Kodomo On…

Chris Child 'Substrata' review


There’s so many good ambient records out there, including classics from Brian Eno (Music For Airports, Ambient 4) and Aphex Twin (Selected Ambient Works Volume II), but an especially personal one that comes to mind is Substrata (All Saints, 1997) from Biosphere. There is something so visceral about it, evoking a real sense of the stark arctic spaces the titles suggest. The sound design is vast and beautiful, as in many good ambient records, yet there is clearly a strong compositional narrative going on.

Each track feels like a “movement” connected to the whole. I’d listen to the entire record on repeat, completely mesmerized. It felt like the score to a film I didn’t need to see because I had such a strong sense of the exotic, icy world it suggested. I loved how each piece felt constrained and minimal, yet evolved and transportive.

At the time, I had been doing a lot of field recordings around Japan, and hearing the field recordings used so explicitly in these pieces, alongside the lonely drones and melodic elements affirmed where I was interested in going with my music. I had no idea some of the speech samples were taken from Twin Peaks, since I hadn’t seen the series at the time.

When I was watching the series years later, I heard the words and immediately recognized them from the Biosphere songs. Listening now, it still amazes me and feels fresh. The layering is so deep and thoughtful, much like how a composer orchestrates, or a painter works with a palette of colors.

Kodomo’s first album under his own name, ‘Pieces For Piano Vol​.​1’, is now available through his new FOIL imprint. Stream it below, along with some of the composer/producer’s other solo records.