Info Plate Tectonics by Nid 
"Plate Tectonics"
by Nid
Aufabwegen (AATP13)
"Mid-Atlantic Rift"
"Earth's Crust"
"35 000 Feet Below The Ocean Surface"

Nid's URL


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

Nid was an ambient improvisational collective who took their name from an old Viking homosexual insult. Based in Germany, the group was active for about ten years starting in 1992, with various releases on cassette, vinyl and CD. Their posthumous release, Plate Tectonics, on the German label Aufabwegen, documents a live performance recorded in 2002, but is only now seeing the light of day. Members of the group now record as Feine Trinkers Bei Pinkels Daheim, with music recorded on Drone Records and other sources.

Plate Tectonics summons up subterranean imagery, with the great shifting of huge continental masses. Certainly Nid has the subterranean part down with each of the three tracks being soaked in a deep bass resonance. But they also succeed in creating an oneiric sound using loops that phase in and out, in combination with various sounds from the real world. They use movie dialogue, birdsong, classical music orchestral and choral samples, together with metallic-sounding objects, to create a virtual dream world. Not everything here is sufficiently peaceful for listening during sleep, but not all dreams are peaceful either.

Mid-Atlantic Rift starts with low rumbles, replacing them with field recordings of the ocean side waves, seagulls, and insects before an ominous low drone fades in. This introduces a long section with low frequency distortion, the kind of sound that plays havoc with cheap speakers. The drone gives way to an orchestra playing a slow melody in the distant background, which eventually is replaced with a quiet, metallic rattling. The static drops out suddenly, giving way to a brief moment of chaos before a repeated brief melodic loop becomes the primary sound for the last few minutes of the piece. There is a suggestion of movie dialogue and even a little bit of choral music, but all of the words remain incomprehensible.

Earth's Crust opens with a constant reverberant drone, which continues with occasional percussive brushings, for the first few minutes of the piece. Eventually some voices appear out of the whirlwind, children and laughter, before a fairly long stretch of movie dialogue. Distorted low frequencies recur, similar to the sounds from the opening track, always accompanied by the continuous drone. The texture brightens a bit with a brief pop guitar sample, but looped to remove all sense of direction. Everything drops out suddenly at the end of the track, leaving the feeling that the machine has run out of energy and slowly comes to a halt.

The final and longest track opens with a melodic loop composed primarily from xylophones, almost sounding like a refugee from a minimalist piece except for a distorted bass percussion that's slightly out of sync with the melody. A brief interlude of relatively straightforward speech gives way to a long looped section of murk, soaked in reverb, with lots of little noises in the mix. The textures brighten when the primary loops are birdsong combined with a low drone, with little bits of Asian percussion tossed in for color. The track closes with another bit of movie dialogue over the percussion and low frequency loops.

Plate Tectonics is a good example of live ambient music. The distortion is probably representative of how the group would have sounded in the hall. Their record emphasizes the transitory nature of music, celebrating the communal and participatory over the calculated permanence of many capital-A Ambient artists.

Review by Caleb Deupree


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