As soon as December nears, those of us who write about music begin to feel the urge to reflect on the year and start making our favorite album lists. But if we can resist that siren call for a bit, we’ll often find some real gems in the flurry of releases that typically appear in the weeks leading up to the winter solstice and perhaps make one last new discovery. For me, such is the case with the work of Lee Yi, a jazz guitarist from southern Spain with extensive studio experience which he now employs to create some truly beguiling ambient & electronic music.
Redemption Comes With Dawn [Seattle Dott]
The December release which first caught my ear was Redemption Comes With Dawn, the fifth entry in the catalog of Seattle Dott which, despite the name, was actually founded in Spain by composer David Mata, aka Erissoma. The liner notes suggest that Yi defines his work “abstract and full of melancholy, using melodies created through simulating of symphony guitars, minimalist pianos and organic textures recreate desolate landscapes, blurred shapes and colors that are slowly merging to fade”. Quite the fitting synopsis of this very compelling journey.
There is a distinct arc to the album in keeping with the theme suggested by the title. The bleak opening track, short as it may be, sets a grim tone as if we are emerging from an oppressive and harrowing dark, but the respite of light begins to seep into the dense, crepuscular tones of “Yukamarimo”, eventually yielding to a serene stillness in “Glaciers in a Fjord” and “Pruina”. Yi then strips it all down to a one solo piano for the starkly contemplative “Faceless Man”. The resolution the album craves comes in the final coda, “Covered With White Mantle”, a gorgeous and wistful drone with all the redemptive beauty one could hope for.
Redemption Comes With Dawn is available now for digital download from Seattle Dott via their online shop and Bandcamp.
Falling Into Crevasse [EL Muelle]
Following the chain of discovery backward led to another missed gem from the spring of the year, Yi’s EP entitled Falling Into Crevasse released by the Málaga based EL Muelle label. In contrast with Redemption Comes With Dawn, it is a more subdued and melancholic affair but is a very complementary listening experience. The seven-plus minute “Seagulls” is the standout here, a lush and emotive drone which lapses into nearly 30 seconds of silence before emerging with an outro of pure ethereal beauty.
Falling Into Crevasse, which features artwork by Meneh Peh, is available in a standard CD edition and for digital download which can be ordered from either the label or the artist. Several limited special editions were issued, but all are currently sold out.