Chiehei Hatakeyama – Mirage [Room40]

The inspiration for Chihei Hatakeyama’s Mirage came during a trip to Turkey taken by the artist about five years ago. The diverse & exotic architectures, streets, bazaars, and waterways were no doubt a feast for the eyes, but it was what Hatakeyama heard with his keen musical ear that spurred the creation of the new album. Framed as “a meditation on the phenomenology of music and architecture” it explores the way sound is shaped and influenced as it traverses and mingles with the surrounding structures.

“Walking through the labyrinthian bazaars of Turkey, Hatakeyama took inspiration from the way sounds emerged and decayed within those spaces. Looking to replicate these experiences in the creation of the album, he developed a series of new processes and transformations that expanded his approach to textural music.”

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Travelogue 2017.05.31: Spotlight on Polar Seas Recordings

Toronto based Polar Seas Recordings was founded a little over five years ago and for most of that time has primarily served as a home for the releases of Brad Deschamps & Mike Abercrombie as North Atlantic Drift as well as their respective side projects anthéne and Transits of Mercury. In the past year however, the label has released no less than eleven albums, matching the output of the first four years put together while expanding their roster of artists and encompassing a broader sonic palette. Here is a roundup of some the most recent and recommended. 

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Pausal – Avifaunal [Dronarivm]

Imagine the textured, aerated drones of Sky Margin (Own Records, 2013) and the pastoral romanticism of Along the Mantic Spring (Infraction, 2014) fused into a single amalgam and then elevated into a dazzling, symphonic edifice of sound. Avifaunal is the brand new lush and expansive musical narrative created by Alex Smalley (aka Olan Mill) and Simon Bainton under their collaborative moniker of Pausal now out on Dronarivm. The grandiosity of the new record has its origins in a live performance a couple of years prior at a venue which invited experimentation on a large sonic scale.

In 2015 the band were asked by Martin Boulton of Touched Music to perform in Pembrokeshire, Wales and set about generating new material for the show. It was also an opportunity to develop a new equipment setup including looped turntable, voice microphones and synths. A local hall was hired for improvisation and practice sessions which provided an interesting sonic space to explore and possibilities to work at far louder volumes, both of which helped shape the eventual live set and the track “Murmuration” as that is represented here. “Spiral”, “Scatter” and “Soar” were also edited and assembled from the recording sessions around this time.

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Sound Impression: A Persistent Lack of Ambition by Duister [El Muelle]

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)

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Sound Impression: Constellate by Steve Pacheco [Dauw]

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.

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Sound Impression: An Unintended Space by Stijn Hüwels & Danny Clay

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.

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Lowercase Noises – The Swiss Illness

It is hard to believe it has been three years since the last full-length Lowercase Noises album.  Chalk part of that up to the ever-increasing speed with which time in general seems to pass these days and the rest up to Andy Othling’s constant efforts to stay in touch with his fans, put on live performances, and regularly share new EPs, improvisations, and videos. But you have to go back to 2014’s This Is For Our Sins to find an album as immersive and conceptually integrated as The Swiss Illness which will be releasing in May.  The theme once is again is a somber one, but the post rock, vocal, and folk elements that served well in telling the tragic story of Russia’s Lykov family give way to a more  contemplative, modern classical leaning style that suits a highly emotional exploration of the emotion of nostalgia even as he exposes the very origins of the word.

I wanted this album to be about death, but it didn’t fit. Instead I expanded on the idea of loss and made it about nostalgia, which for me means the loss of things both large and small, both incredibly heavy and largely inconsequential. I experienced all those things in 2016, and as a result the only thing I could create was a minimal, slowly-evolving and (hopefully) beautiful dive into that feeling. Overlaid is the story and history behind the word “nostalgia”, which was coined by doctors studying Swiss mercenaries far away from home, and the physical ailments brought on by their feelings. – Andy Othling

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Travelogue 2016.04.21: Spotlight on Shimmering Moods Records

Shimmering Moods is a label based in Amsterdam that has already had a fruitful 2017 with a number of excellent limited edition CD releases and quite an international roster of artists. Featured here are recent works by Andrew Tasselmyer (USA), Snufmumriko (Sweden) , Rime Trails (Denmark), and Gallery Six (Japan). Also highly recommended are two albums featured on our 2016 year-in-review – Radio Sea’ by Adzuki and ‘Mothers Garden’ by Å Asher-Yates, a brand new reissue of ‘Naar Vi Vaagner’ by øjeRum, and a pair of works by Dimitar Dodovski, ‘Derive’ (2016) and ‘In Every Direction’ (2015). All releases can be found here on their Bandcamp site

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Travelogue 2017.04.18: Spotlight on Sound in Silence

Sound In Silence is a small DIY record label based in Athens, Greece that has been releasing limited editions presented in collectible handmade packaging since 2006.  Featured here are four of their most recent releases by moshimoss & stabiloanthéne, bvdub, and (ghost). I also recommend browsing through the rest of their Bandcamp catalog where you’ll find gems by artists such as Wil Bolton, Caught in the Wake Forever, Good Weather for an Airstrike, and North Atlantic Drift

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Leandro Fresco & Rafael Anton Irisarri – La Equidistancia [ASIP]

La Equidistancia (‘the equidistance’) is an extraordinarily apt title for the first-fruits of a newly formed creative partnership between Leandro Fresco and Rafael Anton Irisarri just released by A Strangely Isolated Place. It can be seen as a nod to the meeting of creative minds over long geographical distances (Fresco in Argentina and Irisarri in New York) but the album also intersects some musical and symbolic midpoints as it consummately strikes a balance between careful sound design and raw emotion, between melodic sensibility and textural aesthetics, and between melancholic reflection and purifying catharsis. In the sublime center of all of these things we find these six beautifully constructed, soul-searching instrumentals that are capable of forging a powerful human connection.

I really love that grainy aspect you can hear in the music, degraded in a way, like it’s been trough some rough patches (as both Lean and I have been through over the years)…There’s a lot of sadness and memories in the music. I feel that one most embrace this sadness and share it; make others know we are not so different; not alone in this world”. – Rafael Anton Irisarri

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Hotel Neon – Context [Fluid Audio]

Whoever said “don’t sweat the small stuff” surely was not talking about ambient music. When it comes to this genre, nuances can make all the difference between a bland listening experience and a compelling one. For an outstanding example of the latter, consider Context, the forthcoming third album by Hotel Neon, the Philadelphia-based trio of Michael Tasselmyer, Andrew Tasselmyer & Steven Kemner. Speaking of his own ambient music, Brian Eno once suggested that it should “accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular”, a characteristic very much on display here. It was the band’s choice on this record not to thrust any particular narrative on the listener but rather, as the album title suggests, to provide a context to which they could connect to their own.  Spend an hour or so with these warm, heavily textured crepuscular drones and you are likely to agree it is mission accomplished.

“Context is arguably the only thing that gives a song its meaning in the mind of a listener. The direct message of a track title has disappeared. Vague symbols have usurped them, unable as they are to contain any kind of subliminal message. As a result of this, the listener has been given a lot more freedom to interpret the music as they see fit – they put the ambient washes of sound into a context of their own making. ” – Fluid Audio

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Through a musical lens: øjeRum – He remembers there were gardens [KrysaliSound]

Originally released on cassette in 2013, Italian label KrysaliSound has remastered and reissued a mesmerizing long form composition by Danish collage artist & musician Paw Grabowski under his artistic pseudonym of øjeRum. An undulating, hypnagogic organ-based drone, He remembers there were gardens was conceived as an alternate soundtrack to the 1962 “photo-roman” (photo-novel) La Jetée by Chris Marker which is still recognized as a unique and highly influential experimental cinematic work

The film, presented in a series of stills, paints a dystopian vision of post-apocalyptic Paris where survivors live underground below the galleries of the Palais de Chaillot. Its protagonist is a man who is held captive and forced to travel time in a quest to find a source of energy to regenerate a decimated society. The man is chosen because of the power of his obsession with the past, specifically the allure of a fragmented, pre-war memory of a woman on the observation platform (“the jetty”) at Orly Airport and a tragic incident that occurs there which becomes the focal point of the story’s haunting denouement.

“Those familiar with the film with have no difficulty in recalling the flashes of a destroyed world, the status of the museum, and the moment on the platform. Even if you haven’t seen the film, the breathing of Grabowski’s organ will conjure similar images and moments. It fluctuates between the drifts and falls and the throb and hum of a person lost in time and place.” – KrysaliSound

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