A vibrant and eclectic selection where genres never define of confine, but only serve as reference points for where words fail to describe the music; a sort of musical edgeland where ambient and modern classical minimalism co-exists with acoustic, folk, electronica, post-rock, and shoegaze.
Epic45 – Through Broken Summer [Wayside & Woodland]
This early autumn release from the duo of Rob Glover & Benjamin Holton known as epic45 has an irresistibly intoxicating sound steeped in the quirky, melancholic charm of the English countryside and infused with a hazy swirl of shoegaze, electronica, and melodic post rock. A palpable sadness occasionally seeps through but never to the point of overwhelming the halcyon spell of its pure pastoral beauty. Among the many highlights is an appearance by Antony Harding of kindred musical spirits July Skies on “Hillside ’86”.
Released on CD, tape, vinyl LP, & digital (only CD & digital currently available)
Zoltan Fecso – Shimmer Raga [Hush Hush]
Melbourne-based Zoltan Fecso uses prepared piano and his custom-built acoustic guitar with MIDI launchpad to embark on a unique sonic journey inspired by pointillism. Drawing influences from the artwork of Claire Lefebvre, whose painting gives the album both its title and cover art, Fecso forms each piece by working with repeating fragments of single notes until they coalesce into shimmering melodic shapes. Features guest musician Anna Morley adding vibraphone on the closing track.
Released on cassette & digital
The Gentleman Losers – Make We Here Our Camp of Winter [Sound in Silence]
Brothers Samu & Ville Kuukka show why their albums as The Gentleman Losers have gathered such a fond & devoted following with this finespun, beguiling beauty written mostly during the summer of 2018 at a cabin by a lake in southern Finland. They deploy vintage analogue equipment, an assortment of instruments, tasteful electronic treatments, and poetic spoken word to sublime effect. Warm and inviting lo-fi bliss to mark the changing of the seasons.
Released on limited edition CD & digital
Green Kingdom – Seen and Unseen [Sound in Silence]
Seen and Unseen finds an idyllic middle-ground between the ambient electronic soundscapes Michael Cottone is known for creating as The Green Kingdom and his more recent foray into acoustic territory on last year’s The North Wind and the Sun (Lost Tribe Sound). Lush, but delicately constructed liminal spaces warmed by resonant analog instrumentation.
Released on CD (currently sold out) and digital
Hammock – Universalis [Hammock Music]
On their first full-length studio album since the deeply elegiac ‘Mysterium’ a little over a year ago, Marc Byrd & Andrew Thompson find themselves following a “vertical, upward movement back toward the light” with Universalis while hearkening back to some of the most beloved recordings in the band’s canon and at the same time embracing early their own early musical influences. This is the kind of expansive, hopeful, and overwhelmingly beautiful music that Hammock does better than anyone else.
Released on CD, double vinyl LP, & digital (special bundles also available)
Mary Lattimore – Hundreds of Days [Ghostly International]
Awarded a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Lattimore spent two summer months living with 15 fellow artists in a cluster of rehabilitated Victorian military buildings on the Northern Pacific Coast. Surrounded by other creative minds and with ample space to set up her 47-string harp and other instruments, she crafted Hundreds of Days, a transportive anthology of musical stories that is at once evocative, referential, and deeply personal.
“Hanging out with a lot of accomplished artists with poetic ways of looking at the world was really inspiring. My heart was in a bit of a tangle after leaving Philadelphia. I was holding onto things instead of moving forward. My time there was a nostalgia detox, a way to press reset in a healthy way.” – Mary Lattimore
Released on CD (currently sold out), tape, vinyl LP, & digital
Aaron Martin – A Room Now Empty [Preserved Sound]
In addition to his singular cello, Aaron Martin employs a plethora of other instruments (guitar, banjo, ukulele, lap steel, concertina, singing bowls) on this early year solo release to forge a distinctive sound with roots sunk deep in rustic earthiness yet somehow reaching boundlessly into transcendent and ethereal realms. It is as if he unlocks not only the resonance of his instruments, but extracts the very history and memory out of the elements from which they are made.
Released on CD (currently sold out) and digital
Gavin Miller ft. Aaron Martin – Meandering Scars [Lost Tribe Sound]
For the second year running, Lost Tribe Sound coaxes an artist better known for electronic music to experiment with acoustic instrumentation with striking success. Here Gavin Miller uses resonant acoustic guitar loops and other discrete electronic & vocal elements to musically emulate ‘meander scars’, geological features formed by the remnants of winding water channels. Miller lays this out in four “courses” which are presented on the first half of the album colored with embellishments from cellist Aaron Martin and again on the second half of the album in their original form. The effect is like seeing the same vast landscape through different lenses.
Released on limited edition double CD w/hard cover book (only a few remaining) & digital
Seabuckthorn – A House With Too Much Fire [La Cordillère]
There is something peregrine, untamed, and utterly unique in the sounds Andy Cartwright summons from his resonator guitar as Seabuckthorn. While last year’s Turns (Lost Tribe Sound) was tempered with pastoral warmth and melodic structure, A House With Too Much Fire is a more visceral collection of arid, barren soundscapes. Stark haunting beauty of cinematic proportions.
Released on vinyl LP & digital
Jamie Stillway – City Static [Fluff and Gravy]
The acclaimed Portland-based guitarist’s first album of solo electric guitar recordings is both warm and affecting. It consists of five tone-perfect songs interwoven with short ambient sketches into a seamless flow that carries the listener along a gratifying journey of pleasurable contemplation. Effortlessly skillful, yet unpretentious and amiable, City Static leaves one with the kind of emotional afterglow that comes from a moment of reassuring self-reflection or a heartening conversation with a good friend.
Released on CD & digital
Stray Theories – All That Was Lost [n5MD]
While staying busy in recent years composing for films and and working on other projects, Micah Templeton-Wolfe was quietly working on new Stray Theories material which came to fruition with the release of All That Was Lost this year on n5MD. Suffused with gorgeous minor key melodies and glacial post rock majesty wrapped in a lush ambient quiescence of shimmering electronics, it was well worth the wait.
Released on CD, limited edition blue vinyl LP, & digital
Tomorrow We Sail – The Shadows [Gizeh Records]
After several years in gestation, The Shadows finds the Leeds-based six-piece collective spreading their wings wide and soaring to majestic new heights on the strength of potent songwriting, intricate arrangements, and engaging vocals. Organic crescendos worthy of the frequent comparisons to Sigur Rós easily coexist with cerebral, narrative-centric folk that brings to mind bands like The Decemberists. The tender moments are deeply affecting and when it surges & peaks it is nothing less than exhilarating.
Released on limited edition CD or vinyl LP & digital
Walrus Ghost & Max Frankl – Avenues and Remembrances [Hush Hush]
It all began when jazz guitarist Max Frankl traveled to New York and answered an ad for an open room posted by an experimental electronic music producer Christian Banks, aka Walrus Ghost. The two hit it off and began recording music together. The result of this transatlantic musical serendipity is an album full of sure-handed guitar work and contemplative melodies suspended in a warm quiescence of gentle distortion and textural ambiance. Unhurried music with a subdued incandescent energy that invites the listener to slow down, linger, and connect.
Brendon John Warner – la fonte
Brendon John Warner previously wrote, recorded & toured Australia with the progressive post-rock group We Lost the Sea before heading down a different musical path to pursue his growing interest in synthesis and lo-fi electronics. His debut effort is a sprawling, kaleidoscopic electroacoustic exploration of the relationships between humanity and planet earth. A vividly imagined sonic geography that covers the gamut from delicate ambient textures to palatial post-rock grandeur.
Whale Fall – Sondersongs
While 2014’s The Madrean was often as arid and rough-hewn as the landscapes it sought to evoke, Sondersongs recalls the more lyrical sensibilities of the band’s eponymous 2011 debut with fetching melodies and sparkling piano lines along with lots of bright guitar atmospherics, horns, and a dash of cello. At full tilt, the music scales exhilarating heights, but intensity never comes at the expense of clarity or attention to detail. During even the most epic crescendos and explosive jams, the arrangements remain sparse and clean, and punctuated by quiet interludes of eloquent beauty.
Released on CD, vinyl LP, & digital
Winterlight – The Longest Sleep Through the Darkest Days [n5MD]
The first time hearing the music of Winterlight is a pleasurably disorienting experience. The origin of the sound traces its roots to founder Tim Ingham‘s absorption in the post-punk and shoegaze music of the 80s and 90s in his native Thames Valley England. With his daughter Isabel’s bass guitar anchoring Ingram’s “melancholic euphoria”, the pair create a reverb-drenched beauty of a record with deft nostalgic nods to the decades of musical influences that inspired it.
Released on CD, limited edition green splatter vinyl LP, & digital