subtitled ‘collected ambient music’ and puts together 14 mid-length (five to seven minutes long) gentle pieces produced from synthesizers, piano, percussion, guitar, cello, flute, and computer synthesis. RST wishes the sounds as soothe and nourish, and combine his interests in computer, pop, and ambient music. The piano is a strong presence in many of the pieces, providing a direct link to Satie’s musique d’ameublement which RST indicates was a guide. However, the melodies sit within a broad field of percussion, vocal tones, and synthesizer washes typified in the climax provided by Atmosphere, the final track.
We began, however, with The Moon and Certain Angles where high and querulous tones intrude into a deeper drifting meditation. This sets the mood which will continue over the full 73 minutes: a mellow ambience which gently undermines itself to provide a slight (and interesting) uncertainty and unease. Pure Vision Through the Looking Glass, for instance, features a pair of melodies (computer generated, which sound like harpsichords (and, I must admit, are almost Enoesque) which are played in counterpoint producing some unsettling note sequences. A Baroque-feel continues in Air Friction where a ‘clarinet’ carries the melody over an orchestration of voices and keyboards.
As the disc progresses each track is presented like a jewel which is rotating before us – look in and focus on the different facets – the melody, harmony, rhythm or bass – and be entranced by the sum and its parts. The distant tubular bell clusters in Sky of Albion which punctuate the stately march of melody, subtle layers of percussion in Upon the Westward Way which also has some wonderful strange high-jittering which enters suddenly towards the end, or the cello winding through the layered voices and mysterious sounds of The Shifting of Spheres. The Strong Eye is reflected in Essence with odd sorties of sounds (metallic tinkles and computer-distorted flute) disturbing the synthesizer’s flow or Ryoan-ji where garbled voices are deep in the mix. Surprisingly a middle eastern chant introduces Antrim then disappears, and Ireland is apparent only in some bodhran notes.
Overall, this is a very satisfying album of ambience – the pieces are sufficiently complex to allow for repeated deep listening, while producing a mood which would satisfy those who want to relax to it (although in some places it is quite melancholic). In addition to the influences of Satie and Eno which I have mentioned, I am also reminded of Bill Nelson’s instrumentals – which struck me during A Picture of Moments (also a Nelson-ish title), particularly the vibrating-guitar sound, and I then heard in the earlier tracks (I am thinking of the ‘Trial by Intimacy’ set and ‘Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights’).
— Jeremy Keens, Ambience Magazine, Australia