In the space of ten months, Dennis Huddleston has released three albums from his experimental ambient project 36 (pronounced three-six). Far from making music to simply zone or chill out to, Huddleston often weaves rich thematic and imaginative material into his sonic tapestries for an especially emotive and cerebral listening experience. Considered together, this trio of albums cover a vast perspective spanning past, present, and future.
Collaborative releases are not the mainstay of the Eilean Rec. label, but when they appear, they are always something special. The latest of such is On the Brink which brings together two authentic sonic explorers from the eastern seaboard of the USA – Josh Mason (Jacksonville, FL) and Nathan McLaughlin (Hudson, NY). The album is a metaphorical journey from a unique perspective that examines the state of mind as one faces the possibility of failure.
“…we traveled together with the wind on our faces, holes in our shoes and short that one layer that can provide the necessary comforts we tend to rely upon. raw nerves, biting hunger and a drive to see the unknown corners kept us moving forward. we can offer these markers and surveys as proof of our trip and as evidence of what lies slightly beyond our immediate purview but with a combined effort – within reach.” – Nathan McLaughlin & Josh Mason
The “Presence” series is a new solo project from Andrew Tasselmyer (Hotel Neon, The Sound of Rescue) which he frames as “an ongoing experiment in intentional listening” and describes as “a combination of found sound and intuitive, responsive composition…the product of being present”. The first volume in the series consists of eight variations on this theme, each one building a musical narrative around a field recording taken from the context of everyday life and ordinary objects.
Love Retained is a series of mostly solo piano sketches by Ian Hawgood, also known as the founder of the trail-blazing Home Normal label, album mastering wizard, and all-around friend & advocate of so many DIY musicians who make experimental ambient & modern classical music. The sketches were originally intended as starter material for collaboration, but Hawgood came to see them in a different light as he reflected with disarming and courageous candor about his struggles with depression and how it has interfered with his creative process in recent years (I urge you to read all of his eloquent liner notes which I will not do the disservice of attempting to summarize).
The recordings are simply tracked to cassette, and contain no editing or mastering, so you know, filled with ‘mistakes’. They are pieces I found really enjoyable to make, and have found I have increasingly enjoyed looping on low levels at night, or when the mind wonders/wanders. They are incomplete and yet it feels right for me to give this to friends, family, and anyone else that this connects to in some way. The incompletion is a beautiful and freeing thing. – Ian Hawgood
Four years ago Christoffer Franzen released his debut album as Lights & Motion. Reanimation was the culmination of many months of long Scandinavian nights spent in the studio composing, performing, and engineering an uplifting and distinctly cinematic style of post rock to the delight of a close-knit group of fans gathered on social media who knew they were hearing something special from the first snippets and fragments that emerged during the embryonic stages. As much a fan of Hans Zimmer as Explosions in the Sky, the ever-prolific Franzen has gone on to a release a trio of albums of music oriented towards film & television under his own name along with three more Lights & Motion records, the newest of which is entitled Dear Avalanche.
“While it may sound paradoxical because an avalanche is so dangerous, it reminds me that there is always a precious silver lining in everything that happens. Events in your life will threaten to overpower you, but there is strength in facing them head on, accepting them for what they are and choosing always to look for the positive message in all the hardship and struggle. I hope people listening to this album will feel like they’ve been taken on a journey, as I worked hard at creating a world of sonic panoramas to get lost in.” – Christoffer Franzen
Finding the right balance between continuity and change is challenge all bands have to face once they establish themselves with an audience. Change too much and risk losing your artistic identity; change too little and risk boredom and stagnation. But find the right balance and it can be a beautiful trajectory, which I would argue is the case when it comes Glories as the prepare to release their third full-length record, There Is No Stillness. The key elements that have endeared the Birmingham, Alabama based band to so many post rock music fans remain firmly in place, but enough has changed to endow the album with a luster of freshness and excitement.
Listening to the taut, lightning-quick interplay of instrumental rock band North End on their new album Alpha State, it seems impossible to imagine they did not record it in the same room feeding off each other’s energy, making eye contact, and communicating in the seemingly telepathic way of kindred spirits who are used to performing together. But that is hot how the new record came together at all. Whereas the band members were once co-located within a 20 mile radius near Philadelphia, life changes scattered them around the country forcing them to find new ways to collaborate if they were to continue, a challenge they embraced with the same unbridled enthusiasm that characterizes their music.
Life changes quickly, in a positive way, if you let it, and Alpha State is a culmination of these changes manifesting into the style of music we love to write, play and share….Drums were tracked in KB’s basement, guitars, some keys, and bass were tracked at Pete’s house, mixes were generated by Kam while still in an RV in Yellowstone and tracks were mastered by Paul Gold of Salt Mastering in Greenpoint Brooklyn. If you listen to the closing moments of “Imperial” you can hear the faint sound of rain captured by a single microphone in the park as Kam wrapped up the final edits during mixing.” – North End
French composer & sound designer Ocoeur (Franck Zaragoza) enlisted the services of Christoph Berg, The Green Kingdom, and Julien Marchal to create this intended prologue to his 2016 full-length album Reversed, his fifth release on Oakland, California-based label n5MD. Reversed – Remixes is an entrancing quartet of reworked pieces, one of Zaragoza’s own creation and the remainder from his hand-picked team of collaborators.
Since this blog began only a few odd years ago, we’ve seen the emergence of some wonderful new labels which are now fixtures on these pages – Eilean Rec., Moderna Records, and 1631 Recordings to name a few. But there is plenty of room for new voices and new ideas as evidenced by the recent arrival of Subtempo Records on the scene. The label founded last year by Rocco Tyndale will be focused on “left-field leaning, classical and electronic” music coupled with a strong focus on visual art and an emphasis on creating “long lasting pieces of art” and their first physical release is a delightful EP by Alejandro Bento, a self-taught pianist from Spain who also records electronic music as Axel Toben. Ripples is a triptych of solo piano pieces accompanied by a remix contributed by award-winning producer/composer Robot Koch. The heartfelt sentiments that come across in the music are just as Bento intended.
“These songs speak of origins and horizons. But most of all, they speak of love, friendship and care, of presence and joy. They speak of following the heartbeat and believing in one’s self and in others.” – Alejandro Bento
Alex Kozobolis could be seen as something of a creative nomad and a sort of renaissance man. He is a filmmaker and an outstanding photographer whose work runs the gamut from capturing fellow musicians in portrait and live performance, artistic album covers, and mesmerizing abstract images. He also composes music which until now had only been released in digital form. That changes with his forthcoming new record entitled Weightless, a collection of four solo piano miniatures followed by comparatively more expansive reworks created by Tom Adams, Siavash Amini, Hedia, and Transept which is to be released in striking vinyl and CD editions.
“The remixes and their respective artists were meticulously considered and approached with the intention of creating a cohesive album rather than a fundamentally detached congregation of unrelated pieces of music. Each artist was asked to interpret not only the music but also the title of the tracks.. The result, i think, and hope, is something which you’ll be able to listen to from start to finish and feel consistently engaged by…” – Alex Kozobolis
Various artist compilations can be treasure troves of discovery whether it be previously unheard material from a favorite artist or a finding a completely new voice. Often both types of discovery happen on the same album. These twelve offerings comprised some of the most memorable moments of the year in this category spanning works by over 200 artists that you can find nowhere else.
The EP is often overlooked when it comes year-end retrospectives, but this format can provide us with some very special musical moments and here is a selection of the most memorable of such I enjoyed in 2016 presented in alphabetical order. It simply would not have been the same year in music without each of these outstanding recordings (for me at least). Continue reading