Sound Impression: Volume Flow by Pausal [hibernate]

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Hibernate was formed in the “rain-soaked paradise” of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire by  music enthusiast Joanathan Lees in 2009. The label saw a diverse array of top-notch artists contribute releases to its sterling catalog for the better part of six years before a entering a period of low activity in 2016 & 2017, so the arrival of fresh material in recent months is a most welcome development. The revival began with a pair of new entries in the  “postcard series” this past spring and it continues this summer with a gorgeous new full-length album by Pausal. Though Volume Flow is the first release for the project on the label, its members Alex Smalley (aka Olan Mill) and Simon Bainton have each appeared twice before as solo artists. Continue reading

Sound Impression: Fieldem by Silent Vigils [Home Normal]

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One of the steadiest sources of light among labels that feature & promote ambient music from around the globe is Home Normal under the guidance of Ian Hawgood, a fine artist and mastering engineer in his own right. The newest entry to their catalog brings together two outstanding artists who likewise both curate independent labels while creating their own music, Stijn Hüwels (Slaapwel Records) and James Murray (Slowcraft Records).  The new collaborative project is called Silent Vigils, a suitable moniker for the liminal quiescence of sound these two kindred spirits have reached across water to create with one another.

“Molenbrook, Mossigwell, Zwartewall, Fieldem… places neither here nor there; half in the world, half in the mind. We began this project as an exchange of gestures across the water, a dialogue motivated by mutual respect and revolving around our shared love of the minimal, the graceful and the understated. We completed it on 22nd March 2017 – the day of the Westminster attack, one year to the day after the Brussels bombings. These four pieces have become our personal dedications to the quiet strength of blended culture, free thinking and open borders.” – Silent Vigils

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Sound Impression: Distant Scenes by Ashlar [Whitelabrecs]

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Lazy Saturday afternoons in Liverpool provided the context for Ashlar, a collaborative project of  Wil Bolton and Phil Edwards. The two began collaborating about 7 years ago ahead of their debut release Saturday Drones (Time Released Sound, 2011) which was based on sessions recorded in the public houses of the city’s Georgian quarter while St. James’ Gardens (Hibernate Recordings, 2014) was inspired by field recordings made in & around the park of the same name. Bolton has since relocated to London, but the project lives on in a new record aptly titled Distant Scenes based on a similar modus operandi with adjustments made to accommodate the geographical separation. This time the field recordings come from locations as varied as Japan and Korea as well as the UK and the impromptu recording sessions have been replaced by an asynchronous approach of sharing, augmenting, processing, and remote exchange. While this may have been a dramatic change in how the project was conducted, the listener will find the languorous beauty and friendly experimentation that characterized Ashlar’s previous work lives on albeit with a new patina burnished with welcome touches of melancholy and nostalgia.

Distant Scenes is an album built around distance, time and space as their different recording locations inspired new but separate ideas. A warm but blurry canvas has been woven over a four year period, as time has rusted the memories of the good old days spent jamming on their earlier albums and newer ideas have been corroded into a melancholic fuzz. – Whitelabrecs

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Jane Antonia Cornish – Constellations [Innova Recordings]

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Jane Antonia Cornish is an award-winning composer who grew up in England and lives in New York City. In addition to being the first female ever to win a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for music and her growing list of film credits, she has a fine catalog of exquisite and deeply affecting albums which gains a new addition with the recent release of Constellations. As with last year’s Into Silence (2017, Innova), Cornish once again presents us with an overarching narrative of transcendent beauty woven from the purest of sonorities by an impeccable ensemble, but the cosmic theme gives her quiet new pathways to explore in the dimensions of space, time, and light.

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Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks 15th Anniversary Reissue [Deutsche Grammophon]

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Not all protest music is loud and angry. Sometimes it is simply an affirmation of the positive in the face of the negative, an advocacy of quietude and beauty in the face of rancor and violence, an embrace of reflection over confrontation. Such was the case with Max Richter in 2003 when he composed The Blue Notebooks against the backdrop of global protests against a war in Iraq. Though this conflict was very much on Richter’s mind at the time, the music he created was devoid of specific geopolitical references and aspired to a broader and more holistic view. Intertwined with the words of writers like Franz Kafka and Czesław Miłosz, what Richter came up with was an introspective meditation on violence and war that transcends any particular historical context.

“I wanted to invite the listener in, allowing them space to reflect, rather than be beaten into submission. The world is tough enough, and I don’t want to add to the brutality. Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s a balance to strike, and that actually, as our world spins into something quite threatening that’s increasingly based on loud and vicious rhetoric, I want to talk about quiet protest”  – Max Richter
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Duologue: A conversation with Danny Mulhern

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In this edition of Duologues, composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Danny Mulhern  talks to us about his recent releases Metanoia and Safe House (both available via 1631 Recordings), his exceptional collaborative partnership with London Contemporary Orchestra, discovering & supporting new music, and exciting projects in the works including his score for the new Elizabeth Chomko film “What They Had which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. He even gives us a little insight into some new ideas attracting his creative attention which we truly hope he finds the time & opportunity to pursue. It is a captivating read and a gateway to some outstanding listening for modern classical fans. Included among the words are sample tracks and Danny’s own outstanding “Safe House Mixtape”, an hour-long selection of pieces that inspired and compliment his recent music.

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Premiere: I Will, For You (Sophie Hutchings Rework) From Diary Reworks by Michael Price

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Last year, Emmy-award winning composer & pianist Michael Price gave us some precious insight into his creative process with Diary, a set of purely improvisational single-take recordings he compiled over a six week period (you can read more about the project here). While Price has since been at work on TV & film scores as well as his highly anticipated new Tender Symmetry project, a stellar cadre of eight artists have revisited the 30-track collection and hand-picked some of its “raw” entries to be polished into pure moder classical diamonds for a new EP called Diary Reworks.

The songs on Diary were certainly lovely enough and warmly accessible on their own terms, but, by their very design, they were unrefined and unedited. In the context of Diary Reworks, we can think of it as a sketchbook left behind by the artist for others to embellish and bring to life as full color, multi-dimensional works of art.  Case in point is the lovely treatment of “I Will, For You” by Sophie Hutchings , premiered here for the first time.

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Sound Impression: Piano Works by Lucy Claire

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This past March, London-based composer & producer Lucy Claire began her wonderful new ‘Works’ series, a string of EP releases each featuring a different focus. The second installment has just arrived in the form of Piano Works, a beguiling collection of bittersweet compositions and sketches performed on a range of pianos from grands and uprights to electric keyboards and toy & thumb types. Ever the consummate collaborator, this edition features Lucy alongside guest performances by cellist Ren Ford (Keaton Henson’s Romantic Works), violinist Marie Schreer (The Royal Northern Sinfonia), and ambient guitarist Pete Lambrou (VLMV).

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Floex & Tom Hodge – A Portrait of John Doe [Mercury KX]

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In the world of music, sometimes serendipity turns into collaboration and sometimes collaboration turns into a fruitful partnership. Such is the case with Floex (aka Tomas Dvorak) and Tom Hodge. Their new album A Portrait of John Doe has just been released on Mercury KX adding even more lustre to a catalog that already includes such artists as Òlafur Arnalds, Luke Howard, and Sebastian Plano. The pair began work on the music after a fortuitous chance meeting in Berlin and the project has taken three years to complete as they honed the compositions and worked with the Prague Radio Symphonic Orchestra (PRSO) to bring the arrangements to full bloom. A Portrait of John Doe is an ambitious record not only in terms of musical invention, but in the quest of its over-arching existential theme as well, a kind of “avant-garde” music for and about Everyman.

“We are looking for universal human stories, things that connect us. This is neither an apocalyptic or wildly optimistic vision, the album subject for ‘A Portrait Of John Doe’ is rather a search for modern human values. The theme of the album turns our attention to everyday moments of our lives, as a certain counterbalance to the unceasing pursuit of efficiency, singularity and uniqueness that is so characteristic of today’s times.“ – Floex and Tom Hodge

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Duologue: A conversation with James A. McDermid

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The summer series of duologues begins with special guest James A. McDermid. Those who pay close attention to the goings on in the community of artists who make experimental & electronic music have likely taken increasing notice of his work with three full-length albums on as many labels over the past year as well as the launch of a new Mixcloud radio show. Not only that, but James can be found on Twitter passionately supporting the work of many fellow artists. This burst of activity, however, began after nearly 9 years without a release and the devastating loss of a dear family member. I am very pleased to share this candid and insightful conversation with James about his artistic journey and recent & upcoming albums.

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Travelogue 2018.04.15: From Winter into Spring with Dauw

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Dauw is a Belgian boutique label based in Ghent that specializes in handmade cassette releases of electroacoustic ambient music of an especially organic & pastoral nature and features a unifying visual aesthetic based on the graphic artwork of Femke Strijbol. The label offers sounds and colors eminently suited to the gentle awakenings of springtime and it is our good fortune that they have put up some irresistible new releases for the season.

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Sound Impression: Circuit Bloom by 36

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It is hard to conceive of a more fitting title for latest offering from 36 (pronounced three-six), the ambient / experimental project of Dennis Huddleston from the United Kingdom. Circuit Bloom is like a garden of electronic flowers that bud and blossom in a slow, kaleidoscopic efflorescence of fleeting ephemeral beauty.  In a shift from recent 36 releases that resonated on a cosmic scale, Huddleston chose a more introspective theme for a group of songs which serves as a prelude a full-length album to come later this year.

“[Circuit Bloom] contains a selection of 6 predominantly piano-based tape loops, exploring the themes of isolation and escapism, through a Cyberpunk-inspired lens. For me, Cyberpunk is about people living on the fringes of society, finding ways to deal with the hardships they face, through the manipulation and exploitation of technology. It’s a genre/aesthetic I’ve always loved and its influence has always seeped into my music.” – Dennis Huddleston, aka 36

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