yndi halda – A Sun-Coloured Shaker

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If yndi halda was in the market for a new tag line they might consider “no music before its time” (a riff on the 70’s era Orson Wells commercial for Paul Masson wine for any of our readers too young to remember). Consider their resplendent opus Under Summer (2016), which the band worked on over a nine-year span following 2007’s Enjoy Eternal Bliss, clear evidence of their patient willingness to take as long as necessary to nurture their music to the point they feel it is ready to put out into the world. The same can be said of their new single A Sun-Coloured Shaker. In fact, it was that extended period of slowly chipping away at the composition, arrangements, and production of the last record that left the band with what they refer to as “small pockets of music which [they] really loved but had no home for”.  One piece in particular they felt truly belonged with the album but simply needed more time to develop and so they lovingly tended the vine as best they could until the fruit was ready.

“We knew it had to be a part of the album eventually, but also that it needed more time. So, between tours and obligations for Under Summer, we met to continue writing, and we eventually reached our destination: an accompaniment to the album, a new song that tells the leftover stories. We see A Sun-Coloured Shaker as the passing of night that follows Under Summer’s day. The dawn after the album’s dusk has faded. We wanted to express the realization that something as simple and everyday as sunrise can be so truly life-giving. That the natural rhythm of nightfall and daybreak is a foundation of reality and being.” – yndi halda

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PREMIERE: Fragmentary Blue by Aukai

Aukai is a Hawaiian word for seafaring traveler or sailor, a suitable metaphor for the musical project of the same name from Markus Sieber conceived after a move from Europe to Mexico and born from his desire to create music that could work in tandem with film, video, theater and the visual arts. The distinctive sound that permeates the music of Aukai owes much to the love affair Sieber has cultivated with the ronroco, a stringed instrument of Andean origins recently popularized by film composer Gustavo Santaolalla.  The magic happens as the instrument’s brightly arpeggiated strings are deftly woven into expansive compositions fleshed out by an ensemble that includes cellist Anne Müller (Agnes Obel Band, Nils Frahm), violinist Bogdan Djukic, pianist Angelika Baumbach, keyboardist Alexander Nickmann, and longtime collaborator Jamshied Sharifi (Laurie Anderson, Sting, Dream Theater) .

It is a formula that received a warm & enthusiastic reception for Aukai’s self-titled 2016 debut and works a treat again on the forthcoming follow-up album Branches of Sun which began as a series of recordings made by Sieber during a retreat to a small cabin near the Old Spanish Trail in Colorado last winter far away from a world of human and technological distractions. Perhaps the mood is a bit more austere and contemplative this time as the pristine, remote atmosphere of the high-mountain country looms in the background, but the luminosity and nomadic spirit in the music remains irrepressible and life-affirming. For a taste of the new record, have a listen to the gorgeous interplay of cascading piano runs with the sun-soaked ronroco set off by warm swells and textures of cello that characterize “Fragmentary Blue” offered here in an exclusive premiere.

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Poppy Ackroyd – Resolve [One Little Indian]

Poppy_Ackroyd_Resolve_CoverWhen we got a chance to speak with Poppy Ackroyd this past summer, she was about to release Sketches, an album of solo piano reworks of material from her first two studio albums as well as pieces from an upcoming new work. Now that album has arrived, erasing any possible vestiges of doubt that she is one of the most innovative and exciting artists on the experimental classical scene and a truly distinctive artistic voice.

Resolve finds Poppy building and expanding upon her dynamic and percussive approach to playing the piano in ways both conventional and unconventional. It also find her collaborating in the studio for the first time with other musicians including Manu Delago (Bjork, Cinematic Orchestra, Anoushka Shankar) on hang, Mike Lesirge (Bonobo, Andreya Triana) on clarinets and flute, and Jo Quail on cello. It is a vibrant and mesmerizing record with a positive impetus behind it. 

“Resolve is about the determination to embrace the good things in life whilst dealing with unexpected and challenging difficulties. Finding the light in the dark, facing sadness and loss head on, and developing a growing inner strength.” – Poppy Ackroyd

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Dalot and Sound Awakener – Little Things [Fluid Audio]

One of the most unexpected and pleasant surprises of the year so far is a stunning new collaboration between a pair of sound artists from separate continents – Dalot (Maria Papadomanolaki), originally from Greece and currently based in London, and Sound Awakener (Nhung Nguyen) from Hanoi, Vietnam.  Imaginatively conceived and elegantly packaged, Little Things presents a pastiche of sonic artifacts and divergent personal narratives transfigured into wondrous inner landscapes that become wholly immersive for the listener.

It starts from ground-level interactions, field recordings of soundwalks in parks, on the streets, hydrophones in rivers and contact microphones on bridges and delicately moves to the ethereal…The album creates a journey for the listener; a journey of changes between the two artists’ lives; the changes in seasons, life-events, ordinary moments and creative processes that affected the perspectives and emotional states within which this album was produced. In ‘Little Things’ the two artists offer an adventurous exploration of internal landscapes through sound and memory, the light and shadow encountered within. – Fluid Audio

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Sound Impression: City Static by Jamie Stillway [Fluff and Gravy]

Since 2005 Jamie Stillway has self-released 3 full-length records of original compositions garnering accolades from the likes of Fretboard Journal and Jazz Times while drawing numerous lofty comparisons, but March of this year will bring us her first album of solo electric guitar recordings entitled City Static which finds the Portland based guitarist exploring contemplative ambient territory while deftly blending in classical, jazz, & melodic elements.

Stillway was inspired to record City Static in conjunction with her 40th birthday. An electric approach resonated with what she observed in the world around her; as she created space for silence in her life, the constant background noise of the city became more and more noticeable— a droning static hum that inspired [her] most experimental and compelling work to date. – Fluff and Gravy Records

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PREMIERE: The Maps They Held by Gray Acres

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Gray Acres is a new project from brothers Andrew & Michael Tasselmyer set to launch next month with the release of their self-titled debut album on Athens-based boutique label Sound in Silence.  The sound fits neatly and distinctly somewhere in between Andrew’s solitary field recording work and the more opaque and densely layered drones they create with guitarist Steven Kemner as Hotel Neon.  The watchword here is ‘stillness’ as the duo weave a diaphanous fabric of drones that undulate and swirl in translucent currents. There is a muted self-awareness in these pieces which is amplified by the clear presence of textural elements such as piano, guitar, or flowing water. Inexorably, one is drawn deeper and deeper into peaceful introspection.

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Video Premiere: Offers of Peace by Elskavon

When Chris Bartels chose the name for his Elskavon project he formed a neologism from a pair of Icelandic words – elska meaning “love” and von meaning “hope”). It was not only a message he would weave into his compositions, but a nod in the direction of Sigur Ros, one of his key influences when he started to write ambient music.  All of this comes together in a very direct way in this video premiere of “Offers of Peace” from his upcoming fourth album Skylight.  Love and hope would no doubt be foremost among the emotions Bartels feels toward his children and the song is specifically dedicated to his second child Oliver (whose name actually means ‘offer of peace’). The Icelandic connection is reinforced by some truly gorgeous video footage provided by friend & filmmaker Ryan Gates to accompany the music.

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Travelogue 2018.01.15: Field Notes

This edition of Field Notes surveys eight outstanding drone, & electroacoustic ambient releases from late 2017 and early 2018 representing hours of immersive listening. Featuring Tapes and Topographies, Olli Aarni, Magdalene Flowers, Erik Levander, A Lily, the volume settings folder, and Bradley Sean Alexander, along with an expansive 30-track charity compilation from the Dronarivm label.

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2017 In Review: Journeys in Ambient, Drone, and Electroacoustic

This list can never be big enough to include all the beautiful work done in these genres over the course of a year, but here are 25 albums that left a lasting impression. Here you’ll find rich atmospheres, deep emotional undercurrents, and organic, warm, and tactile soundscapes. Among these albums we find as much decomposition as composition, an embrace of stillness and naturally occurring beauty.

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2017 In Review: A Sense of Place and Time

Each of these albums is conceptually, thematically or musically connected to a particular place or time – personal narratives, journeys remembered, or depictions of landscape real or imagined. Each one takes the listener on a journey and immerses them in a unique place or moment in time. One might say they represent the very essence of stationary traveling, which makes them quite to special to this listener in particular… 

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PREMIERE: “Leidseplein” by Klangriket & Sjors Mans [piano and coffee records]

Discovering new artists via streaming platforms is not only the province of curators and listeners. It is also a way that artists can discover one another and, occasionally, these discoveries can open the doors to collaborations that would never have otherwise happened. Such is the case with Fabian Rosenberg (aka Klangriket) and Sjors Mans. After encountering each other’s work on Soundcloud and conversing over the wire about music & sound gear, they developed a piece entitled “Sarem” (listen here). It was a good enough experience that the two musicians felt they wanted to co-locate and see what they would come up with if they shared the same room while writing. So, Fabian left his hometown of Stockholm to visit Sjors at his Amsterdam studio. 

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Hammock – Columbus (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) / Mysterium

Few artists in the world of instrumental music have a compass as locked on to true north as Hammock. For years, this Nashville-based project of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson has  served up a rich sonic feast spanning the genres of ambient, post-rock, and modern classical while resonating with heartfelt, and often heart-wrenching, emotion. Perhaps what they are capable of was summed up best and most succinctly in a comment to one of their recent videos where the listener said “Hammock has this way of telling you, ‘Everything will be okay.’, in the most beautiful way possible”. And in 2017 we have a double helping of new work from the band, an original motion picture soundtrack and a full-length studio album.

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