What exactly is “cinematic folk”? A good way to answer that question would be to have a listen to Landscapes, the latest solo release by Oakland-based composer, producer, & multi-instrumentalist Jacob Montague. The album, which flows more like a suite than a collection of songs, oozes pastoral charm with scene-setting atmospheres and a strong narrative flow propelled by a keen sense of rhythm given a wide-screen context by clever integration of lush electronics, strings, and bold percussive elements.
When I first heard instrumental trio Square Peg Round Hole was making an ambient record, I was expecting a conventional approach – rework the same melodic constructs of their prior albums while losing the drums, lowering the volume, and slowing the pace. That would have been a pleasant enough affair to be sure, but for a band that prides itself on sheer inventiveness, I should have known to expect more. Five Years traverses quite a bit of previously unexplored sonic territory for the band as they show a penchant for developing beguiling, color saturated soundscapes, densely layered and studded with subtle glitch elements and a plethora of vocal & abstract percussive textures.
Guitar loops drawn in long, slow arcs across a crepe-thin curtain of sound and a backdrop of pastoral field recordings. Never claustrophobic, there is ample room to move & breathe among these temperate and mellifluous drones and ample time to ponder as they slow time to a lethargic ebb. The comfort of light in a dark room. This is A Persistent Lack of Ambition by Duister, aka Carlos Maquieira released earlier this year on El Muelle Records, a label based in Málaga, Spain. Was the poetic stanza cited in the liner notes cite inspiration for the music or is it a guidepost for listening? Perhaps both. In any case, this is a lovely opus that is easy on the ear and stimulating to the mind.
My story begins very simply: I could speak and I was happy.
Or: I could speak, thus I was happy.
Or: I was happy, thus speaking.
I was like a bright light passing through a dark room.
(Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night)
The sensation of floating weightless and carefree in lilting currents beneath an azure sky and a blazing sun casting webs of light on the sea floor below. Hours to drift, to explore, to gaze at the expanse of endless horizons or muse on what lurks in dark places or teems among the cloudy depths. There is no time nor age here in the midst of this collage of youthful memories fashioned from warm aqueous drones and marine sounds.
The reassuring steady hum of soft drones, temperate in mood, weightless as if held aloft on gentle air currents; permeable to texture and filigree; slowly turning to catch shimmering glints of light; calm; harmonious. A salve for the ears and a balm for the soul. These are the things that come to mind listening to Constellate by artist & musician Steve Pacheco which he recorded in Santa Fe and Los Angeles. Understated and beautifully crafted, it is an excellent an inspiration to moments of reflection and an excellent companion to working in solitude.
Reprising their partnership on 2015’s Bridges of the South, Black Hill (Csarnogurszky István, aka musicformessier) and Cousin Silas take us on another binate ambient guitar journey through bucolic and atmospheric soundscapes this time inspired by England’s picturesque Teesdale region.
Part of the Spring 2017 series and the most recent addition to the Eilean Rec. catalog is a first-time collaboration between Belgian musician & Slaapwel Records curator Stijn Hüwels and American composer & sound artist Danny Clay. It turns out to be an inspired pairing in a wonderfully understated kind of way as Hüwels somnambulent guitar-loop minimalism finds a perfect complement in Clay’s delicate electroacoustic ephemera fashioned from turntables, sine waves, and celesta.
The release of a new album by Sophie Hutchings to coincide with Piano Day 2017 has been one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. Having beguiled us with the dreamy abstractions of Wide Asleep (Preservation) which only came out last summer, Yonder finds Sophie in a more ebullient mood as radiant melodies ripple and flow from her piano with pure élan.
There always been something quite personal in the music of Clem Leek. Trained as a pianist from a young age and now a developed into a composer, sound artist, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist, he has drawn heavily on his surroundings and life experiences from the very start; consider the misty, overcast reflections of growing up in England on Holly Lane (2010) and the intimate piano & guitar based sketches of Lifenotes (2011) and Rest (2013). The past year has apparently been on one of significant change for Leek and this is reflected in his latest opus and third studio album entitled America.
“America is a reflection of Clem’s personal transition from Europe to the U.S. Each track refers to new experiences, both information and sensory. Moving from the countryside to the city brought about a plethora of new friends, landscapes and routines and this is reflected in the new styles, instruments and techniques that have bled into the album. “
Hailing from Northwestern Pennsylvania, instrumental quartet Heron arrive like a rush of fresh mountain air on the post rock scene with You Are Here Now, a magnificent debut album bursting with melodic invention, infectious energy, and arrangements that demonstrate meticulous attention to space, tone, and texture.
Francesco Giannico‘s latest album presents itself as “an unlikely acoustic bio-marine chronotope through a collaborative mode”. The collaborative aspect is the incorporation of sound samples collected from participants around the world, a concept that worked a treat on Agoraphonia (2016, Dronarivm) but with a change in focus from the urban to the aquatic. Giannico then takes these samples and weaves them into complete and immersive soundscapes that exist in a time & space of his imagining, e.g. a chronotope albeit a musical rather than literary one.
Last year, classically-trained composer, musician, and sound designer Madeleine Cocolas released her debut album entitled Cascadia, but it was no nascent work. Rather it was a stunning distillation of sounds and ideas drawn from a project where she created new music weekly over the course of a year. Prior to that she composed a new live score for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film The Birds and worked on a variety of multidisciplinary projects with numerous choreographers, musicians, and visual artists as well as being a music supervisor for a number of award-winning Australian television programs. That is a lot of creative momentum and it continues unabated with her exciting new EP Lunar about to be released by Seattle-based Self Center Records.