Travelogue 2018.01.15: Field Notes

This edition of Field Notes surveys eight outstanding drone, & electroacoustic ambient releases from late 2017 and early 2018 representing hours of immersive listening. Featuring Tapes and Topographies, Olli Aarni, Magdalene Flowers, Erik Levander, A Lily, the volume settings folder, and Bradley Sean Alexander, along with an expansive 30-track charity compilation from the Dronarivm label.

Tapes and Topographies – Fathoms [Simulacra Records]


A man of many projects, we can be grateful Todd Gautreau has continued to give attention to Tapes and Topographies as he follows up 2017’s superb Signal to Noise with another spellbinding set of melodic deconstructions entitled Fathoms.  Fragments fashioned from piano, organ, & guitar are woven into a diaphanous textural fabric and then unfurled onto waves of warm, looping oscillations. Beautifully crafted and thoughtfully rendered, Gautreau offers the listener safe harbor at the edge of a deep and melancholic sea.

Available on digital and CD via Gautreau’s Simulacra Records label. 

Olli Aarni – Nielu [Florabelle]


“The hallmarks of Aarni’s prior work—exceptional attention to texture, ghostly looped figures, enveloping sound fields—are especially immersive on Nielu, which, in his native Finnish, can be translated as “vortex,” “throat,” or “swallowing”—all appropriate imagery here.” – Florabelle

Taking inspiration from the harsh weather conditions of Fennoscandia, Finnish sound artist Olli Aarni offers up a pair of immersive long form pieces of a crepuscular nature. Searching for a nonexistent horizon line, we can make out hulking shapes shrouded in fog and hear the hushed flurry of wind-blown snow grazing the surface of frigid waters as Aarni successfully recreates the sense of isolation and awe amidst the vastness of an imagined landscape.

Available on limited edition vinyl LP & digital via the New York-based Florabelle label. 

Magdalene Flowers – Humbleness II


Magdalene Flowers is a musical project launched in 2016 by sound artist, photographer and graphic designer Alex Bober. His approach centers around creating soothing, contemplative compositions inspired by a fondness for childhood memories and literature. Humbleness II is Bober’s second full-length recording and as the M.O. of the project would imply, these introspective drones offer a sonic haven of innocence, comfort, and reflection. Buoyant, translucent, and easy on the ear. 

Available as a digital only release directly from the artist

Erik Levander – Couesnon [Katuktu Collective]


“Crafted on an inherited vintage clarinet for which the album is named, these new tracks expand upon an approach recently experimented with for a 1631 Recordings “Texture Series” compilation: processed clarinet, intermittently supported by electronic instrumentation, all multi-layered. The result is a deft and distinctive usage of this single instrument”. – Katuku Collective

It is little short of amazing to imagine the humble clarinet is the source of the heavy, thunderous drones Erik Levander generates for these enveloping compositions. Shrewdly, he gives it a nice balance as the towering waves of sound occasionally subside to allow the more ethereal nature of the instrument to shine through in respites of breathtaking beauty. A fascinating and, at times, exhilarating album based on an imaginative concept.

Available on limited edition pro-dubbed cassette and digital via Katuku Collective. 

A Lily – Ten Drones On Cassette [Sound in Silence]


A Lily is the solo project of James Vella, perhaps better known as member of instrumental post-rock band Yndi Halda. These ten pieces, each inspired by and named after a specific person and crafted from processed guitar, voice, organ, clarinet, and brass, were each originally self-released on seperate cassettes but have now been made available as a single full-length album by Athens-based Sound in Silence. A lovely collection of sound stories, if you will, that comprise a journey of nicely varying moods, colors, and textures. Experimental, but never at the expense of adherence to a minimalist aesthetic or the personal nature of the tracks.

Available on limited edition CD & digital via Sound in Silence. 

the volume settings folder – Hamlets


The inspiration for this record came from a composite aerial view shot in 1918 over the fields and marshes of the Venice Laguna, a photograph of which the artist picked up in a flea market in north-east Italy.  Tied down in a new job, he found time and head-space on the weekends to develop his musical ideas. As with almost all TVSF releases, Hamlets is a warmly eclectic blend of varied textures and pastoral drone fragments with a haunting undercurrent which create fascinating portraits in sound.

“I composed a lot on the go, while clearing my mind among the lands of the laguna. I dusted my old tape recorder, and maximized its use to its broadest extent…So after over a year I found that real place, and that aerial view found its music in an album about tension and release. A coming and going to the many places I explored in the few hours I had. An ode to all the villages and parishes, hamlets drowned in fog and mud” – M. Beckmann

Available on limited edition CD & digital direct from the artist. CD editions include a high-quality photo booklet and bonus track. 

Bradley Sean Alexander  – Lowered Expectations [Polar Seas Recordings]


As a prelude to a solo recording due this spring on Patient Sounds, Bradley Sean Alexander (aka Brad Deschamps) has released this 3-track mini album on his own Polar Seas Recordings label. Some readers may know his work as one half of North Atlantic Drift (with Mike Abercrombie) or his solo project anthéne. Elements of both are present in these glacial, ebbing drones, though the spacious and more organic cello-based sound is varied enough to warrant being released under the artist’s own name. Musical flowers in slow bloom, these are glassy-eyed, wistful reminisces to get lost in.

Available on limited edition CD and digital download via Polar Seas Recordings.

Various Artists – Illuminations II [Dronarivm]


Aptly described as 3 hours of “pure illuminations”, this collection from the highly respected Dronarivm label is outstanding for its depth, breadth, and ability to sustain a blissfully contemplative mood for the whole duration without jarring the listener, a common pitfall of many such broad compilations. Illuminations II boasts a jaw-dropping list of names well known to the ambient & experimental music community including Aaron Martin, Bruno Sanfilippo, Loscil, Endless Melancholy, Machinefabriek, Offthesky, Olan Mill, The Green Kingdom, Antonymes, Wil BoltonPleq, Hakobune, Chihei Hatakeyama, Pausal, Dalot, and more. And the icing on the cake? All money raised from this modestly priced offering will go to 4 Paws for Ability which enriches the lives of children with disabilities by training and placing quality, task-trained service dogs…What? Are you still here? Go get it!

Available as a digital release only – all proceeds benefit 4 Paws for Ability