As spring dissolves into summer, the stillness of beautifully crafted ambient drones and languid electroacoustic soundscapes are just the ticket for the right state of mind. Fortunately some of the finest artists in the field have unveiled new recordings for us to enjoy and here is a look at eight of them you won’t want to miss. Featuring Ant’lrd, Benoît Pioulard, Bradley Sean Alexander, Halftribe, Solidarity Hymn, Sven Laux, Tapes and Topographies, Valotihkuu, and Warmth.
Ant’lrd & Benoît Pioulard – Deck Amber [Sounds et al]
There is a Midas touch in shades of gray, an elusive yet palpable melancholy, to almost every piece that Thomas Meluch spins from the magic loom of his musical alias of Benoît Pioulard. Meld that with the self-described “sun-drenched swirls” of Colin Blanton’s Ant’lrd project, and you have the mesmerizing Deck Amber now out on Sounds et al. The album offers up nine tracks, seven created as part of this very special northwest collaboration and then winding to a conclusion with one solo composition apiece. Largely serene and meditative, occasionally the veil is pulled back to reveal meshing cogs of complex sonic machinery making it an especially captivating listen.
“Colin and I met shortly after he moved to Portland (I was, and still am, living in Seattle), when he passed me a copy of his SUNNUP album, which I immediately fell in love with. We discussed working on something together for some months before starting a file exchange in late 2015. ‘Deck Amber’ is the result of a few months of pretty intense work and revision, and to me, it’s all about wintry nostalgia with some shadows in the periphery.” – Benoît Pioulard
Bradley Sean Alexander – Cascade [Pyramid Blood]
Baed in Toronto, Bradley Sean Alexander Deschamps keeps a number of musical plates spinning these days. There is his increasingly prolific anthéne solo project and his collaboration with Mike Abercrombie as part of ambient/post-rock duo North Atlantic Drift not to mention the cultivation of his Polar Seas Recordings label and its ever-growing roster. Nevertheless, he has still found time to sprout another branch off his musical tree under his full given name, perhaps a clue to the intimate & personal nature of the work which blends crepuscular drones with delicate electroacoustic and modern classical textures. Having launched at the turn of the year with an EP, the quiescent and deeply introspective Cascade is the project’s first full-length release and is now available as a beautifully packaged limited edition CD from Pyramid Blood.
Halftribe – For the Summer, Or Forever [Dronarivm]
Halftribe is a multi-faceted project from Northern Ireland native Ryan Bissett. While on some of his albums you might hear elements of downtempo electronica and even bits of house or techno, his most recent released on Dronarivm label is a hazy urban summer dream. The air is humid and still as he unwinds a collection of slow, languorous drones against an opaque backdrop that glows, hums, and crackles with unseen life. A breathy chorus, a distant siren, or a subliminal cacophony of birds and insects may emerge to remind us we are not alone, but Bissett keeps us at a safe distance in our blissful torpor.
Solidarity Hymn – For a Wandering Beam of Sun
Solidarity Hymn is a brand new collaboration from Andy Othling, better known as Lowercase Noises, and Steven Kemner also of Hotel Neon. In August of 2017, after touring on a number of double bills together, the two got together in Andy’s studio in Albuquerque and spent a week creating For a Wandering Beam of Sun, seven suspensions of time woven together with the warp and weft of their complementary ambient guitar stylings. Underpinned by its solemn and poetic themes, the album develops a growing emotional undertow as its blissful soundscapes slowly unfurl. Beautiful to be sure, but tugs on the heart-strings throughout as well. Available in limited edition 2x vinyl LP and digital.
Sven Laux – Schachmatt [Whitelabrecs]
‘Schachmatt’ is the German rendition of “checkmate”, a phrase that rings with finality and the urge to resignation. It is also the title chosen by musician and sound designer Sven Laux for his latest album and first on UK-based Whitelabrecs. Referencing masters of the game on each of his track titles, he creates a series of lush cinematic drones infused with dramatic classical elements by way of swelling strings and surging melodies This is meditative music that keeps the mind fully engaged.
“The concept was born as Sven was inspired by watching a movie about famous chess players and as a result, he has created a set of disparate tracks to reference this as each player in the film had a different strategy. He wanted the approach for each track to play out along a differing path, each with its own unique characteristics or game plan, if you will. The resulting soundtrack presents itself as a melancholic space for the listener, with every move of the chess pieces offered as undefined metaphors for your own interpretation.” – Whitelabrecs
Tapes and Topographies – Opiates [Simulacra]
Todd Gautreau continues the resurgence of his Tape and Topographies project with the third release in the space of a year entitled Opiates now out on CD & digital on Simulacra Records. These pieces seem on the surface to be abstract soundscapes, but each evocatively titled piece gradually takes on a filmic quality as Gautreau bends and shapes the sounds until a narrative unfolds. Far from being an album to zone out to, Opiates is more like an engrossing collection of sonic short stories or films seen only by the mind’s eye.
Valotihkuu – Fragile Melodies [Whitelabrecs]
Valotihkuu is a project of Denis Davydov, a musician from the industrial Russian city of Cherepovets, a biography that would not necessarily lead one to expect the ethereal and pastoral nature of the soundscapes he has delicately crafted for his latest album. Just released on Whitelabrecs, Fragile Melodies finds Denis sampling instruments such as bells, lap harp, music box, and guitar and manipulating those sounds in an attempt to capture the elusive nature of fleeting memory, youthful nostalgia, and child-like wonder. The music has a rustic aura and twinkling music-box like quality in a kindred spirit to work done by such artists as Federico Durand.
“During the period that this album was created, Denis would walk a lot, listening and thinking about the fragments of sound he had been concocting, trying to reflect on how these could be presented as a light but elusive set of textures. With each walk, he’d be aware of the intangible nature of his own childhood memories as they flickered into focus for a fleeting second. He decided to use Fragile Melodies as a means to transfer such delicacy through sounds, textures and melodies.” – Whatelabrecs
Warmth – Parallel [Archives]
On his third album under the moniker of Warmth, Agustín Mena takes the project on an especially serene excursion. Parallels has an almost spiritual quality to it. It is a soothing collection of weightless drones in one harmonious flow so hushed and still, so solemn and graceful that one cannot resist sinking into a state of tranquility and deep reflection. As has been the case from his 2016 debut, Essay, Agus shows that calm mastery of tone and depth of field that make his work such a treat for the ears and a balm for the restless mind. Available on limited edition CD and cassette from his own Archives label, Parallels features cover art by photographer Alexander Kopatz (www.go70north.com).