Calmly transportive. Blissfully adrift. Hazy and translucent. A listening journey with four exceptional albums from around the globe that delve into the idyllic side of ambient and electronic music created by The Green Kingdom (USA), Chihei Hatakeyama (Japan), Warmth (Spain), and James Murray (UK).
The Green Kingdom – Harbor [Dronarivm]
Michael Cottone covers quite a broad spectrum of styles, tones, and moods with The Green Kingdom project. His 2012 release, Egress, remains a personal benchmark in my own ambient listening journey, a perennial favorite for its sublime balance of earthy textures, warm acoustics, and pensive melancholy. On his latest effort entitled Harbor, Cottone takes us to more blissful place – intimate, isolated, and warmed by echoes of surf and shoegaze (the title is an homage to the Cocteau Twins’ Echoes in a Shallow Bay) where the lulling rhythms and textures smoothed to a glossy patina create a halcyon mood and a sonic haven for the weary soul.
I decided that I wanted this album to provide the feeling of floating on gentle and welcoming waters rather than a being a refuge to hide away in. The reverberant guitar chords and occasional lulling rhythms are all meant to contribute to the sense of calmly drifting away. – Michael Cottone
Chihei Hatakeyama – Above the Desert [Dronarivm]
Chihei Hatakeyama has had yet another prolific year with a number of solo and collaborative release many of which appear on his own White Paddy Mountain label. But he closes the year with one of his most tranquil recordings on the Dronarivm label, a set of particularly translucent and introspective drones themed around the imagery of desert and sky. Each mesmerizing track shimmers and floats in the ether, backlit by a hazy glow, none more soothing and graceful than “Moon in the Dust” which opens the album or the glistening center piece, “Twilight Glow”.
I recorded this album in the basement studio. I recorded the sound output from the guitar amp and the speaker. The sound seemed to be blowing. In this album I worked underground in the bottom, so I imagined by creating an image of the sky. – Chihei Hatakeyama
Above the Desert is on limited edition CD and digital also from Dronarivm and features a cover photo by John Fowler.
Warmth – Essay [Archives]
Warmth is the project of DJ/producer Agustín Mena and his debut full-length album has deservedly been collecting scores of accolades from fellow musicians as well as listeners. Described as “a collection of hazy textures, intricate soundscapes and field recordings”, Essay is a captivating sonic journey saturated in exceptionally rich and fluid tones and steeped in absorbing introspection. The sound is so lush and enveloping it transports the listener to an inviolate space where it is unimaginable for the maddening world to intrude.
Essay is available in a 4-panel CDr edition or for digital download from Archives. Also highly recommended are the label’s ambient and soundscape compilations which can found on their Bandcamp site.
James Murray – Eyes to the Height [Ultimae]
Nearly eight years after his debut full-length album on Ultimae, James Murray returns to the label with an exquisitely crafted amalgam of ambient & electronic music in the form of Eyes to the Height. While the glossy sheen and tasteful downtempo elements place it squarely within the aesthetic of the label, the new record also bears the imprint of his more abstract and personal work released on Murray’s own Slowcraft label as well as Eilean Rec. and Voxxov. That means that below the shiny surface is a world of nuance that for the discern listener to suss out while there is a depth of tender emotion also reflected in the poem that graces the liner notes:
Heads held high
To the end of our days
On old sunken paths
Passing hollowed out ways
Waves all recede
Light must speed away
While the hairs one by one
Turn from black into grey
Eyes to the Height is available from Ultimae on CD and in a variety of digital formats including 24bit FLAC for audiophiles. Also note that the song ‘Ghostwalk’ has been released on a special vinyl EP with remixes by Kinosura and Martin Nonstatic which is available on its own or in a bundle called The Ghost Pack which includes the Eyes to the Height on CD along with postcards & bookmarks.