In this musical excursion, we look at four excellent new ambient releases including a noteworthy and assured debut from Kevin Verwijmeren, a globe-spanning collaboration between two masters of the craft in Lee Anthony Norris & Porya Hatami, and a pair of immersive sonic journeys through natural landscapes by Off Land and Richard Ginns.
Kevin Verwijmeren – It’s the Colour of a Cloud Covered Sky (Soft Corridor)
Based in Delft, Netherlands, Kevin Verwijmeren is a physics student who only began making abstract and ambient music last year, but his debut album released by Soft Corridor records, It’s The Colour of a Cloud Covered Sky sounds nothing like the work of such a nascent artist. Based around a coherent conceptual and melodic theme, this album is the work of someone who has clearly mastered the ability to create introspective, melancholic atmospheres of nuanced beauty. The album is a musical reflection on the inner state of the traveller based on Verwijmeren’s experiences living in a remote southern part of the Netherlands and having to travel long distances via public transport.
“It’s not that I make music because I wanted to make music… I created this album as a reflection of the feeling(s) I get when I’m travelling by public transport and staring at the changing and moving landscape”
Listening to the album one can imagine riding during the early morning or late evening hours, feeling either isolated or alone in a crowd, lost in reverie or simply the patient fog of the traveler resigned to a long and dreary wait to reach their destination. Along with the monochrome charcoal and grey graphics, the track titles help to set this tone, titles such as ‘Loud Voices In Sleeping Stillness’, ‘Abstract Point Forgotten in the Rush’, ‘At Dawn I Looked Up’, or ‘Hour of Reverie’. Such is the flow at the beginning and end of each, that if you set up your player with a modest cross fade setting and do not monitor the track list, you will likely not be able to tell when the songs change. Therefore, the titles really serve as mile markers on one long sojourn during which the listener experiences gentle shifts in mood and awareness, but there is a cohesive undercurrent of introspection and melancholy throughout.
It’s the Colour of a Cloud Covered Sky is an eminently listenable album with a “just right” feel to it, an exquisite balance of texture and mood with enough changes to keep the listener engaged, but never breaking the delicate cocoon of pensive ambiance it spins. All in all, a very enjoyable and noteworthy debut.
The album, mastered by Fraser McGowan (a.k.a. Caught in the Wake Forever) comes in a 4-panel digisleeve CD package with cover photography by Julien Lambrechts and inside photography by Jan Van Der Kleijn or as a digital download.
Album info at Soft Corridor: http://www.softcorridor.net/project/kevin-verwijmeren/
Listen to ‘Lost in the Great Mournful Sounds’:
Video accompanied by ‘Abstract Point Forgotten in the Rush’
Lee Anthony Norris & Porya Hatami – The Longing Daylight (Carpe Sonum)
Lovers of ambient music should be licking their chops at the mere mention of a collaboration between Lee Anthony Norris (of Metamatics, Nacht Plank, Autumn of Communion, The Ashes of Piemonte, & many more) and Porya Hatami, one of the leaders of the burgeoning electronic music scene in Iran. Fortunately, this globe-spanning collaboration has come to fruition with The Longing Daylight released on Norris’s Carpe Sonum label and it does not disappoint.
Every track on the album is richly mastered, deeply atmospheric, and ornately decked out in celestial synths and sparkling piano burnished with a cool, glossy patina. Field recordings are sparse, but vivid when used, such as the flowing water that introduces ‘Druid Liquid’. The bass tones are resonant and deep, nowhere more so than the cranium rattling beginning to ‘Rune Stoned’. And ‘Alchemy’, the title track, and ‘Moon’ then combine to constitute a wondrous 20 minute glide path to ambient bliss to conclude the proceedings.
This album caters a pure ambient aesthetic that connoisseurs of the genre should appreciate. Not weighed down by melancholy or dulled by scratchy textures, it radiates serenity, light, and enchantment. This is beautiful work by two masters of the craft blending their stlyes seamlessly while each maintains their distinct voice. The Longing Daylight is an exquisite recording that would enrich any ambient music collection. The album is available as a digital download and in a limited edition CD package from Carpe Sonum.
Album on the Carpe Sonum Bandcamp: http://carpesonum.bandcamp.com/album/the-longing-daylight
Off Land – Voyage / Home
Off Land is the musical project of Bostonian Tim Dwyer whose album Tidewater Pulse was one my favorite ambient releases in 2013. This year he follows up with Voyage/Home based around two tracks recorded during the same sessions. Dwyer wrote a short prelude and a second part for both tracks and then added a new long form composition to arrive at a full length LP that weighs in at nearly one hour of new music.
It should be expected then that the themes in Voyage/Home would continue to revolve around water, however, the music here feels less wintry and a bit more languid and sunlit than on Tidewater Pulse thanks to a more vivid mix with textures brought prominently to the foreground and greater emphasis on a drone aesthetic. The result is more like a leisurely exploration across open water than a passage through a forbidding landscape. The overall recipe, however, is much the same – lush waves of droning synth and sparse percussion along with vocal elements and field recordings, all expertly woven together into a lucid soundscape.
The first leg of the journey begins with ‘Estuary’, the prelude to ‘Voyage’ parts I & II, the most melodic of the tracks, gently propelled by a softly pounding beat like a boat moving across the water. This is followed by a middle section that beings with ‘Seiche’, the prelude to ‘Home’ parts I & II, an ebbing drone with a deep bass line pulling at it like an undertow. The album closes with the sprawling 22 minute composition ‘Current’ teeming with natural field recordings and several changes of tone & mood (plus a voice sample of which I am curious to know the source). Purchasing the album, rather than streaming, entitles the listener to seamless mixes of the title tracks so they can experience each as a single piece of music rather than a song in two parts and this is my preferred way of listening to it.
Those who enjoy an electro-acoustic touch and a genuine connection to natural surroundings as part of the ambient music experience should really enjoy this album as well as Dwyer’s other work as Off Land. Based on what I have seen, he is fully deserving of more support than he is currently getting on social media and Bandcamp. The work is of fine quality and the albums are modestly priced, so I urge readers to check it out for themselves. Highly recommended.
Album on the Off Land Bandcamp: http://offland.bandcamp.com/album/voyage-home
Richard Ginns – Fall, Rise (Twice Removed Records)
To know the story behind Richard Ginns new album Fall, Rise on Twice Removed Records to know that he was apparently almost not around to make it. According to Ginns, the album is “a personal account that sets out to capture the loneliness and fear of surroundings in an almost beautiful setting”.
“‘Fall, Rise’ documents an experience during a winter trip to the French Alps. Inspired by a whiteout the weather had turned fast, the snowstorm completely took over in near zero visibility. Far from home, cold, tired and in fear of my surroundings, the reality of where I was really hit me. Stranded, an empty wilderness, surviving against the elements…”
To his credit, Ginns chooses to emphasize the isolation and hyper-awareness of his surroundings in the music of Fall, Rise and the fearful tension remains more of a subtle overtone. This approach makes for a more inviting record which has a sense of stillness and “almost beauty” about it as well as a plethora of textures that give the listener something new to enjoy with each listening.
There is a strong electro-acoustic element on this album. Drones generally provide a subtle backdrop with lots of plucked strings, natural sounds, and field recordings boldly in the foreground, particularly on such tracks as ‘(Fall)’, ‘The Color of Winter’, and ‘(Rise)’. Occasionally the drones comes to the fore and create a more ruminative mood such as on ‘Far From Home’. Perhaps the most emotionally engaging track is ‘Drifting Almost Covered’ which features the eloquent and doleful violin of guest musician David Andree.
Fall, Rise is a striking record that can occasionally challenge the listener, but proves ultimately rewarding if one is patient enough to embrace its stillness, explore all its textures, and perceive it’s emotional undercurrent. This is organic, minimal ambient at it’s best. The album is available as a digital download or in a limited edition CD package which comes in a gatefold card case designed by Phil Gardelis with artwork from Peter Nejedly.
Ordering information: http://twiceremovedrecords.wix.com/twiceremovedrec#!richard-ginns/c1e0z
Album on Richard Ginns Bandcamp: http://richardginns.bandcamp.com/album/fall-rise