Saturday, October 02, 2004:

And now for something completely different

Banco de Gaia -- Sinhala
Banco de Gaia is a British fellow named Toby Marks who's released a number of ambient/trance albums since the early 1990s. His site is a bit cagey about biography, making you select answers until you pick the right combination (London --> heavy metal --> Beatles in Portugal --> Maxwell House), but since Marks has at various times claimed that his stage name comes from Mussolini's gay lover and at others that it's from the most boring opera ever written (about a day at work), you might want to take that biography with a grain of salt. As for the name, personally I like to think it's just a wry or wistful reference to a very different kind of World Bank.

At any rate, "Sinhala" is a slow-building track, like much of Marks' work; it puts me in mind of the chugging steam engine on "Last Train to Lhasa"--steadily making its way up a mountain, all good things in due time, no sense rushing.

The track starts with a bit of looped electrical hum and crackle, joined by the barest melody, an echoey American voice buried in the mix talking about spirituality. It's thirty seconds in before the drums start; nearly a minute later the bass and a backbeat start to propel the song, a guitar beginning its dubbish punctuation. This song is not out to dazzle you, it's out to paint a picture of a strange and sedate world--one that's intriguing, dream-like, and totally foreign.

For some reason, reviewers on like to recommend that people put Marks' music on while driving. I've never tried it, but I wouldn't recommend it--the music is oddly hypnotizing, something I'd very much prefer to listen to when I'm not in a car interacting with other several-thousand-pound vehicles at 75mph. It's perfect for listening to at night, in the dark, when it's cold outside and you're snug under the blankets.
Official site (with RealAudio samples)


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