By my count, Whitelabrecs has come out with nearly 70 releases in the four years since it was founded by Harry Towell (aka Spheruleus). For the first three, the label strictly followed a set formula in which each release came out on vinyl-effect CDs in a limited run of 50 copies. This year, Towell has upped the ante with runs of 100 copies and a new packaging motif designed to emulate gatefold vinyl LPs as well as an expanded range of photographers sourcing the artwork. What has been consistent from the beginning, however, is a steady stream of highly engaging releases from a thoughtfully curated roster of artists currently working in the ambient, drone, modern classical, electro-acoustic and folk genres. The six albums featured here have provided me with a great deal of listening pleasure lately, but they only represent a portion of the breadth and depth of what is on offer, so I recommend allowing oneself lots of time to explore during visits to Bandcamp.
Luis Miehlich – Timecuts
Luis Miehlich is an artist & producer based in Heidelberg, South Germany whose first full-length album Silences debuted on the Archives label last summer, a lush and serene collection of gauzy drones very much at home besides such artists as Warmth, Hotel Neon, and Shuta Yasukochi. His follow up on Whitelabrecs is cut from a slightly different cloth. Timecuts was developed from unused/rediscovered material from between 2013 and 2015 sourced from bells, drones, static, guitar, & piano and radio and reworked and augmented by collaborating artists in a wonderfully varied electroacoustic offering. The attention to detail on the record is exceptional as is the ambient ‘relay’ at the end of the album where segments of the final suite of music are handed off to four different artists (Erder, Sine Rider, Gallery Six, and Glåsbird) one after another in a seamless flow. If Silences was a warm, billowing blanket to wrap oneself up in, Timecuts is a colorful patchwork quilt with its own unique comforts and charms to offer.
Gray Acres – Material Forces
The seemingly tireless Tasselmyer brothers have managed to find time between Hotel Neon and their various solo & collaborative endeavors to follow up the eponymous debut of their Gray Acres project with the sumptuously immersive Material Forces. A central element of the record is a collection of natural field recordings taken in Asia which provide a cohesive subtextual theme for the record which Andrew & Michael gently submerge in the melancholic oscillations of processed guitar and meandering synth drones turning them into vast contemplative soundscapes.
Glåsbird – Svalbarð
The anonymous Glåsbird made their debut on Whitelabrecs with a teaser EP called Drift Stations at the end of 2018 followed by the full-length debut Grønland earlier this year to instantly become the favorite guide of many ambient & neoclassical fans for musical travels the realm of the midnight sun. Their latest sonic expedition takes us inside the Arctic Circle to Svalbarð featuring glacial lo-fi motifs and striking cover photography by Aldona Pivoriene.
“The pristine, polished reverb of Grønland is replaced with a slightly muddier, more lo-fi approach to the sound as the artist strived to present a tape-eroded aesthetic to their work. The recordings deal with dramatic landscapes, glaciers, an abandoned coal community, a seed vault, the Island’s capital city Longyearbyen and of course, polar bears. Each piece feels icy cold, yet the warmth and hiss provided by the decaying tape effects provide a comfort blanket for the listener as perhaps you take in these scenes from a lonely cabin, at one with isolation and natural beauty.”
Old Amica – Taiga
Taiga is the sixth release by Swedish duo Old Amica and their second purely instrumental album. It began with music created to accompany moving images in a short film they scored that coalesced into a stand-alone collection of small fragments tied to childhood memories. The music for the movie ‘Place. Poetry. Periphery‘ eventually got nominated as Best Music Score at The Annual Copenhagen Film Festival while Johan and Linus continued recording and adding sounds together in a basement in Stockholm to create this utterly charming record full of nostalgic melodies expressed on piano and guitar interwoven with fine shadings of textural filigree.
Samsuo – The Other Gold Side
Samsuo is an artist based in Cambridge, UK who makes his Whitelabrecs debut with The Other Gold Side, a serenely muted drone ambient sound bath built around looped guitar and synth improvisation manipulated with added overdubs and and steeped in a sense of stillness and contemplation. Cloud-shaped melodies are slowly drawn and patiently elongated to create the pleasantly out of time feeling that permeates the album.
“The Other Gold Side is a record which explores repetition and the potential complexity of replication is depicted in the quarters of ceramic dish in which photographer Peter Nejedly has supplied for the cover artwork. For the CD packaging, this cover image is flipped as if the dish is turning back into itself, just like the folds of warm, lush drones which represent the turning of seasons, the endless passing of time and things being broken down and reforming anew.“
Jens Pauly – Vihne
Jens Pauly is a musician and artist from Cologne, Germany In his earlier years, he performed in punk and metal bands befor going on to compose more synth-based solo work as Ghostrider and eventually debuting under his own name in 2017 on Karlrecords with r/f. The liner notes for Pauly’s Whitelabrecs album Vihne justifiably compares its intricate electroacoustic guitar, piano, and cassette treatments to something one might hear on the revered 12k label from artists like Marcus Fischer or Taylor Deupree. Indeed, there is a certain soothing pastoral warmth in its tapestry of sounds and a restrained minimalism that invites the listener to bring their own context to the music. Though Vihne came in out in March, in many ways has the most autumnal feel of all the records featured here and seems very much like an ideal record to accompany the season.