Journeys in Ambient Guitar: Sublamp / Darren Harper / Noveller & Thisquietarmy / Lucho Ripley

This quartet of recent releases demonstrate the stunning and diverse ambient sonic terrain that can be created by the guitar. 

Sublamp – Lianas [Eilean Rec.]

Sublamp is an experimental music project by Los Angeles based sound and video artist, Ryan Connor and Lianas is his newest album released by Eilean Rec.  As Connor notes, the marriage of his imaginative sonic explorations and the concept behind the Eilean label turns out to be a perfect match:

“Every Sublamp record has been about an imaginary space, so the concept of pinning each release on Eilean to a fictional continent was exciting; the perfect excuse to indulge myself in layered textural sound again. Inspired by the cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica, Lianas is an audio map of a densely wooded mountain range, shrouded in fog, where fern and vine drip with condensation and small animals slip quietly through the undergrowth. Very little computer manipulation was used in the creation of these tracks. Most of the sound on the record is simply looped guitar through various pedals and a nice warm tube amp, sometimes recorded through an old reel to reel tape machine for extra crackle and hiss.”

Rarely is a track that lasts only forty seconds as effective as ‘old growth’, the opener here which pulls the listener into a dense canopy of flora soaking up a deluge of rain and immediately sets the tone for the album. The remaining tracks are much lengthier excursions into a world of Connor’s creation.

The trek begins with ‘bramble and thorn’, with its prickly layers of feedback and reverb echoing over gentle sounds of brush and water before ending with a guttural surge of distortion. ‘the leaf chorus’ is a lush thicket of drone layers that takes the listener deep into a verdant sonic landscape. It is hymn-like, but with subtle ominous overtones which lend it an air of the mysterious. ‘our bodies draped in moss and cloud’, the final track, references the human element both in the title and in the visceral impact of the frenetic guitar work that simmers and finally erupts with quiet intensity halfway through. Gradually, this intensity recedes into introspection and gently fades into nothing but the sounds of wind and rain that began the journey.

Lianas impresses with the diverse ways that Connor coaxes sounds and textures out of his instrument to construct his sonic ecosystem and the music is both beautiful and affecting. The album is available in digital format or in a limited edition run of artful, hand-numbered CD packages. The stunning cover art was done by Eilean label founder Mathias Van Eecloo himself (aka Monolyth & Cobalt and d.rhöne).

Order from Eilean Rec. (CD/MP3/FLAC): http://ow.ly/zi9IW

Lianas on Bandcamp: http://eileanrec.bandcamp.com/album/lianas

Listen to multi-track preview of Lianas:

 

Darren Harper – Movements for an Absent Mind [Soft Recordings]

Darren Harper is an experimental/ambient sound artist residing high within the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. His latest guitar-based work is Movements for an Absent Mind due to be released shortly on Soft Recordings, a label run by David Teboul (aka Linear Bells). The album contains nearly 55 minutes of deep, radiant ambient goodness spread across three “movements”.

‘Movement One – Nowhere, Asleep’ is a remarkable long form piece that calls to mind snippets from Neruda’s Ode to the Cranium  as it floats among the clockworks of the brain (“treasures infinitesimal, arteries, incredible circulations, pulses of reason, veins of sleep”) on the miniature ocean of the mind (“the fish of movement, the electric corolla of stimulus, the seaweed of memory”).  Tones and loops are intertwined, oscillating and undulating to create a sweet torpor and mimic the waves and spindles of the sleep state.

‘Movement Two – Gradient Shift’ is a tranquil and slow blooming drone, elegant in its simplicity and rich in tone.  ‘Movement Three: By Way of Water’ then plucks us from the ocean of inner space and sets us on the bridge of an imaginary vessel traversing a vast ocean, a journey simulated by murky swells of distortion and sounds that mimic a sense of propulsion below the waterline.

Movements for an Absent Mind is a very patient and refined effort, perhaps Harper’s most expansive work to date, and one the succeeds admirably in using the guitar to create a pristine and immersive ambient atmosphere that works well on both conscious and subconscious levels.

Order: http://soft-recordings.com/releases/st003-untitled-by-darren-harper/

Excerpt from ‘Movement One: Nowhere, Asleep’

 

Noveller & Thisquietarmy – Reveries [Shelter Press]

Noveller is the solo project of Austin-based guitarist Sarah Lipstate, whose name is rightly appearing on a growing number of lists of acclaimed players of the instrument. Thisquietarmy is the experimental, genre-defying guitar-based project of Montreal native Eric Quach which references everything from ambient to post rock to punk, shoegaze, and metal. Together, the two have teamed up to create a stunning new collaboration called Reveries just released by Shelter Press.

Reveries is not a split album. It is an intuitive musical partnership and seamless blending of ideas to create one enigmatic, beautiful whole.  An ambient drone aesthetic serves as a stable nucleus around which Lipstate and Quach can explore, experiment, and embellish. The album is comprised of four reveries, two on side A of the vinyl edition which have an airy and meditative feel, and two on side B which seem both darker and more vivid in comparison.

The end product of all of this is a resplendently rich tapestry of sound that can be enjoyed on many levels. One can simply get lost in the reveries or one can enjoy the plethora of nuances and textural elements crafted by these two skilled and thoughtful artists.  And far from being musical wallpaper, there is an undercurrent of passionate experimentation throughout the pieces that engages both the mind and the emotions, perhaps owing a great deal with the use of objects such, as bow and EBow, to coax otherworldly sounds out of the instrument, one of Lipstate’s trademarks. Cliche as it may be to say, you really do just have to hear it for yourself.

Reveries is available from Shelter Press in 160grm white vinyl stocked in a PVC sleeve with a PVC printed insert or as a digital download on Noveller and thisquietarmy’s Bandcamp sites.

Order: http://www.shelter-press.com/Noveller-TQA-Reveries

Noveller’s Bandcamp: http://noveller.bandcamp.com/album/reveries

Thisquietarmy’s Bandcamp: http://thisquietarmy.bandcamp.com/album/reveries

Listen to ‘Reverie 1’ (Side A 01)

 

Lucho Ripley – Megablast (Symmetrical Records)

Based in Candás, Asturias on the northern coast of Spain, Lucho Ripley creates an especially lyrical brand of ambient guitar music which is intricately layered and drenched in crystalline reverb.  His new full-length record Megablast has just been released via Symmetrical Records.

There is wonderful purity and profound serenity to Lucho’s sound and Megablast preserves the integrity of this style throughout.  The tone is exquisite and the layers build gently with deceptively sublime complexity.  Among the highlights here are the combination of melodicism and atmosphere in ‘En el principio fue el reverb’, the delightful contrapuntal patterns of ‘Ojos que son Lagos’ and ‘Las mujeres de Fresas Salvajes’, and the graceful tranquility of ‘Amberes (a vista de V2)’.

Though I could go on, I believe that Megablast is an album that would suffer from too much dissection.  There is certainly enough craft and complexity to be able to do that, but it works so much better to just enjoy its simple pleasures, to just get lost in it, like enjoying a languid drift over calm and safe open water.  There is lots and lots of replay value in this one and I recommend it highly.

Megablast is currently available in digital formats only from a variety of sources (links below).

Ordering information: http://symmetricalrecords.com/lucho-ripley

Bandcamp: http://luchoripley.bandcamp.com/album/lucho-ripley-megablast

Listen to ‘Amberes (a vista de V2)’

 

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