Put very roughly, ambient music can be subdivided into two categories: let's call them intensive and extensive. Intensive ambient is largely static. Think Eno's Music for Airports or Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, which has titles like ‘Lichen’ and liner notes with close-up photos of small rocks. Intensive ambient music doesn't ‘flow’ really, instead it seems to hang suspended—it reflects Erik Satie's famous desire to make ‘furniture’ music, and counts pioneers in sonic abstraction like John Cage among its predecessors. Extensive ambient music, in contrast, takes its cues more from electronic experiments conducted by psychedelic and progressive rock groups from the '70s. While intensive ambient is designed to sit still, extensive ambient goes on a journey. Extensive is cosmic; intensive is microcosmic.
The Mountain Lake largely falls into the extensive category: atmospheric but often grandly-scaled, invoking images of space voyages and uncanny landscapes. It's thoroughly cinematic, at times self-consciously so, with a sense of expanse familiar to fans of Klaus Schulze. Agebjorn has made his name as a disco producer, most prominently as a collaborator with singer Sally Shapiro, with whom he cut a number of standout Italo-fuelled groovers. But while dancing has been swapped for lying down, the cosmic scale of Agebjorn's productions remains intact.
The affinity between trippy dance music and ambient is brought to the forefront on the album opener, an ‘ambient’ mix of ‘Spacer Woman from Mars,’ one of his best known tracks with Shapiro. With a thread of continuity thus established to his spacey disco-pop, what follows is a dynamic mix of Moroder-esque instrumentals and evocative set-pieces.
There are plenty of drums here by the way. They're just whittled down to dubby pulses. And with its big trance-y synths and full, symphonic mix, ‘The Stones Are Blasted’ is ambient only in the broadest sense of the word—it sounds rather like it's the opening theme song to an IMAX film about the space shuttle. Agebjorn's compositions are often at their strongest when they swerve away from the disco palette: Take, for example, the moody introspection of ‘Spiral Staircase,’ the beautiful, undulating melodies of ‘Swimming through the Blue Lagoon’ and the particularly mesmerizing synthesizer swells of ‘Zero Gravitation,’ which make me want to watch Carl Sagan clips on YouTube. Agebjorn's remix of Glass Candy hovers between disco and ambient in entirely its own way, plunging the drums into deep pools of delay—analog bursts flit past like lightning bugs in the dark.
- William Rauscher, Resident Advisor