Puff Dragon :: Sazanami
For his first full-length release, Steve Good sharpens his ambient edge for eight long excursions into downtempo electronics. Befriending Dakini headmaster Makyo years back, Good's sound mimics the minimalist, airy digitalism the label is known for, softening the lines between computer-fed and natural rhythms (natural not so much "organic" instrumentation, but rich in creating an emotional, cathartic reaction in listeners). Good's ability to create lush landscapes in inherent in every track.
Acquiring the moniker Puff Dragon in 2003, the Wales native/Japanese resident wanted to "slow things down" a bit, creating space music for opium heads. Now as any good addict (and even a few bad ones) know, to create atmospherics for lounge music requires a deep understanding of space (not so much philosophical as, again, emotional). There must be plenty of room embedded within slow-roving grooves or else interest quickly dissipates. Simultaneously slight variations in the theme must underscore what is, essentially, one plane of being/listening. To create successful "chill" music is not as easy as it sounds.
For the most part Good does good. In fact, the layers of "Qi Gong" and the more techy "Chinese Radio" really explore his ambient mind, the use of Japanese stringed instruments and tricked-out flutes on the latter playing nicely within the more electronified synthesizers. He has a tougher time with "Marine Drive" and the opening "Sazanami," where beats lack significant structure, making 7-9 minutes a bit long.
It's difficult to separate Good's work from the Dakini vibe; they are born of the same frame of mind. In terms of collectivity, this is appealing. As for inventiveness, a few of the beats and sonic architecture sound like Makyo outtakes (except in the case of the excellent remix of "Skin as Soft as Starlight," Makyo's gorgeous closer to his recent Swara Mandala, in which
we'd expect such a vibe). Good closes out the record with some fantastic downtempo: the slow-burning "Lava" another prime example of allowing a rhythm time to settle, and the escapading "Shimmer." Whatever Good lacks in creativity he makes up for in emotion - which is something to look forward to, in this release, and the future.