2022 in Review: Electroacoustic, Folk, and Jazz

This is a category I especially enjoy each year for its variety, eclecticism, and nomadic spirit. Here is a selection of memorable releases from the musical edge lands where electroacoustic music and field recordings meet folk, jazz, and other analog experiments in sound.

Andrew Tuttle – Fleeting Adventure

Info: https://andrewtuttle.bandcamp.com/album/fleeting-adventure

Andrew Tuttle is a skilled musician and composer who has carved out a unique sonic space blending banjo and six-string guitar with processed electronics and a penchant for far-ranging collaborations. His album Fleeting Adventure is presented as a “cosmic trip into subtropical landscapes”, an apt description for its delightfully wayfaring blend of country, ambient, and atmospheric music. It boasts a stellar list of guest musicians as well including Steve GunnChuck JohnsonTony Dupé, Michael A. Mueller of Balmorhea and members of Padang Food Tigers.

Fleeting Adventure is available digitally and on limited edition CD or vinyl LP by Basin Rock

Birds in the Brickwork – Recovery

Info: https://digital.waysideandwoodland.com/album/recovery

The first of two Wayside & Woodland releases featured here that comprise solo albums from the respective members of the duo that makes up English post-rock band epic45 and runs the label. With a name inspired by the discovery of starlings nesting in the wall of a flat, Birds in the Brickwork is Ben Holton‘s side project and he wrote & recorded Recovery last year while recuperating from a serious back problem. With an abundance of easygoing pastoral charm and shimmering guitars, the songs reflect his wanderings through the suburbs and forays into “isolated rural areas, industrial hinterlands and nowhere places”. 

Recovery is available digitally or CD with photobook which is in its third and very limited edition

Blue Divers – Blue Divers II

Info: https://bluedivers.bandcamp.com/album/blue-divers-ii

Blue Divers is a collective of musicians based in Thirroul, a seaside suburb of the city of Wollongong in New South Wales. Along with an expanded reissue of their 2020 debut this year, they added a brand-new second volume of music with the same improvisational spirit. Despite being a fairly large collective, it is a very patient sort of sonic impressionism that characterizes the music, only their brushes & oils come in the form of guitars, percussion, keys, vibraphone, flute and clarinet.

Blue Divers II and Blue Divers (Expanded Edition) are both available on limited edition vinyl as well as digital via Bedroom Suck Records

Blurstem & Elijah Bisbee – Geneva

Info: https://bigoandtwigetti.bandcamp.com/album/geneva

Sometimes you come across an album that just feels like home right from the first note – one you know you are going to keep close at hand and retreat into often. With its warm confluence of melody, mood, and texture and delicate blending of electroacoustic minimalism with cinematic flourish, Geneva by Chris Bartels, aka Blurstem, and Elijah Bisbee is that kind of record. First conceptualized in 2019 when Bisbee traveled to Minneapolis and set up a makeshift studio for a few days in Bartels’ living room, the album finally took shape several years later in the kitchen & dining room of an Airbnb aptly named “The Music Ranch” near Lake Geneva in the heart of a Wisconsin winter.

Geneva is available as a digital release from London-based Bigo & Twigetti featuring artwork by Sabatina Leccia.

Deniz Cuylan – Rings of Juniper

Info: https://hushhushrecords.bandcamp.com/album/rings-of-juniper

Having performed around the world from Istanbul, Stockholm, and New York to Los Angeles where has been creating scores for film and television, musician & composer Deniz Cuylan added ‘solo artist’ to his CV last year with the critically acclaimed No Such Thing as Free Will, a masterful blend virtuosic classical guitar with abstract expressionism and textural sound design. Rings of Juniper expands on that with an approach Cuylan describes as “Mediterranean Minimalism”, placing his pristine guitar prominently in the foreground while opening up space for piano, clarinet, and strings to add an abundance of color.

Rings of Juniper is available on vinyl LP and digital via Hush Hush Records, a label run by KEXP radio DJ Alex Ruder. The album features stunning artwork by Artwork by Hayal Pozanti.

Fred Baty – The Upper Air

Info: https://whitelabrecs.bandcamp.com/album/the-upper-air

Fred Baty is a guitarist and ambient musician based in Bristol, UK. All the songs that appear on his album The Upper Air were originally written as part of a self-imposed challenge during the first Covid lockdown in 2020 in which he decided to try writing and recording a minute of music every day for 30 days. Produced in a “a swelteringly hot shed” using acoustic & electric guitars, cuatro, and lap steel and accompanied by a bit of incidental birdsong, the fruits of Baty’s labors prove sweet indeed. Mellifluous tones and skillful playing abound steeped as Baty spins a web of calm, pastoral beauty.

The Upper Air is available now from Whitelabrecs as part of their eRecords series of digital-only releases which comes with a PDF scrapbook and features artwork by Dave Watts.

Harry Towell and Guy Gelem- Restful Spaces

Info: https://polarseasrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/restful-spaces

A collaboration between two fathers-to-be separated by over 2000 miles, Restful Spaces makes an eloquent case for the universality of musical expression and its ability to connect people. The album was created by composer & sound artist Harry Towell (aka Spheruleus) based in Lincolnshire, UK and Israeli cellist/guitarist/composer Guy Gelem during the period each was awaiting the birth of a daughter. Each piece is a lucid dream softly shaded, shimmering, and lovingly etched with delicate filigree.

Restful Spaces is now available digitally and in a limited CD edition from Polar Seas Recordings

Jamie Stillway – Lullaby for a Stranger

Info: https://jamiestillway.bandcamp.com/album/lullaby-for-a-stranger

A poignant “letter in sound” from Portland-based guitarist Jamie Stillway, Lullaby for a Stranger was inspired by the solitary journey taken 70 years ago by a pregnant woman driving alone from Minnesota to Oregon to deliver her unborn daughter and give her up for adoption. That baby grew up to give birth to a daughter of her own 30 years later whom she left at 6 months old. The women, as it turns out, were Jamie’s mother and grandmother. Demonstrating the same pristine guitar work and gift for melodic warmth shown on earlier works like City Static (2018), Stillway unwinds these strands of grief and loss with a sympathetic tenderness that quietly captivates.

Lullaby for a Stranger is available from Fluff and Gravy Records digitally and in two vinyl LP editions featuring artwork by Kasana Holden

Jasmine Myra – Horizons

Info: https://jasminemyra.bandcamp.com/album/horizons

A nominee for Jazz FM’s Breakthrough Act of the Year award, Jasmine Myra is a saxophonist, composer and band leader based in Leeds who makes her debut on the label supported by an ensemble of talented young musicians from the north of England. Among her influences is the late Kenny Wheeler whose work was once described as “clear, relaxed and lyrical”, a phrase one could easily apply to the euphonious, uplifting music of Horizons. It is a vibrant record that is as cerebral as it is free-spirited and permeated with a positive vibe that welcomes the listener along for the ride across a broad sonic spectrum from painterly vignettes to euphoric jams.

Horizons is available on CD, digital, and two vinyl LP variations from Gondwana Records

Lullatone – Shapes & Time

Info: https://lullatone.bandcamp.com/album/shapes-time

Making music together as Lullatone, Shawn James Seymour & Yoshimi Seymour create utterly charming homespun sounds. On Shapes & Time, they add element of experimentation and improvisation as they developed it over the course of a year recording one song each month. Available on its own or bundled with the CD is a 32-page ‘zine’ with essays about the recording process (underwater microphones, sand placed over speaker cones, etc.), guitar tabs, sheet music, illustrations and more.

Pan American – The Patience Fader

Info: https://panamerican.bandcamp.com/album/the-patience-fader

On the vanguard of the American experimental music scene since the late 90s, Mark Nelson, aka Pan American, is as masterful as one would hope for on this collection of guitar instrumentals accented with lap steel, harmonica, and ambient treatments. To describe the music, it would be hard to top Brian Eno’s succinct observation offered from backstage at a London show years ago – “Duane Eddy playing Erik Satie.” Or perhaps we can take Nelson’s own perspective offered in the album’s liner notes, that of “lighthouse music…a signal to help others through rocks and dangerous currents.”

The Patience Fader is available on CD, digital, and vinyl LP from Kranky

Part Timer – Interiority Complex

Info: https://parttimer.bandcamp.com/album/interiority-complex

As Part Timer, Melbourne-based musician John McCaffrey put out a good deal of music just prior to the stumbling beginnings of this blog a little over a decade ago, and it is clearly my loss for having only just discovered it now. Interiority Complex is welcoming collection of off-kilter, folk-tinged vignettes full of interesting tones & textures, as on “A Pointed Remark”, and beautiful neoclassical miniatures like “A Guest” and closer “Bye”.

Interiority Complex is available as a digital release which comes with a PDF book containing AI generated artwork when purchased via Bandcamp 

Ralph Kinsella – In the Lives that Surround You

Info: https://ralphkinsella.bandcamp.com/album/in-the-lives-that-surround-you

Ralph Kinsella is a guitarist, composer & electronic musician who hails from Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland’s Southern Uplands. Building out from the “poetics of the bedroom” approach of Lessening (2020), Kinsella gets more expansive with his sound that fuses layers of guitar with harmonium, voice, field recordings, and notes from his grandmother’s piano. Seeking to explore “fragility through the vulnerability of instrumentation”, Kinsella injects plenty of warmth and emotion in the mix to create something quite unique and compelling.

In the Lives That Surround You is available as a digital release from 8D industries

Seabuckthorn – Of No Such Place

Info: https://laaps-records.com/album/of-no-such-place

Used traditionally, the resonator guitar instantly adds an earthiness and authentic Americana flavor to almost any piece of music. In the hands of Andy Cartwright (aka Seabuckthorn) however it is something else entirely. Of No Such Place finds him again combining his guitars with clarinet, tongue drum, cymbals, effects to conjure up a new collection of tactile soundscapes that are as rugged as they are imaginative.

Of No Such Place is available on hand-numbered limited CD or vinyl editions as well as digital from Laaps Records

Svaneborg Kardyb – Over Tage

Link: https://svaneborgkardyb.bandcamp.com/album/over-tage

Svaneborg Kardyb are the multi award-winning Danish duo of Nikolaj Svaneborg (Wurlitzer, Juno, piano) and Jonas Kardyb (drums, percussion) based in Aarhus, Denmark. The by-product of fruitful early morning sessions caffeinated with “the blackest of coffee”, Over Tage (‘over roofs’) draws on both Danish folk music and Scandinavian jazz influences, their music is a nimble blend of catchy grooves & melodies with organic textures and tasteful electronica. Their minimalistic approach leaves ample space for improvisation and for the joy of playing together to shine through and leave its imprint on the listener. 

Over Tage is available on CD, digital, and two vinyl LP variations from Gondwana Records. For more about Svaneborg Kardyb, be sure to check out our interview from earlier this month right here.

Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola – Open

Info: https://hushhushrecords.bandcamp.com/album/open

Prior to connecting on social media a little over a year ago, Tapani Rinne and Juha Mäki-Patola were strangers despite both being active players in the Finnish music community for years. Tapani’s career as a saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer on commissioned and collaborative works as well as solo releases dates back to the mid-1980s while Juha has been blazing his own path over the past decade from musician, band member, & producer to neoclassical composer. Developed during a 3 month long “creative burst” that spanned the transition of winter into spring in Finland, Open is an entrancing record in which the two artists explore the intersection of compositional ambient music and cool, contemplative Nordic jazz.

Open is available on CD, digital, and a currently sold-out cassette edition from Hush Hush Records

Tomotsugu Nakamura – Nothing Left Behind

Info: https://laaps-records.com/album/nothing-left-behind

Tokyo-based musician and graphic designer Tomotsugu Nakamura makes an encore appearance on Laaps Records with this fascinating exercise in electroacoustic minimalism. As previously noted, the label follows an ‘exquisite corpse’ motif in which each artist starts out by incorporating elements fragments of sound from the closing track of the album that preceded their own. This works especially well as the outro of Taylor Deupree’s Harbor is an ideal segue into Nakamura’s elegant sonic pointillism which centers around tactile, organic sounds that exude harmony and balance. 

Nothing Left Behind is available on hand-numbered limited CD or vinyl editions as well as digital from Laaps Records

The Toy Library – Vignettes for May

Info: https://digital.waysideandwoodland.com/album/vignettes-for-may

Another solo project from the duo that makes up epic45, The Toy Library is Rob Glover. Vignettes for May is his instrumental reflection upon “family, place and a period of personal trauma” utilizing guitar loops, piano and violin processed to tape. The mood is melancholic and introspective, but there is much consoling beauty in the bittersweet melodies and dulcet guitar tones that evoke his work with both epic45 and July Skies.

Vignettes for May is available digitally, but the limited CD with photo booklet is currently sold out.

Vega Trails – Tremors in the Static

Info: https://vegatrails.bandcamp.com/album/tremors-in-the-static

Vega Trails is a new project formed by double-bassist & composer Milo Fitzpatrick (Portico Quartet) and saxophonist Jordan Smart (Mammal Hands, Sunda Arc). The project takes its name from Carl Sagan’s science fiction novel ‘Contact’ was born out of a desire to bring the elements of bass and melody to the foreground in their rawest form. The journey began during the lockdown period with Fitzpatrick immersing himself in music that had “space and sparseness” such as Swedish fiddle music and Indian Classical, but we learn that it was only after listening to a Charlie Haden album of duets that Vega Trails came into focus as a duo. The fluidity of the musical dialogue that develops between Fitzpatrick’s viscerally expressive bass and Smart’s dazzling peregrinations on tenor & soprano sax, bass clarinet, and Ney flute make Tremors in the Static a captivating and deeply engaging record.

Tremors in the Static is available on CD, digital, and two vinyl LP variations from Gondwana Records

Wickerbird – The Sea Weaver

Info: https://wickerbird.bandcamp.com/album/the-sea-weaver

Wickerbird is the atmospheric dream-folk project of Blake Cowan rooted in the beauty of the wild foothills of Mt. Rainier. Palpably haunting and deeply autumnal, his sound is characterized by lush finger-picked guitar and choir-like vocals steeped in allegory and metaphor. First announced in 2017 and seven years after the release of The Leaf Maker (2015), The Sea Weaver proves worth the wait. The mastering touch of Taylor Deupree and a sprinkling of more direct hummable tunes such as “Little Weavings”, “The Lamplighter” show that Cowan has been honing his craft and cultivating new ideas during his fallow period and the album is replete with subtle touches that reward repeated listening.

The Sea Weaver is available via Lost Tribe Sound in a limited CD edition accompanied by a digital booklet of lyrics and additional artwork