Ambient sounding board

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 September, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 September, 1993, 12:00am

152 Minutes 33 Seconds - A Brief History of Ambient Vol 1, Various Artist (Syndicate). Pure Pleasure, Shaggy (Greensleeves). Unlimited Nu Colours (Wildcard). AMBIENT music has recently become a genre with the launch of the first volume of its history.

Ambient means ''surrounding'' and the task of any Ambient producer is to lay down a textured soundscape that employs sounds which exist at the edge of our hearing.

152 Minutes and 33 Seconds is a fine collection of what to some is designer lift music but to others is the source of laid-back sublimity.

Modern-day Ambient has tagged along with the techno generation, offering an alternative to the rabid, zillion beats per minute enthusiasts.

The current field is led by bands like Amorphous Androgynous, The Grid and the daddy of them all, The Orb. But in this collection you can luxuriate to the sounds of early experimentalists like Hawkwind, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp and David Sylvian.

There's nothing ethereal about Shaggy's album Pure Pleasure . Tracks like Bedroom Bounty Hunter, Lust and All Virgins describe the musician's areas of interest perfectly.

But there's no denying that he creates the most infectious ragga on the almost-saturated market at the moment. The raucous hit single Oh Carolina is also included in this 16-track romp.

There's nothing new about ragga; it is reggae with a faster beat. Its exponents come to a fickle European and American market in the same way that Marley and Dennis Brown did - armed with a firm Jamaican track record.

Shaggy wasn't plucked from his home market and given a bundle of Sony cash to play with like ragga supremo Shabba Ranks was. He has done it the lean way with long-time Jamaican roots label Greensleeves and a bit of help from Virgin.

Pure Pleasure is not quite the pure ragga that record company packaging would have you believe. Soon be Done is decidedly reggae in tempo as is Give Thanks and Praise. The themes however are pure ragga.

Shagga never tires of telling us how his women just keep coming back for more. But you can't help thinking they must be getting as tired of being referred to as bedroom fodder as we are of hearing it.

There's no such intent emanating from the perfectly-groomed collective Nu Colours and their saccharine album Unlimited.

This British soul package runs close to being the latest here-today-gone-tomorrow teeny pop outfit. What saves them is a talent that rises above the corny titles they have given themselves and most of their album. Want Your Love 2b Mine and Didn't Any 1 Tell U being examples.

Lead vocalist Fay Simpson has a set of tonsils she wants to share with the world. So does Lawrence Johnson, and both have a feel for soul and R&B in the tradition of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.

The sadly gooey production smothers their free-flowing vocal relationship, with backing vocals laid on in treacly dollops reminiscent of Boys II Men. But What in the World and Inside Love, are two tracks which show spirit and put them well beyond the Stock, Aitken and Waterman outfit they are in danger of becoming.