2020 in Review: Electroacoustic & Experimental Folk

A musical edgeland where ambient and modern classical minimalism co-exists with acoustic, folk, electronics, and field recordings...

Andrew Tuttle – Alexandra


Link: https://room40.bandcamp.com/album/alexandra

Luminous instrumentals from the antipodes by songwriter, composer, & musician Andrew Tuttle as he reflects musically on growing up in Brisbane Australia’s Alexandra Hills. Effortlessly cycling from painterly acoustic soundscapes to scampering runs on banjo & guitar and back again with splashes of color added by pedal steel, piano, strings and horns from guest contributors including Chuck Johnson, Tony Dupe, Sarah Spencer, and Gwenifer Raymond. The joy extends to the companion EP Alexandra Variations which offers four tracks of bonus, extended, and reworked material.

Released on limited edition CD and digital

Claire Deak & Tony Dupé – the old capital

[Lost Tribe Sound]

Link: https://deakdupe.bandcamp.com/album/the-old-capital-2

Melbourne musicians Claire Deak & Tony Dupé describe themselves as “two composers create an intimate domestic symphony in the hours their son sleeps” and a home orchestra well-suited for late night rambling”. Indeed, their charmingly eclectic arrangements feature a veritable menagerie of instruments from piano, accordion, harp, organ, woodwinds, horns, percussion, and voice to almost anything with strings you can name including violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, charango, mandolin, ukulele, and banjo. A charming debut that makes for fine company in the still hours.

Released on limited edition CD with art book and digital download

Federico Durand – Alba


Link: https://federicodurand.bandcamp.com/album/alba

Alba is the Spanish word for the moment when the first light of day appears and provides the prompt for a collection of poems & sketches by Argentinian sound artist Federico Durand that capture the essence of the dawn seen through the eyes of a child. Few artists are capable of creating sounds as serene and delicate as these. The presentation on this from 12k is exceptional as well from the cover art by Emer Tumilty to the translucent blue vinyl LP; as mesmerizing to look at as it is to listen to.

Released on limited edition blue vinyl LP & digital

Federico Mosconi – Il Tempo Della Nostra Estate

[Slowcraft Records]

Link: https://slowcraft.bandcamp.com/album/il-tempo-della-nostra-estate

Inaugurating Slowcraft Records excellent Lifelines album series this year is this gem from composer and guitarist Federico Mosconi. Entirely consistent with his wonderful work on Sails (Unknown Tone Records) which appeared on the Ambient & Drone list, but skewing a little more toward to the pastoral, acoustic side of the spectrum so as to end up here, IlTempo Della Nostra Estate (‘the time of our summer‘) is a hazy, bucolic dream the Italian countryside.

Digital release only

Francis M. Gri – The Ropes

[Slowcraft Records]

Link: https://slowcraft.bandcamp.com/album/the-ropes

Book-ending the Lifelines series on the concluding side is another Italian artist and founder of the Krysalisound label, Francis M. Gri, with a tenderly introspective six song opus reflecting on “the regret found in the knots and divisions caused by our missteps. A carefully tended garden of fragile and empathetic sounds.

Digital release only

The Green Kingdom – Residence on Earth

[Past Inside the Present]

Link: https://pitp.bandcamp.com/album/residence-on-earth

A particularly poignant release from Michael Cottone, aka The Green Kingdom, which finds him processing loss and reflecting on growing older while drawing inspiration from Pablo Neruda‘s book of poetry by the same name. Gently tracing an arc from “Dawn” to “Dusk”, Cottone pays particular attention to guitar lines and textures on this record, giving them ample space to radiate the blue melancholia of the music with a potent subtlety.

Released on limited edition cassette & digital

Illuminine – Baptism in Solitude

[Ferryhouse Productions]

Link: https://illumininemusic.bandcamp.com/album/baptism-of-solitude

Until now, each Illuminine album has featured other musicians as either ensemble performers or in the role of creating new interpretations and reworks. At the core of it all, however, has always been Kevin Imbrechts’ dulcet guitar lines and introspective style of composition and for Baptism in Solitude he isolates himself to just these elements. Immersed in the simplicity, sincerity, and sheer unadulterated beauty of these songs created in isolation, we emerge soothed and consoled.

Released on limited edition CD and digital download

Ishamael Cormack – Ammil


Link: https://krysalisound.bandcamp.com/album/ammil

British sound artist Ishmael Cormack had quite a year in 2020 with four albums released on as many different labels. This lovely spring release on Krysalisoud was recorded in a 13th century church building in his home town of Somerset. Ammil comprises six improvised sketches in which Cormack experiments with polyrhtyms using tape loops, electronics, and found sounds with prominent use of acoustic & electric guitar. Sonorous yet delicate, every element feels perfectly weighted and separated to create a sense of balance and harmony.

Released on limited edition vinyl replica CD and digital

Martyn Heyne – Open Lines

[Tonal Institute]

Link: https://martynheyne.bandcamp.com/album/open-lines

This dazzling follow up to 2017’s Electric Intervals by the Berlin-based guitarist, composer, & producer is a mosaic of uniquely conceived songs meant to be experienced as a singular multi-faceted journey. In addition to the electric, acoustic, 12-string, and classical guitars, Heyne also plays piano, synthesizer, bass, and other instruments on the record and features guest performances by Tatu Rönkkö on drums and Anne Müller on cello.

Each piece in Open Lines is conceived like a chapter of a book or a scene in a film. It’s a journey and I try to tell it in full, concisely, and without repeating anything unnecessarily. To work on one track without considering the whole picture would not have occurred to me. It is one big arch from the opening until the last page.” – Martyn Heyne

Released on vinyl LP and digital

Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders

[Ghostly International]

Link: https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/album/silver-ladders

Already established as one of the more unique and compelling artistic voices in instrumental music, harpist Mary Lattimore finds still new avenues to explore by teaming up with Slowdive’s Neil Halstead who produced her new record and added layers of guitar to her wayfaring compositions inspired by the Cornish landscape, the sea, and tales & stories she encountered. Shimmering and evocative with more than a touch of the mysterious.

Released on CD and digital and 3 vinyl LP editions – black, silver, and ‘silver star

Michael Grigoni & Stephen Vitiello- Slow Machines


Link: https://12kmusic.bandcamp.com/album/slow-machines

Slow Machines brings together 12k veteran Stephen Vitiello from Richmond, Virginia and label newcomer Michael Grigoni currently based in Durham, North Carolina. With Vitiello providing digital & analog sampling, field recordings, and Ebow guitar and Grigoni on dobro, lap steel, and pedal steel guitars, the music of these two artists intertwines like translucent golden threads in a collection of impressionistic pieces inspired by the kinetic sculptures of artist Arthur Ganson – “a series of new sonic machines that morph and evolve over the bending, lulling tones of the steel guitars.” as the label aptly puts it.

Released digitally along with a limited edition photo booklet (currently sold out)

Mute Forest – Riderstorm

[Lost Tribe Sound]

Link: https://muteforest.bandcamp.com/album/riderstorm

A bittersweet record for Kael Smith aka Mute Forest to make, but one of disarming honesty and beauty for the listener. Rooted in sketches and fragments recorded during a painful period following the loss of his father to alcohol abuse in 2017, the album was finally realized with careful attention to arrangements and recording methods that allow Smith’s lucid guitar lines and vulnerable vocals to resonate with crystal clarity.

“There are songs on here I wish my father could hear…and there are also songs and lyrics I would have never written had he not passed. I’ve always felt music can be a teleport and there are songs on here that can teleport me to when he was alive. The hope is the album can teleport someone else out there  somewhere beautiful too.” – Kael Smith

Released on limited edition CD, vinyl LP, and digital

Ralph Kinsella- The Lessening

[8D Industries]

Link: https://ralphkinsella.bandcamp.com/album/lessening-2

A musical exploration of what guitarist & composer Ralph Kinesella refers to as the liminal fringe spaces where rural and semi-rural Scotland meet its urban areas. Drawing on his background in lo-fi indie rock & shoegaze while stretching into more obscure sonic territories, Kinsella creates a sort of musical edgeland where abstract soundscapes are juxtaposed with beautiful melodic shapes and the reassuring thrum of acoustic & electric guitars.

Released on digital only

Sebuckthorn- Through a Vulnerable Occur


Link: https://iikki.bandcamp.com/album/through-a-vulnerable-occur

Acoustic guitarist & multi-instrumentalist Andy Cartwright aka Seabuckthorn is known for his unique use of resonator guitar and finger picking & bowing techniques combined with various open tunings to create exotic sounds that reside somewhere between primitive folk and cinematic ambient music. Through A Vulnerable Occur is his contribution to IIKKI Books which pairs a music album with a hardcover art book from a visual artist, in this case Melbourne based photographer Sophie Gabrielle. Worth noting the label was founded by Mathias Van Eecloo whose Eilean Rec. label saw the release of Seabuckthorn’s Crossing last year.

Released on limited edition CD and 80-page hardcover art book w/photos by Sophie Gabrielle

Tomotsugu Nakamura – Literature


Link: https://laaps-records.com/album/literature

A musician and graphic designer residing in Tokyo, Tomotsugu Nakamura composes music with fragments of minimal acoustic & electronic tones and field recordings. His contribution to the Laaps Records project is an aesthetically pleasing exercise in sonic pointillism, a discreetly minimal collage of tactile, organic sounds that exudes harmony and balance.

Released on limited edition CD and limited yellow vinyl LP as well as digital download

Zoltan Fecso – Daylight in an Empty Room


Link: https://whitelabrecs.bandcamp.com/album/daylight-in-an-empty-room

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Zoltan Fecso grew up in Budapest, studying classical piano from an early age and then discovering a fascination for electroacoustic music while at university. More recently he developed an interest in pointillism and applying its artistic concept to composing and performing music. On this beautiful set of restrained solo guitar improvisations he captures coruscating fragments of notes in various shapes and patterns with mesmerizing effect.

Released on limited edition CD and digital