2019 In Review: Electrocoustic & Experimental Folk

2019-YIR-Electroacoustic

An organic and eclectic selection where genres never define or confine, but only serve as reference points for where words fail to describe the music – a kind of musical edgeland where ambient and modern classical minimalism co-exists with acoustic, folk, electronics, and field recordings.

Alaskan Tapes – Views From Sixteen Stories [AT Recs.]


https://alaskantapes.bandcamp.com/album/views-from-sixteen-stories

Within a few short years, Toronto-based musician & composer Brady Kendall has nurtured his Alaskan Tapes project from a fledgling collection of singles & EPs into one that produces beautifully realized albums that draw well-deserved praise from listeners and fellow musicians alike. His latest, entitled Views From Sixteen Stories, is an especially fine one, even by the high standards he has established for himself.  It is one of those records that just seems to hit the sweet spot right from the off. Melodic progressions and textural elements remain in perfect balance even as the songs shift from shuffling lo-fi meditations like the title track to piano-centric ballads and perfectly weighted billowy drones.

Released on vinyl LP, CD, & digital.


Aukai – Reminiscence [Aukai Music]


https://aukai.bandcamp.com/album/reminiscence

The latest from from composer & multi-instrumentalist Markus Sieber’s Aukai project creates a more nostalgic, introspective mood than last year’s atmospheric ‘Branches of Sun‘ as the luminous sound of Sieber’s ronroco delicately intertwines with plaintive tones of Anne Müller‘s cello, Angelika Baumbach‘s harp, and Jesús Mejía‘s guitar to create a sweet sense of longing.

Released on CD & digital.


Ben Rath – Any Given Moment [Whitelabrecs]


https://whitelabrecs.bandcamp.com/album/any-given-moment

Left out of a roundup of Whitelabrecs releases earlier this year only because of an as yet unfulfilled intention to review it separately, I would be sadly remiss to overlook this stunning effort by Ben Rath to spin acoustic folk instrumentals into sprawling ambient webs of beautiful sound which bridges his acoustic oriented work as Slow Heart Music with the drone soundscapes he creates under his own name. Each song is a journey unto itself and some fine guitar work is on display to boot.

Released on CD & digital.


Ciro Berengueur – El Mar De Junio [Eilean Rec.]


https://eileanrec.bandcamp.com/album/el-mar-de-junio

Born in Argentina and now residing in Barcelona, composer and multi-instrumentalist Ciro Berenguer draws on a diverse, global array of influences spanning folk, jazz, and ambient forms. El mar de junio [ the sea of June] is a set of compositions which Berenguer says seeks to reflect in fleeting form what he learned and experienced during the past six years of sound experimentation. In it’s delicate filigree and melancholic musings are woven the threads of memories both personal and musical. An extraordinarily warm and thoughtful work full of light and muted color like the sea that inspired its name.

Released on CD & digital.


Federico Mosconi – Light Not Light [Shimmering Moods]


https://shimmeringmoodsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/light-not-light

On his first release for the Amsterdam-based Shimmering Moods, Federico Mosconi explores the duality of elegant classical guitar lines performed with beautiful clarity and dense “layers of amniotic noise” sometimes juxtaposing them and sometimes submerging the music deep below the roiling surface. An epic musical struggle between darkness and light unfolds…

Released on vinyl CD & digital.


Francesco Giannico – Les Mondes Imaginaires [Time Released Sound]


https://timereleasedsound.bandcamp.com/album/les-mondes-imaginaires

Perhaps no other label other than Fluid Audio puts as much effort into creating bespoke releases as does Time Released Sound, a fitting treatment for this “field recording infused aural journey through the Italian countryside” by composer & sound artist Francesco Giannico working here in an especially organic mode with elements of acoustic instrumentation and even a bit of vocals. Each copy of the deluxe edition includes an original collage composed of torn and intricately reassembled photographs taken by the musician and incorporating elements of fine art papers and a variety of vintage and artisanal touches.

Released on limited edition CD & digital.


Luis Miehlich – Timecuts [Whitelabrecs]


https://whitelabrecs.bandcamp.com/album/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. His follow up on Whitelabrecs is cut from a slightly different cloth, however. 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 with great attention to detail. 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.

Released on CD & digital.


Old Amica – Taiga [Whitelabrecs]


https://whitelabrecs.bandcamp.com/album/taiga

The sixth release by Swedish duo Old Amica and their second purely instrumental album, Taiga began with music created to accompany moving images in a short film that coalesced into a stand-alone collection of small fragments connected to childhood memories. The music for the movie eventually got nominated as Best Music Score at The Annual Copenhagen Film Festival while Johan & 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 textural filigree.

Released on vinyl CD & digital.


The Phonometrician – Mnemosyne [Lost Tribe Sounds]


https://thephonometrician.bandcamp.com/album/mnemosyne

This debut of Mexico City based multi-instrumentalist, film composer and sound preservationist Carlos Morales, who creates under the name The Phonometrician, incorporates classical and American primitive guitar with elements of ambient, drone, and post-rock as well as field recordings, synths, and tape. It is a very special brand of music that finds an ideal home on the Lost Tribe Sound label which includes on its roster such illustrative & kindred artists as Western Skies Motel, From the Mouth of the Sun, Seabuckthorn, and William Ryan Fritch – a potent apposition of rustic authenticity and acoustic alchemy with opaque abstractions. The title Mnemosyne refers to the Greek goddess of memory and remembrance, a fitting symbol of the album’s overarching theme.

Released on vinyl LP, CD, & digital.


Ryan Dugre – The Humors [Birdwatcher Records]


https://ryandugre.bandcamp.com/album/the-humors

Ryan Dugré is a freelance guitarist and multi-instrumentalist based in New York City who has recorded and toured with several pop & indie bands as well as performing live in such wide ranging settings including Bonnaroo, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, and BBC 6 Radio. The title of his solo instrumental album The Humors refers to an ancient medical system based on the theory that one’s health and emotional well-being is determined by the balance of the body’s four fluids, or humors, each of which corresponds to an aspect of temperament. The songs have a meditative and mellifluous quality that makes them easy on the ear, yet they never quite settle into predictability as Dugré holds our attention with mesmerizing arpeggiated patterns, subtle feints in unexpected directions, and deft, sophisticated layering of sonic elements.

Released on cassette tape & digital.


Saariselka – The Ground Our Sky [Temporary Residence]


https://saariselka.bandcamp.com/album/the-ground-our-sky

One my favorite EP selections from last year was the debut of Saariselka, a collaboration that fuses the shimmering elongated arcs of Chuck Johnson‘s pedal steel guitar with the lush keyboards & ethereal vocals of Marielle Jakobsons. The name references the land of the northern lights eoking all the myth and otherworldly beauty such a place entails. In 2019 the duo delivered a glorious full album that radiates more of the same kind of strange, otherworldly beauty they first created together and, hopefully, will continue to do.

Released on vinyl LP, CD, & digital.


Seabuckthorn – Crossing [Eilean Rec.]


https://eileanrec.bandcamp.com/album/crossing

Having grown up in Oxfordshire, studied in Cornwall, and lived in both London & Paris, acoustic guitarist & multi-instrumentalist Andy Cartwright now resides in the southern Alps where he draws musical inspiration from the mountainous landscapes of the region. Compared with the British folk-leaning melodies of Turns (Lost Tribe Sound, 2017), Crossing, which is a more atmospheric and abstract affair. Developed while Cartwright was anticipating the experience of fatherhood, it is at once hauntingly primitive and vividly cinematic with a visceral, elemental feel. This is the work of an artist who has truly found a unique instrumental voice.

Released on CD & digital.


Skyphone – Marsh Drones [Lost Tribe Sound]


https://skyphone.bandcamp.com/album/marsh-drones

Skyphone is the Copenhagen-based trio of Keld Dam Schmidt, Thomas Holst, and Mads Bødker. The band create a unique blend of acoustic, electronic, and concrete music which they cheekily recommend for “hypnotized walking on a variety of wobbly surfaces”.  Many of the ideas on the album emerged from field recordings from the area around the Tønder marshlands recorded by various members of the band and which provided a backdrop for their intricate studio explorations and treatments. Eclectic?  ery much so, but it a friendly, unpretentious, and distinctly ear-catching way born of genuine creativity.  As with all Lost Tribe releases, the art, design, and packaging are impeccable as well. 

“The music is minimal, restrained, but rich in detail like the landscape it attempts to resonate with. There are remnants of folk music, melodies that are almost recognizable, but dub music and something distinctly digital intersects itself into the woodwork and authenticity.” Lost Tribe Sound

Released on vinyl LP, CD, & digital.


Tomotsugu Nakamura – Monologue [Audiobulb]


https://ab-tomotsugunakamura.bandcamp.com/album/monologue
https://tomotsugu.bandcamp.com/album/monologue

The refined art of minimalism is on full display in this wonderful work by Japanese musician & sound artist Tomotsugu Nakamura who records acoustic instruments with crystal clarity and subtly processes the sounds and layers them sparingly with delicate placements of  field recording or glitchy elements.  Patient, elegant, and captivating.

“I focused on removing all unnecessary elements, so that the form has become more simple and acoustical. Total balance and stillness in human life is my purpose. I hope that some of my work will sneak calmly into the listeners’ mind and cure their heart.” – Tomotsugu Nakamura

Released on vinyl LP, CD, & digital.


Valotihkuu – By The River [Hidden Vibes]


https://hiddenvibes.bandcamp.com/album/by-the-river
https://valotihkuu.bandcamp.com/album/by-the-river

A day spent meandering along the banks of a quiet river in the company of only one’s own thoughts and the sounds of gently lapping water, rustling leaves, or a crackling fire. It is a respite and a renewal our modern life rarely affords, but for about 40 minutes, one can travel to such a state of mind with this lovely record by Valotihkuu, an ambient project from Russian musician Denis Davydov. While you don’t have to look far to find ambient recordings on such themes, there is a gossamer beauty to his diaphanous webs of guitar, an immaculate shimmer and a rare quality of stillness that really captures the essence of retreating into nature and solitude, perhaps something akin to an audio version of forest bathing.

Released on CD & digital.


Wil Bolton – Surface Reflections [Sound in Silence]


https://soundinsilencerecords.bandcamp.com/album/surface-reflections
https://wilbolton.bandcamp.com/album/surface-reflections

An artist in sound, video, and photography, Wil Bolton‘s music is always rich in texture, narrative threads, and a strong sense of place. On this release for Athens-based Sound in Silence, Wil blends delicate loops of guitars and synths edited & manipulated with effect pedals and laptop processing with layers of field recordings made in Hong Kong. In a rather remarkable way, he captures an essence of bustling everyday life and creates a stillness at the center of it.  Fans of this album, or Wil’s work in general, will also want to check out his other 2019 releases – Kochi on Audiobulb and April Spiral on Rusted Tone Recordings. 

Released on CD & digital.


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