Before drawing a line under 2020 and looking back on the musical journey this year has been, here is one last field journal post covering some recent releases and discoveries that have brightened up the past week. Featured in this edition: Amble, Cedric Vermue, Dalot & Sound Awakener, Fieldhead, From Overseas, Grasscut, Hammock, Pepo Galán & Sita Ostheimer, the volume settings folder, and William Ackerman.
Amble – “May Kasahara”
from Spring Creek Road (self released)
I’m grateful to have been recently introduced this past week to the music of Amble, a project from pianist, composer, and sound designer Aaron Gleeson based in Melbourne, Australia. He has just released a beautiful new EP called Spring Creek Road, an effort he simply calls “an attempt to piece things together”. On it he swaddles tender melodies and improvisations played on close mic’d piano with intricate ambient textures to create an ideal space for personal reflection. The EP was mastered by Ian Hawgood and features cover art by Fantine Bellanger.
Cedric Vermue – “We Came and Left (Live Session)”
original piece from Left Upon Us on Piano and Coffee Records
Cedric Vermue is a Dutch composer and producer of neoclassical music primarily featuring piano & strings combined with contemporary electronic elements. In this brand new video recently premiered on Headphone Commute, he performs a solo piano rendition of “We Came on Left” from his gorgeous album Left Upon Us released late last year on Piano and Coffee Records. It is the first of a two record series arising from an intensive studio project Vermue began after graduating the Utrecht Conservatory of Music in 2018. The album is available in a limited edition vinyl-style CD and digital formats with artwork by London-based illustrator Jordan Amy Lee.
Dalot & Sound Awakener – “Night Time, Long Paths”
from Departures on Fluid Audio
Departures is the second joint release between Greek sound artist Maria Papadomanolaki, aka Dalot, and Vietnamese composer Nhung Nguyen who records as Sound Awakener. As with their 2018 collaboration Little Things, the new album comes in a physical edition from the artisans at Fluid Audio as part of their “Book Editions” series featuring parts of disassembled antique books along with Polaroid prints, vintage 35mm glass mounted slides, old photos, library cards and scent all designed to explore the theme of migration. Dwells in darker shades and uneasy moments at times, but that only mirrors the unsettling conditions these two artists are documenting in their sonic conversation.
“Having started as early as February 2019, the making of Departures reflects on a series of sociopolitical changes and disruptions that took place during its making with the most recent being the COVID-19 pandemic. Titles like “Nebulous”, “A Part of Loss”, or “Enigma” document the composers’ frustrations and responses to the impacts of the pandemic not only on their personal lives and microcosms but on a global scale…Departures offers a deep reflection on how our world feels at the moment and suggests a possible way to consider the future by feeling empathy, taking responsibility and contributing to collective actions toward change.”Fluid Audio
Fieldhead – “sky peals”
from the down the middle, belle vue
Fieldhead is the duo of Paul Elam and Elaine Reynolds who produce electronic music ranging from geography inspired tape loops to tensely wound tracks featuring Elam’s synths and Reynolds’ violin. down the middle, belle vue is their first new music since 2017’s we’ve all been swimming and offers a trio of concise but atmospheric tracks to enjoy and possibly provide an on-ramp to those not yet familiar with their music. Also highly recommended is their 2014 split collaboration with Loscil called Fury and Hecla themed around a 100 mile long strait of the same name in the north of Canada.
From Overseas – “Melancholic Objects”
from Live at the Heritage Museum on Healing Sound Propagandist
With so much time spent traveling to far away places through music, it is nice to occasionally find something close to home. This is a reverie inducing long-form ambient composition created with guitar and field recordings by fellow Virginian Kévin Séry, aka From Overseas which he recorded at the Heritage Museum in Norfolk. The piece, which was inspired by Félicia Atkinson’s book titled, ‘A Forest Petrifies: Diamond Feedback‘, is also available from Healing Sound Propagandist in a longer studio version mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri and featuring cover photography by Isaac Helsen. This special live version is available both digitally and as a limited edition CD direct from the artist.
Grasscut – “Return of the Sun”
from Overwinter on Lo Recordings
Very happy to see a new album from the duo of Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair known as Grasscut. It will be their first full-length studio effort since Everyone Was A Bird came out over five years ago, an album to which I will be forever grateful for not only an amazing musical journey but also for introducing me to to the writing of Robert Macfarlane whose liner note essay became a gateway to books such as ‘The Old Ways‘ and ‘Landmarks‘ which served as inspiration for the Place Language project. The first single is a beauty and it certainly looks like this will be another confluence of evocative music steeped in geographic, literary, and historical references to look forward to.
Hammock – “One Another (2020)”
from the Longest Year 2020 on Hammock Music
In celebration of its 10-year anniversary, Hammock reissues their beloved Longest Year EP. Far more than a repressing of archived material, this re-release features brand new mixes and masters of all the original songs along with a never-before-heard bonus track offered in in a spate of colorful new vinyl collectors editions and a limited run CD. This is a beautiful reboot of an album that is a touchstone for many fans of ambient music including some who have gone on to make it themselves. Perhaps you can improve on perfection after all.
Pepo Galán & Sita Ostheimer – “Two Horses”
from Contact on Past Inside the Present
Spanish musician/composer & producer Pepo Galán has had a prolific year ending with this long distance collaboration with Berlin-based choreographer and singer Sita Ostheimer called Contact which is getting a stunning yellow vinyl LP treatment for its release by Past Inside the Present. Listen here to “Tow Horses” which closes the album and it is clear that Galan’s emotive soundscapes and Ostheimer’s haunting gossamer vocals embellished with additional synth, cello, and guitar treatments by Lee Yi make for a special kind of musical alchemy. The album was mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri and features cover photography from Pepo himself.
the volume settings folder – “Edge of the Capstan”
from Folder #07 (self-released)
Based in the northeast of Italy, M. Beckmann has been making of music as the volume settings folder for the better part of a decade. One of the common threads of his prolific catalog is the folder series which he started in 2013. According to Beckmann, the album he started working on in the summer of this year was the start of a new direction, but after a difficulty period suffering with pneumonia in the fall he found it be the right home for the finished work. It is a work of varied moods, instrumentation, and textures but one that also is punctuated by moments of tender beauty. And, as always, he puts his own handmade editions together with fine attention to detail.
William Ackerman – “LION’s IN THE SKY”
from Sound of Wind Driven Rain on Windham Hill
Finally, I was very happy to see guitarist and Windham Hill label founder William Ackerman establishing a presence on Bandcamp this past week. In addition to albums from his new artist spotlight project The Gathering, you will also find past solo works like Sound of Wind Driven Rain (1998) and retrospectives like the Grammy Award winning Returning (2004) in which he made luminous new solo guitar recordings of his favorite compositions including “The Brick Layer’s Beautiful Daughter”, “Processional”, and “The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit”. It brings back fond memories of browsing around a local record shop in the early 80s when I first heard the beautiful refrains of Passage (1981) flowing through the sound system, a moment which I can say in retrospect single-handedly shifted my perspective on listening to instrumental music for decades to come. Seeing Will’s music on Bandcamp makes me hopeful that an even wider audience will now be able to discover and enjoy his work.