Christopher Willits is an artist, teacher, musician, and guitarist based in San Francisco who has a diverse catalog of over 25 releases to his credit and has collaborated with such illustrious names in the field as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Taylor Deupree, and Tycho. He is also the founder of a nonprofit audio platform called Envelop which empowers 3D listening experiences through a combination of immersive sound venues and open-source audio production tools. Willits will be employing these himself to bring performances of his forthcoming new album Sunset to live audiences. The album will be released June 14 by Ghostly International with which he has had a long association. The music on the record has a simple but profound objective.
“One of the core artists on Ghostly since its inception, the ambient artist’s compositions on Sunset move from warm to cool, designed as a soundtrack to embrace the day’s end; a collective letting go. Willits presents his latest work with the simple instructions: “Begin the music 15 minutes before the sun sets.”
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For their latest record entitled It Billows Up, Brooklyn-based avant music trio Sontag Shogun sought to capture the essence of their live performances on record through the use of collaborative techniques and modular compositions they had developed while on tour in Europe, Japan, & North America in 2016/17. The end result is a kaleidoscopic pastiche of music and sound, an au courant panorama of compositional and improvisational elements blended with foley art and human theater into a singular hypnagogic narrative by the band’s three members – Ian Temple (piano), Jesse Perlstein (electronically treated vocals, field recordings), and Jeremy Young (analog oscillators, reel-to-reel tape loops, and beats made only with contact mic’d objects & surfaces).
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My first introduction to Josh Mason‘s music was Hellified Irie (2015, FET Press), a work that used journal writing, inventive sound design, and a meditative riff on 60’s era surf music to recreate the “constant hum” and hazy torpor of Florida summers past through a nostalgic lens. It exemplified the personal nature of Mason’s music and his collagic style which relies on analog and digital sources to “examine themes of family, community, mental health and location”. This was something that was both instantly captivating and a refreshing departure from the remote landscapes and heavy atmospherics for which so many ambient artists have a propensity.
Mason brings a similar approach to his newest record entitled Coquina Dose. The album was released this past March on the Florabelle imprint, but it plays particularly well in summer given the subtropical setting.
“Coquina Dose is the book on your nightstand under a lamp with a 40 watt bulb. It’s driving alone at night up and down the strip looking for a pool to crash. It’s the endless lights of luxury, hotels, oceanfront dining. It’s dogs barking, the wind off the water, dead friends, and sunsets that are no longer free. Everything humming, everything buzzing. It’s a new day, in the same circuit. Short interesting rides, followed by a loss of momentum. Notes of grass, lychee, pineapple, burnt sugar.” – Josh Mason
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Located near the pine forests of southern Mississippi, Laurel was founded in the 19th century as a lumber town and has produced a number of notable actors & musicians in the modern era including opera singer Leontyne Price. It is also here we find talented musician & composer Jameson Nathan Jones quietly doing some really lovely work that fans of modern classical and ambient music will no doubt appreciate. His latest album is a gorgeous foray into the blending of organic elements (piano, cello, and the human voice) with electronics and manipulated tape loops which Jones dubbed Static Deviations.
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“Sallaw” is a Kurdish word that expresses the passing of time and this album by the same name finds three distinctive instrumental artists collaborating seamlessly to explore this theme across four compositional soundscapes, each one named after a month representative of the changing seasons – Xakelêw (spring), Pûşper (summer), Gelarêzan (fall), Rêbendan (winter). The group, made up of Porya Hatami (Sanandaj, Iran), Aaron Martin (Topeka, Kansas), and Robert Attanasio (Rome, Italy), is a seemingly unlikely trio, yet upon hearing the music it is hard to conceive of this coming together as anything less than meant to be.
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Atsuhito Omori has been making nostalgia-tinged instrumental music as Ex Confusion for the better part of a decade now and will be soon be making his third appearance on the n5MD label with ‘I Remember When’. This will be the first of his albums to see a vinyl release which seems apropos given its highly ephemeral qualities which are ideally suited to the format.
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As the polar vortex plunges the northern hemisphere into a deep freeze it seems the right time to visit A Certain Grief, the latest opus from Danish collage artist and musician Paw Grabowski aka øjeRum. It is an album that was literally recorded with gloved hands in the cold as he explains himself:
“All sounds are recorded at my girlfriends parents house. They live remote in the country side and have a really old pump organ in the living room. It’s a really old house and in winter they only heat up this room for special occasions. I recorded this two winters ago in freezing cold, with gloves on and candle light. All background sounds are the actual sounds that were in the house while recording; the creaking chair, the crackling and pumping of the organ, the everyday noises of the family talking and working in the kitchen next door. “ – Paw Grabowski
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Any composer who develops their work over a period of years is inevitably going to end up with musical fragments that don’t make it onto a finished album. They could be tracks that were dropped due to the constraints of a physical release. Maybe they needed to be cut or altered to serve the overall narrative. Or, maybe they are simply diamonds in the rough, awaiting refinement and context before they can shine. But, sometimes what ends up on the cutting room floor can tell its own story and so it is with the latest release from Edinburgh-based musician & composer Graham Richardson as Last Days which features fourteen pieces culled from the twelve years during which he created such understated cinematic gems as Seafaring, Satellite, and The Safety of the North.
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Dutch musician & filmmaker Sjors Mans has quietly released some really lovely recordings over the past 2 years. These include various of sketches & singles on his Soundcloud page, a solo album entitled Dauw on 1631 Recordings, and an improvisational collaboration from his Amsterdam studio with Fabian Rosenberg (aka Klangriket) last year on Piano and Coffee Records. It is to this label he returns with a his new solo record Noord, a graceful and eloquent ode to the desire to create simply, instinctively, and without pretense.
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