Sound Impression: Not Here by Marek Kamiński

Marek_Kaminski_editionWhile readers and listeners by and large look forward to all the album lists that fill up our social timelines from December to January, it seems musicians increasingly take a dimmer view of them. It is understandable. Any list, no matter how thoughtfully curated or diverse, is by definition exclusionary. Many argue compellingly that art is expression, not competition. So, it is with a certain amount of guilt & self-consciousness with which I publish my own annual round-ups, but it must be said that at the end of the day they prove to be useful vectors of discovery for a great many people.

When I wrap up the year for Stationary Travels, I often enjoy surveying what others have shared and I always find gems I’ve neglected or overlooked completely that become new favorites. So it is with Marek Kamiński‘s wonderful release from the spring of 2019 entitled Not Here which appeared on Headphone Commute’s selections under the theme Music for Withered Leaves and Lonely Fishtanks.

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2019 In Review: Ambient & Drone

2019_YIR_Ambient_Drone

Once again, this list can’t be big enough to contain all the fine work done in these genres over the course of a year, but these are 20 albums that left a lasting impression. Here you’ll find rich atmospheres, deep emotional undercurrents,organic, warm, tactile soundscapes composition & decomposition, and a generous embrace of stillness, beauty, and self-reflection.

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Sound Impression: Branches by Square Peg Round Hole

SPRH_Branches_BC_2019

Square Peg Round Hole is a percussion-driven instrumental trio based out of Philadelphia, PA. Members Evan Chapman, Sean M. Gill, and Carlos Pacheco-Perez all met while studying at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and formed the project around the inventive use of drum kits, vibraphone, samples, found objects, synths, and vintage analog keyboards to develop a style that draws on elements from post-rock, electronic, ambient, and contemporary classical motifs. Coming off their exhilarating self-released album Corners in 2013, it was the band’s second record, Juniper (2016, Spartan Records) that garnered them some national attention. Composed in rural Maryland and remote Wisconsin, the album unveiled a more abstract, introspective approach but still retained some of the directness and vibrancy of the debut as it was recorded almost entirely in full live takes.

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Premiere: “Monument” by Still Life

Still_Life_Press_ImageProvidence, RI-based composer/producer Daniel Fine is poised to release his sophomore full-length album under the moniker of still life next month on Hush Hush Records, a Seattle-based label curated by KEXP-FM DJ & Pacific Notions show host Alex Ruder. ‘for a long time time i went to bed early‘ is a kaleidoscopic montage of reflection and memory that revolves around crystalline piano lines, prismatic textures, shimmering electronics, cinematic vignettes featuring strings and trumpet, euphoric post-rock crescendos, samples, found sounds, and spoken word.  The constant shifting of mood, pace, and color is reflective of life itself exactly as Fine intended when he started working on the album.

“This album has been a project that’s consumed my life since January of this year and has served as a sort of “emotional grounding” as I’ve gone through a lot of big changes in my life. It’s full of really quiet and really loud moments, messy moments, somber moments, joyous moments, and everything in between. It’s a bit lo-fi, a bit noisy – it’s a bit of a diary for all of my thoughts and emotions and places I’ve been and experienced.” – Daniel Fine aka still life

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Video Premiere: “Lament” by Sontag Shogun

Sontag Shogun Floreal EP cover

While many of us are still savoring the kaleidoscopic panorama of It Billows Up released by Brooklyn-based trio Sontag Shogun this past spring, the band delivered a pleasant surprise along with the turning of leaves in the form of a new EP called Floréal. It is a introspective “mini-suite” in a distinctly autumnal mood that once again finds Ian Temple, Jesse Perlstein, & Jeremy Young in compelling form with their alchemical fusion of foley & tape treatments, organically derived textures, painterly solo piano compositions, and ethereal vocals.

Presented in a cassette tape format, side A belongs to a single immersive composition entitled “Photographs from a moving car” featuring guest vocals by Finnish composer & musician Lau Nau, while side B unfolds in three parts – the moving title track, the collagic “Plaid Lines”, which features the voice of Canadian artist Ora Cogan, and the hauntingly beautiful “Lament” which is featured here in a touching video created by multi-disciplinary artist Joshua Miller using old found footage shot while on a road trip across the United States with his ex-partner.  Though deeply personal in origin, the music and visuals combine to powerfully convey themes of both nostalgia and solastalgia in an especially moving and relatable way.

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Premiere: “Astray” by North Atlantic Drift

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From the glacial post-rock soundscapes of Canvas (Polar Seas Recordings), Monuments (Sound in Silence) and Resolven (Polar Seas Recordings) to the sprawling drones of the more recent Departures series, Brad Deschamps & Mike Abercrombie have shown a willingness to change tack as they have navigated their North Atlantic Drift project over the years since their first release in 2012 even as they have developed their own solo projects, grown a record label, and scored films. Pillars will be the band’s seventh full-length record and the towering concrete arches on the cover herald yet another subtle evolution in their sound. The Brutalist motif with its colossal curved forms and silent defiance of chaos seems as fitting a symbol as any for the austere elegance of these weighty melancholic abstractions.

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