During the mid 1990s there was an emergence of a somewhat esoteric, experimental electronic sub-genre coined “illbient”. This was a genre that usually attempted to express the dark, nocturnal vibes of inner-city living and industrial complex aesthetics through a mixture of dub reggae production, downtempo/trip-hop leanings of the current time period, dark ambient drones, and a healthy dose of samples. This was electronic music with no intention of being club-friendly or possessing any moderate “rave” appeal. And yet it still had quite an accessibility factor to it, despite it’s gritty, bleak, eerie atmospheres that were conjured. It really was never that hostile, despite the aesthetic of it all. If anything, it was almost a little inviting, especially to those listeners who could relate to the dark, urban, sometimes dystopian vibe of it all (think Blade Runner/Eraserhead/Soylent Green/Lars Von Trier’s The Element of Crime/even old film noir), due to much of the illbient scene’s output having a very languid, oddly soothing, yet surreal affect on the listener.
One of the illbient albums that best represents this description is the album 7 by the Brooklyn, New York (where much of the illbient scene stemmed from) producer Slotek, who has had quite a number of different aliases and projects he worked under. What is special about 7 is how consistent the album is: it retains it’s slow, stoned, nocturnal world throughout it’s entire runtime without ever getting too experimental and wild. Sure, on first listen it may seem a little simple and repetitive, maybe even a little gimmicky, but on closer listens it makes it apparent that it’s not trying to prove anything, but merely suggest mysterious, menacing, yet subjective themes through it’s tasteful use of B-movie samples, minimal synth lines, reverbed, pitched-down drum machines, and heavy, foreboding bass lines. The inside booklet of the CD (it was never released on vinyl format) has strong implications to some sort of pseudo-occult concept, which makes sense since much of the album conjures vague images of some sort of witches brew/Halloween-like soundscape, in addition to the overall smokey, ironically warm/sleepy, and almost analogue sounding recording production. And yet Slotek still stays true to the whole concrete jungle film-noir aesthetic, as the music has an undeniable “loner in a big city” implication, which is made all the more apparent through excellent uses of horn samples, particularly the muted trumpet and fragmented clarinet riffs hovering in and out the mix on a few tracks.