The challenge of reviewing an ambient album like Kenneth James Gibson’s soon-to-be-released Ssih Mountain is that it isn’t music you review. It’s music you write poetry to, or paint ethereal landscapes to. It’s music you close your eyes to and let wash over you while you daydream or meditate or play out imaginary film scenes in your mind. It’s a collection of songless songs that use droning tonalities and slowly changing washes of chords to play with your emotions; sometimes uplifting, sometimes menacing, sometimes peaceful, sometimes pensive. Ssih Mountain is the countryside of dreams and the wind that blows across the distant hills of insomnia.
Probably the best-known similar works are Brian Eno’s most ambient albums. Neroli, New Space Music, and Thursday Afternoon come to mind. I don’t doubt that Kenneth is influenced by Steve Reich’s minimalist works, and Ssih Mountain also reminds me of the Incandescent Cinema album my friends in Trio Nine recorded. Ssih Mountain is one of those albums I like to play on repeat for a few hours to cleanse the musical palette and chill the heck out. It’s like sonic incense to calm the senses.
After listening to the complete album that was sent privately to me for review, I bought Kenneth’s 2016 album, The Evening Falls. It uses more recognizable melodies than Ssih Mountain, usually minimalist piano or slide-guitar melodies played over drones and washes like those found on Mountain. Imagine someone took the first couple of minutes of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond and made an entire album with that vibe. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ssih Mountain will be released on November 4, 2022, and you’ll be able to pick it up on Bandcamp at kennethjamesgibson.bandcamp.com/music. In the meantime, you can find more news about and excerpts from Kenneth’s other works at worldofkennethjamesgibson.com and on the Meadows Heavy Recorders YouTube channel.