It has been a little too long since we last visited the continent of Eilean, the imaginary land whose map is populated with 100 points, each of which marks a release on the label that bears its name (25 have been released so far). Each album comes with a card that contains a piece of the map and, on the reverse side, photos of soil samples collected from the artist who made it. This unique project and its commitment to eclecticism as well as stretching the boundaries of ambient & electronic music has generated some captivating releases, four of which are featured here by Yadayn (Gowaart Van Den Bossche), Lake Mary (Chaz Prymek), Twigs & Yarn (Stephen Orsak & Lauren McMurray), and Benjamin Finger.
Yadayn – Pendel
Yadayn (an Arabic word for “two hands”) is a solo project of Belgian musician Gowaart Van Den Bossche which he describes as “two hands + guitars, mostly”, a description which would be an accurate, but woefully understated, summation of this entrancing record. His previous album, Vloed, was a Stationary Travels favorite from 2014 and while there is a pleasing continuity of sound to Pendel, it originated quite differently according to the artist:
Unlike yadayn’s debut Vloed…Pendel is a comparatively eclectic collection of tracks, unified in their originating from the same artistic vision but diversified in their differing circumstances. The eclectic methods blend the composed approach of previous yadayn work and the sampled, electronic approach of his casual work with Gluem. “Pendel” is Dutch for “pendulum” and symbolizes the mood swings found throughout the album and throughout its recording period.
Featured track: ‘Uit’ | Video: ‘In’
The pivot at the center which maintains the balance and momentum of the musical pendulum is Gowaart’s fluid and lyrical acoustic guitar which is especially eloquent on tracks like ‘Speigel’, ‘Pendel’, ‘Raam’, and ‘Uit’. Other tracks take surprising turns, such as ‘Veld’, which is actually an interpretation of ‘Bydlo’ from Mussgorsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition featuring an audio sample of Icelandic poet Halldór Laxness, or ‘Wind’ which features a single clarinet note manipulated into a drone over exotic percussion before a ukulele leads into the final piece.
The beautiful and expressive guitar passages are worth the price of admission alone, but the eclecticism of Pendel gives it added depth and intrigue that make it especially enjoyable. See the link below for the very useful extended album notes which explain the origin and references of each piece along with English translations of the song titles.
Extended liner notes: http://goo.gl/pyKQnq
Lake Mary – And the Birds Sing In Chorus First
Lake Mary is the moniker chosen by California-based artist Chaz Prymek for his solo project that combines fluent and expressive folk guitar along with organic ambient elements including drone and field recordings. As he explains, And the Birds Sing In Chorus First has a deliberate stream-of-consciousness vibe to it:
“This record was recorded along my way from there to here and back again. Sometimes in wild retrospection, other times in deep longing, or just being. Learning about myself, and writing as I went, this record is more of a journal than a musical pursuit. Each piece of music was recorded in a different home, at a different time..”
Featured track: ‘The Sudden Bruise of a Rainstorm’ | Video: ‘Had I Been Born’
The Lake Mary sound has a distinctive primitive Americana flavor that inevitably invites references to John Fahey or Robbie Basho, but the musicianship and spirit of experimentation here is worthy of such comparisons. The album’s deep reach into folk territory also represents an expansion of the scope of the Eilean label which only makes it more exciting to anticipate what future offerings may be coming our way.
The shorter pieces tend to be more reflective and ambient in nature, with ‘The Sudden Bruise of a Rainstorm’ standing out as perhaps the most beautiful and evocative. But the showpieces are a pair of sprawling tracks that weigh in between at nearly 13 minutes each. ‘Solitary Trees Marked Distant Hills Like Obelisks’ is an exotic, rustic, sepia-tinted piece with the strings plucked and strummed with enough attack at times to generate a metallic drone out of the buzz and resonance. ‘Whatever the Light Touched Became Dowered a Fantastical Existence’ is more lyrical and melodic, with a bright & eloquent finger picking traversing time changes that slowly gather momentum for an exhilarating finish.
Twigs & Yarn – Still Forms Drift
Twigs & Yarn is the ambient, mixed-media duo of Lauren McMurray and Stephen Orsak based in Austin, Texas who create subtle soundscapes using everything from small children’s toys, found objects, field recordings, vocals, guitars, and a variety of other homemade items. They describe their sound as “a collage of electronic, acoustic, trembling voices and lonely nights”, which serves well to encapsulate their contribution to Eilean entitled Still Forms Drift.
Recorded remotely at various locations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Japan, each composition attempts to capture the unique emotional resonance experienced in that particular time and physical environment.
Featured track: ‘Laelaps’ | Video: ‘Sonora’
The album creates a delicate world of its own, like a secluded and well appointed Japanese garden. ‘Sonora’ is utterly charming while tracks like ‘Hibernate’ and ‘Channeling’ mesmerize and ‘In the Valley’ and ‘Laelaps’ soothe the ear with their loveliness.
It is easy to be seduced by this sophisticated mixture of refined ambient textures and inventive whimsy. The eccentricities may catch the ear first, but the tracks yield much depth and beauty on repeated listening. Listeners who are spellbound by this record will also want to check out the 2014 debut on the Flau label, The Language of Flowers.
Benjamin Finger – Pleasurably Lost
Benjamin Finger is a composer, electronic music producer, DJ, photographer and film-maker based in Oslo, Norway. Since 2009 he has produced a prolific output of films and music “with a healthy disregard for genres”. Indeed, Pleasurably Lost is a quintessentially eclectic record, yet it remains true to its title by never becoming so obtuse that it loses its ability to beguile. The album is dedicated to and inspired by the modernist novel “Ferdydurke” written by Polish author Witold Gombrowicz in 1937.
Almost all of the songs on this album are based around the piano or the guitar creating lush textures and subtle harmonies. Songs start out tender and fragile, all build up like a patchwork of the organic and the electric, weaving a soft and warm canvas of sound. There was something otherworldly and epic about the book that inspired and continues to inspire Benjamin.
Featured track: ‘Do Widnezia’ | Video: ‘Pleasurably Lost’
The “soft and warm canvas of sound” referred to above tempers the more avant-garde leanings evident in his previous efforts making this arguably his most accessible recording to date. But that should not be taken to mean there is any shortage of experimentation or eccentricity here; it is just more subdued in deference to a more reflective mood that permeates the album.
The first half of the record is particularly low-key, replete with gentle piano lines, ethereal vocals, bits of strings & guitar, dusty loops, and other delicate textures with ‘Lull in the Momentary’, ‘Optical Senses’ and the title track standing out. Electronics begin to assert themselves more in ‘Weepingdictionaryhands’ and ‘Edges of Distortion’ leading to a more ominous passage comprised of ‘Ferdydurke’ and ‘Once Upon Her’, but the gentle warmth returns in the lovely final coda, ‘Do Widzenia’ to end a mesmerizing and unique aural journey.