This audio journey features a globe-spanning quartet of immersive long-form single releases by Saariselka (Chuck Johnson & Marielle Jakobsons), Hakobune, Arash Akbari, and Dave Watkins.
Saariselka – Ceres [Longform Editions]
Saariselka is a sonic collaboration between Oakland, California-based composers Marielle Jakobsons (Fender Rhodes, organ, synthesisers) and Chuck Johnson (pedal steel guitar and treatments). Their first official work under this moniker is the meditative ‘Ceres’, released as part of the summer set of Longform Editions, a new series of music pieces curated by Preservation label founder Andrew Khedoori “to foster and celebrate immersive listening experiences for the musically adventurous”.
“Ceres is inspired by whiteouts, where the rhythm of your breath and body become a container for experiencing the fine gradations of your surroundings. The process of creating this piece was one of learning how to get out of the way, and of emphasizing the use of space and decay to alter one’s perception of time.” – Saariselka
Listeners familiar with the tremulous elongated arcs Johnson drew with pedal steel guitar for his 2017 album Balsams (VDSQ) will be delighted to hear a continuation of that sound here intertwined with Jakobsons’ thoughtfully layered keyboard treatments which evolve organically throughout the piece until it is subsumed by them precipitating a pleasantly surprising melodic outro. ‘Ceres’ is inventive, greaceful and free-flowing but never at the expense of its time-suspending and healing qualities.
Hakobune – Betelgeuse [Hidden Vibes]
Hakobune, also known as Takahiro Yorifuji, is a prolific ambient artist who generates incredibly evocative soundscapes using layers of guitar. He makes his first appearance on Ukranian label Hidden Vibes with Betelgeuse, a 42-minute long-form “journey to the stars” recorded in Fukushima, Japan, and mixed at home in Tokyo in September 2017.
The vast expanse of the night sky unfurls here as Yorifuji paints on a huge canvas as few artists can and, as watchers of night skies can attest, it is only the impatient, distracted eye (or ear in this case) that discounts the ceaseless wonder of the view. What at first seems to be nothing more than a field of black flecked with light becomes a portal into a opalescent universe that reveals a slow dance of celestial objects imperceptibly tracing invisible concentric circles across the ether. As advised by several listeners and reviewers, Betelgeuse is best listened to at high volume to get the full benefit of its subtle ebb and flow and nuanced sonic gradations.
Available in a beautifully packaged CD edition featuring artwork by Lita Akhmetova as well as digital download (note: only a handful remaining at this writing).
Arash Akbari – Perpetual [taâlem]
Arash Akbari is an electronic musician and new media artist, living and working in Tehran, Iran. He has released five full-length albums since 2013 including such outstanding records as Cracked Echoes (2014, Soft), Vanishing Point (2015, Flaming Pines), and The Rest is Silence (2017, Unknown Tone). His latest opus is a long-form single called Perpetual which was one of a trio of release early in the summer by Belgian label taâlem.
Akbari’s work has always managed to balance sonic depth and complexity on an imposing scale with a palpable sense of melancholy that affords an intimate connection for the listener. The layers of this piece move in cadence like breathing with deep oscillations that wax and wane beneath a sumptuous, mournful drone and an empyrean chorus. If Hakobune’s ‘Betelgeuse’ was a portrait of the night sky, then Perpetual opens a window into the vast machinery behind as it dissolves into a rhythmic clockwork pattern of signal tones and crackles like the meshing of invisible gears until it slowly recedes into a cosmic swirl of rushing noise. What an immersive journey.
Available from taâlem in a 3-inch CD-r jewel case edition as well as digital download.
Dave Watkins – Respite
Dave Watkins is a musician and composer based in Richmond, Virginia (the home of this very blog, btw). Also the AV supervisor for the local ballet company as well as an engineer and carpenter, a unique aspect of his work is the use of a homemade electric dulcitar with field recordings and heavy digital manipulation to create his soundscapes. Last summer he released an exceptionally beautiful piece of work called Respite which features his unique setup in a particularly abstract way.
“Respite is a single 21 minute long experiment in field recording, dulcitar and digital sound manipulation, different from things I’ve done in the past and different from things that I’m working on for my next eventual proper full-length record, but still very much anchored in the sonic territory I often traverse, But in a more minimal, abstract and ambient fashion.” – Dave Watkins
Inventiveness meets sheer prismatic beauty in this 21 minute excursion that begins with shimmering arpeggiated patterns and electronic pulses amidst lush field recordings. A wizard with no need for a curtain to hide behind, Watkins coalesces what could be sonic chaos into coherent, captivating patterns to create a wonderfully immersive and meditative listening experience not to mention a fine showcase for the value of supporting artists that work in the DIY aesthetic.