A book that “travels from the rainforests of the Amazonas to virtual Las Vegas, high in the Hollywood Hills to the megalopolis of Tokyo.”
Earlier this week we recommended you check out Simon Reynolds’ fantastic book on the rise of rave culture, Generation Ecstasy, a deeply enriching read that’s also a killer resource when looking for lesser-known musical corners to explore.
A few years before Reynolds published his tome, the British experimental musician and writer David Toop, best known for his brilliant longrunning column in The Wire, published Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sounds and Imaginary Worlds. More than any other book on music culture, Ocean of Sound can be said to define the In Sheep’s Clothing’s aesthetic.
One look at the index offers evidence: The ‘G-I’ listings alone direct you to pages in the book that mention artists including Jon Hassell, Larry “Mr. Fingers” Heard, the Grateful Dead, Ryoji Ikeda, Herbie Hancock, Richie Hawtin, Buddy Holly, Goldie, Genesis, and Jah Shaka.
In the book’s prologue, Toop outlines his intentions by noting what his work is not, which is “a book about categories of music –ambient, electronic, environmental or any of those other separations which lay claim to the creation of order and sense but actually serve business interests.”
Rather, he continues, “What I have followed, starting with Debussy in 1889, is an erosion of categories, a peeling open of systems to make space for stimuli, new ideas, new influences, from a rapidly changing environment.” Across the next few pages Toop references urban noise, bioacoustic signals, improvisation, structuring principles, Javanese music, cultural confrontations, ambient sound, and “states of reverie and receptivity.”
Toop concludes the prologue with a brilliantly incisive sentence: “As the world has moved towards becoming an information ocean, so music has become immersive. Listeners float in that ocean; musicians have become virtual travellers, creators of sonic theatre, transmitters of all the signals received across the either.
Notably, Toop compiled three different double-CD collections of music from the book, each of which is easily found on Discogs: Ocean of Sound, Crooning on Venus, and Booming on Pluto. Toop created each collection as a pair of single-disc mixes, resulting in gorgeously flowing – or, in the electro-focused Booming on Pluto, mesmerizingly mixed – collections.