Flying Rhino – Wabi (2001)

In my series about my personal “Best of Ambient” selection, this one’s an outlier: “Wabi” is a compilation (all the others so far are artist albums). But, despite the fact that there’s nine different artists contributing tracks to the compilation, the disc has a surprisingly coherent sound.

The sound itself is a surprise as well, considering that this is Flying Rhino – a label first and foremost known for goa and psychedelic trance. One would expect a more typical chill-out/lounge/psychill album from them considering the artists this label represented.

I would describe the sound of this gem as almost somber, dark – but not dark ambient (it is decidedly non-drone music). Maybe this is the soundtrack for pitch-black darkness while floating in a sensory deprivation tank and your mind starts playing tricks on you. Or maybe sitting in silence on the summit of a mountain, at night. The stars sparkle above, and city lights far below, in the distance. The air is comfortably warm, there is no wind. You’re all alone.

I’m not sure about the meaning of “Wabi” – looking at the calligraphy on the (inner) cover art I’m almost tempted to think that it means “forlorn“, which would match the compilation’s overall mood and sound as well.

I’m tempted to think that no single one of the individual tracks when played by itself would transport this mood and feeling with such intensity – but, for fear of sounding like a cliche, the combination on the compilation transforms them into something bigger, somehow.

If there’s anything missing, it’s that the tracks aren’t mixed into each other a little bit. This is particularly notable on track one, which appears to be just an intro, and then ends rather abruptly. An odd choice for a compilation that is otherwise so clean and pure.

The Flying Rhino label is long defunct and no new copies of this compilation are being made. You can buy it used.

Listen: Discogs finds some tracks from YouTube on the release page, that’s the easiest.

Buy: Discogs marketplace; Amazon UK. It’s somewhat sought after & prices are higher than new, but it’s not that bad.

Download: some of the Flying Rhino back catalog used to be available for download on a donation basis from their website, about 10 years ago. That opportunity is long gone, just like the label, and no legal means of downloading the compilation exists. A pity.