2013 Travelogue: Five Outstanding ambient/soundscape/downtempo EPs

This is one of a series of musical “travelogues”, or year-in-review posts, covering music I especially enjoyed this year.  This entry covers  five outstanding ambient/soundscape/downtempo EPs. Note that the albums are not in any kind of ranked order, but are simply listed alphabetically by artist.  

David Wenngren / Jonatan Nästesjö – Below

From Sweden comes this finely crafted ambient gem born of collaboration between David Wenngren, also of Library Tapes and Birch & Meadow, and sound artist Jonatan Nästesjö.  The four tracks draw a dramatic arc beginning with the hushed and celestial tones of ‘Something There’, slowly building to a droning denouement before ending with the stunning requiem-like ‘Still Nothing Moves You’.  Superb.

Release: Independent (December 2013)

Favorite tracks:  Something There, Still Nothing Moves You

Informationhttp://librarytapes.bandcamp.com/album/below

Good Weather for an Airstrike / Oathless – Sol

Both quite successful as solo artists, Simon Housley and Tom Honey collaborated to create this beautiful 5-track EP which successfully combines the lush chill style of Housley’s Oathless and the ambient atmospherics of Honey’s Good Weather for an Airstrike into something quite vivid and lovely and which retains the best of what each has to offer.  Also highly recommended are their respective solo efforts released earlier in the year, ‘Peripheral: Music For An Imaginary Film’ from Oathless and ‘A Sense of Uncertainty’ from Good Weather for an Airstrike.

Release: Hawk Moon Records (August 2013)

Favorite tracks:  Fragment, Through The Iris

Informationhttp://hawkmoonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/sol

Porya Hatami – The Waning Branches

‘The Waning Branches’ is a unique concept EP which charts the growth and sudden decline of a single morus tree in Sanandaj, Iran through the mediums of cartography and sound. The sound aspect is comprised of just under 19 minutes of minimal ambient music with subtle elements of drone and field recordings woven into the mix. It is quite lovely, especially in the closing minutes as the tone becomes both ethereal and melancholic. The visual element is part of a very attractive environmentally-friendly handmade physical CD package that can be ordered through the Wist Rec label featuring photographs, drawings, maps of the local region, and beet juice ink grown in the assembler’s garden.

Release: Wist Rec (July 2013)

Favorite track:  The Waning Branches

Informationhttp://poryahatami.bandcamp.com/album/the-waning-branches

Stèv – Elsewhere

Stèv is the musical nom de plume of Stefano Fagnani from the seaside city of Ancona, Italy and his EP ‘Elsewhere’ is the latest addition to the catalog of Loci Records where you will also find albums by Emancipator and Tor.  Stèv’s approach is to seamlessly fuse acoustic and electronic elements into a unique downtempo style that creates a very organic and sophisticated chill vibe.  A delightful sonic journey.

Release: Loci Records (December 2013)

Favorite tracks:  Winter Train, Nakamise

Informationhttp://locirecords.bandcamp.com/album/elsewhere-ep

UKNOWNjp – AND&AND

AND&AND is a an album of ravishingly beautiful ambient pieces from Japanese composer Tomonari Nozaki, aka UNKNOWNjp.  Lush, cinematic, almost symphonic in intensity, it is quite an emotional experience to listen to all the way through.  Also of interest, the songs were recorded with vintage reel-to-reel tape recorder and, in addition to the digital format, plastic and metal reel packages are available to order through Soun Records.  Stunning and unique.

Release: Soun Records (June 2013)

Favorite tracks:  rose&rose, final&finale

Informationhttp://soun.bandcamp.com/album/and-and

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