Sound impression: eistla by r beny

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Maybe it is my lack of imagination or maybe it was growing up during the era of the Apollo Program, but when I picture the busy maze of knobs, ports, lights, and crisscrossing cables that make up a modular synth setup, the last thing I expect are warm, organic, efflorescent sounds full of soulful melancholy and longing. But, that is exactly the kind of music that Bay Area musician Austin Cairns produces with these devices under the moniker of r beny (an homage to Canadian photographer Roloff Beny).  Building on the extraordinary work of his previous releases ‘saudade’ (Dauw, 2018) and ‘cascade symmetry‘ (self-released, 2017), Cairns gives us a late-year gift in the form of ‘eistla’.

“A recurring dream. The frozen landscapes of isolation and loneliness. Fragmented memories lost at sea. Cold, sharp light // Glowing rays of hope in the morning. // It was just a dream.” – r beny

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PREMIERE: “Þægindi” from Close by Mark Wardale [Bottle Imp]

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After two full-length albums and a trio of EPs under the moniker of Row Boat, musician/composer Mark Wardale is about to release his first work under his own name. There is an amusing bit of self-deprecating cheek when he cites irreconcilable differences with himself in reference to the change, but when it comes to creating imaginative, ear-catching music that spans multiple genres, Wardale is as serious as ever.

To listen to ‘Close‘ is to enter a world where neoclassical, ambient, and post-rock elements are intertwined, infused with Scandinavian character, and ornamented with eclectic sonic flourishes. While the same could be said of the music of Row Boat, the new record marks a noticeable shift toward modern classical elements and cinematic flair as the ambient & post-rock atmospherics are employed much more sparingly. In addition, Wardale demonstrates his growing compositional prowess by weaving a cohesive tale in which the narrative of each track supports a greater one that flows through the entire album.

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PREMIERE: “A Walk With Mr. J” from Ancestral Dances by Luis Berra [1631 Recordings]

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Search as you might across the web, you won’t a great many words about pianist/composer Luis Berra. In part that may be because his debut album (‘Piano Creatures‘, 2017) came out only last year. To some extent, however, it appears that the Italian-born musician, who currently lives & works in Bavaria, simply prefers to let his piano do the talking. Whether teaching at a music school, performing on a stage or in the lobby of a luxury hotel, or recording in the studio, it is how he tells his stories and he does it with an eloquent and mellifluous voice. This is abundantly evident on his sophomore outing entitled ‘Ancestral Dances’, a splendid solo piano record that gracefully soars, sways and pirouettes through a dozen narratives spun from ivory keys and wooden hammers.

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Video: “Universalis” by Hammock

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On their first full-length studio album since the deeply elegiac ‘Mysterium’ a little over a year ago, the Nashville-based duo of Marc Byrd & Andrew Thompson known as Hammock find themselves following a “vertical, upward movement back toward the light”. This progression from the low places of grief toward beckoning illumination is subtly depicted on the cover of Universalis and the hopeful, healing tone of the music echoes that trajectory while hearkening back to some of the most beloved recordings in the band’s canon as well as some of their early influences. For example, one can hear the sweeping atmospheric balladry of ‘Raising Your Voice to Stop an Echo’ and the glacial stillness of ‘Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow’ alongside the orchestral neoclassical grandeur of their more recent works.

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Through a musical lens: Metropolitan by Madeleine Cocolas [bigo & twigetti]

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Madeleine Cocolas is no stranger to incorporating music with other art forms. She has composed numerous works music for film, dance, and art exhibitions from painting to textiles. It should be no surprise, then, the fondness she developed for The Metropolitan Museum of Art after recently relocating to New York and on her newest album she finds a unique way to express her love for both the city and the museum while creating a highly engaging intersection between modern art, generative music, and compositional forms.  The approach is best described by Cocolas herself:

“When I moved to New York City, I knew I wanted to write an album somehow connected to the city, but I wasn’t sure how to anchor it. It was probably on my third or fourth trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art that I realized how much I loved The Met, and how much it meant to me to be there. I chose nine artworks…that really resonated with me, used custom software programmed by Gregory Long specifically for this project to analyze an image of each artwork to create sounds, and then incorporated those sounds into my compositions.  Each track on the album represents an individual artwork, so the album is like a collection of individual works.” – Madeleine Cocolas

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In Memoriam: losing today [Dronarivm]

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When I started Stationary Travels a little over five years ago, it was a very tentative effort; part experiment, part learning experience, and part homage to a new way of looking at and listening to music in the age of streaming and social media. I hoped to share music with a few like-minded friends and maybe make a few new connections. What I wasn’t at all prepared for, and what has made it so much more rewarding than I originally hoped, is how accessible, supportive, and kind-hearted the ambient music community turned out to be. Because this type of music is often deeply rooted in human and natural connections, it makes sense that the artists who create it would be a thoughtful and caring lot, but well beyond that, it is a community of artists who exceptionally approachable and appreciative. Just about everyone connected with the music at any level is valued and treated as a peer from listeners & fans to writers & graphic artists. I get happy reminders of this almost every day, but this post acknowledges a sad one. It is the recent loss of Brian Young, a strong supporter of both live & recorded ambient music and an exceptional photographer whose artwork under the moniker of losing today was widely admired and appeared on numerous album covers on several of the genre’s top labels.

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Alexandra Stréliski | Inscape [Secret City Records]

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Composer & pianist Alexandra Stréliski is an artist of Polish Jewish origin who grew up between Paris and Montreal. She made her debut with the 2010 album Pianoscope, but has gained many more listeners through her work featured in the films of Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”, “Demolition”) and on HBO (“Big Little Lies”, “Sharp Objects”). After a chaotic period of upheaval in her life, she has emerged as a solo recording artist once again with a delightful new album called Inscape, a meaningful portmanteau combining the words “interior” and “landscape”. Stréliski is refreshingly candid regarding the very personal nature of the record and how she hopes it will connect with others.

“To me, ‘Inscape’ was an existential crisis. A year where everything capsized and I had to go through various interior landscapes – hectic, beautiful and painful at the same time…A piano, on its own, is a very vulnerable thing, and I want to share this moment with the listener.” – Alexandra Stréliski 

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Sound Impression: Dett by Kevin Verwijmeren

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Abstraction and introspection both feature heavily in the music of Kevin Verwijmeren. When he began making music in 2013, the Dutch producer, who grew up in a remote area of the southern Netherlands close by the sea, drew inspiration from long travels on public transport as well as theoretical perspectives acquired as a physics student. In the two years since his last album (Those Glorious Heights, 2016), he has immersed himself in intensive sound study and recording and now presents his third full-length studio album Dett.

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PREMIERE: At the Same Time from The Eleventh Hour by Anne Lovett [1631 Recordings]

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It would seem Anne Lovett literally has music in her blood. Though currently residing in London, she was born in Normandy, France, a birthplace she shares with Erik Satie. Her family is a musical one, her father being a luthier and her mother a dancer. Anne herself picked up piano at only three years old and developed an interest in composition early on. She went on to study at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris as well as the Royal Academy of Music and later at King’s College, London. Since graduating, she has performed at prestigious venues and festivals throughout Europe and been heard on classical broadcast radio. If you have listened to her debut solo album Beyond (and Below), you already know she is both an electrifying pianist and an imaginative composer. On her partially crowd-funded second album entitled The Eleventh Hour, however, she balances her virtuosity & passion with poignant introspection to create a stunning new opus in collaboration with members of the London Contemporary Orchestra. 

“The main narrative of the album was conceived during a period when intense shifts were taking place within our society which had a deep impact on the composer. The result is a deeply felt work that mourns the loss of a spiritual home as well as reflecting a dazed comprehension of the world having been permanently tilted on its axis. Best described through the Japanese concept of Kintsugi or “broken beauty”, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is a heartbreakingly beautiful contribution to the modern classical genre. The thirteen tracks are all meticulously crafted and ring out with a dark luminosity, like an elegy to our troubled times”. – 1631 Recordings

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