Sowing Paranoia's "Research Music Lab," released 2012 on Canada's excellent ambient dub techno label Silent Season, is another limited edition (300 copies pressed CD) worth the effort to get ahold of. The album comes in a slim cardboard jacket with great photo of a lush green forest (forest landscapes is a theme of the label). Not much is known about Sowing Paranoia--my limited research yielded the fact this is a duo from Russia of the DJ variety. Actually many of the artists on Silent Season seem to be aligned to this subculture of electronic music. As such, I think there is a fine line between calling some of them "EM artists" (who generally use keyboards/synths/drum machines, etc.) to create original soundscapes, whereas the "DJ" variety of electronic artist uses such tools as turntables, mixers, and samplers to create pieces based on other pieces, remixes, or what have you. "Research Music Lab" seems to be a good example of this dichotomy.
First off, this album, unlike many Silent Season releases, is almost pure ambient (no dub techno "thump thump thump" beats). There are ten tracks, listed as Ambient 1, II, III and so on. The first couple tracks are very effective haunting, drifting pieces that are quite dark and moody, earthy and ethereal. The third track loops a sample from Eno's "On Land" (I believe it's the piece "Unfamiliar Wind(Leeks Hills) and adds some echoey Harold Budd-like piano chiming in the distance, along with various organic sounds. I love what they did with this sample! It's really a beautiful piece. However, one is forced to ask, are they paying hommage to Eno's classic or ripping him off? More on that later. Which leads to...
Track 8, which heavily samples Steve Roach's classic "Structures from Silence." Like the Eno sample, there is nothing subtle about the samples at all. In fact the original music really creates the backbone to the track. Again, I really like what they did with the track, gently manipulating it to a lush and heady effect.
As much as I enjoyed this album, I think it raises some ethical questions. These samples were not credited whatsoever. I think most space music fans will recognize the Eno and Roach straight away. But for others, they might think Sowing Paranoia created all this music themselves. In fact, there were other pieces on the album where I was wondering if I'd heard it before, or if they had actually created it themselves or simply lifted it off something else and manipulated it.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this album, as I do everything Silent Season releases. On this one, though, I do feel a bit guilty for liking tracks that were sampled heavily and uncredited where credit was due.