It has been a little while – too long in fact – since we have visited the shores of the Eilean, an imaginary territory the map of which is now dotted & colored by 60 albums covering a broad and eclectic spectrum of ambient, electroacoustic, and modern classical music. The label saw five outstanding releases over the summer months by Bill Seaman, Toàn, Josco & Spheruleus, Francesco Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci, and Monty Adkins and has begun the transition to autumn with an exceptional debut record by Cicely Irvine. Here is a brief synopsis of each along with selected tracks for the reader to explore as well as links to the artists whose work is featured on the covers where available. (Note: most of these limited editions sold out soon after their release, but some may be available in small quantities; check the linked Bandcamp pages for details).
The first thing that strikes you on This Body Is Not Me by Slow Heart Music (aka Ben Rath) are the mellifluous tones that resonate with a sun-soaked, pastoral warmth from the wooden body of an impeccably tuned guitar. The tunes are brand new yet instantly take on the aura of the timeless and familiar. This subtle sorcery becomes even more impressive when you learn that Rath improvised these pieces, many in a single take, using a second-hand instrument picked up on the cheap.
“Slow Heart Music was conceived as a way to create music in a more spontaneous and live way, with minimal electronic interference and using a basic, lo-fi set-up. The tracks on ‘This Body Is Not Me’ were recorded on a small classical guitar Ben purchased for £5 from a bring-and-buy sale in the basement of a cafe. Ben would improvise on this guitar in a relatively free and unstructured way until a theme or melody organically developed. He’d then press record on a digital audio recorder and create a spontaneous composition out of that theme.” – Whitelabrecs
Oddly enough, I don’t remember which painting it was, but I will never forget the way it felt to stand for the first time in front of an original Van Gogh at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In some ways it was a disorienting experience. I recall becoming light-headed as if the colors & textures on canvas were alive and in perpetual motion. This phenomenon proved to be no fluke as I found in subsequent opportunities to view his work in person again years later at the VMFA’s Art of the Flower exhibition and again during a first visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.
I am sure I am far from being alone in being so viscerally affected by the vibrancy of Van Gogh’s work. In fact, there is now a stunning new film that goes so far as to literally bring many of the his paintings to life even as it purports to tell the story of the events leading to his tragic early death. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, their animated film Loving Vincent was meticulously hand-painted by a team of 115 artists.
“Loving Vincent is the upcoming biographical animated film from newcomer directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman about Vincent van Gogh’s final days and the attempt by an acquaintance of his son (played by Douglas Booth) to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. A film unlike any other, it is entirely hand painted – each of the movie’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on a canvas created using the same techniques as Vincent van Gogh.”
Ambient music, when masterfully constructed and emotionally invested, has the power to cross inner oceans, map out the topographies of the soul, and expose the deep strata of memory. This introspective listening journey consists of a quartet of releases that do just that. Featuring the intricately woven and emotive soundscapes of Tapes and Topographies (Todd Gautreau), Bird Traps (Marcus Skinner), Wil Bolton, and James Murray.
Since its founding in 2009, Home Normal has consistently been one of the shining lights on the landscape of experimental ambient & electronic music. Conscientiously curated and uncompromisingly supportive of its artists, it is more than a label; it is a hub for a community of artists and mindful listeners who appreciate thoughtfully crafted, emotionally honest music.
“Based in Japan, the label was run as a way to connect to a sense of what ‘home’ and ‘normal’ could mean to someone who was in what was essentially an alien environment to them. The focus of the label was to release the ambient and electronic works of friends within the live scene we were part of in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, but soon expanded to include the work of many artists worldwide…We see the label as a family of friends who work together to create unique works that have a hold and impact on whoever can take their time to absorb our music and aesthetic”
Featured here are recent & upcoming releases by Ian Hawgood + Wil Bolton, Giulio Fagiolini, and Jason Van Wyk,
With her 2012 debut ‘Escapement’, Brighton-based composer Poppy Ackroyd entered the same rare air as such esteemed innovators of modern classical and electronic music as Nils Frahm and Hauschka. Classically trained on violin and piano, she creates utterly mesmerizing music by manipulating and multi-tracking sounds primarily from these two instruments in sometimes unconventional ways, an approach she expanded upon with her second album ‘Feathers’ in 2015. This year she brings us a flurry of new projects to enjoy starting with her new mini-album ‘Sketches’ in which Poppy reinterprets pieces from her first two records as pure solo piano pieces along with several new compositions. She also has a brand new full-length album in the works for release in November and all this in the midst of performing as part of Hidden Orchestra, who themselves have a wonderful new record out called ‘Dawn Chorus’. I am ecstatic that Poppy was willing take time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for Stationary Travels readers and thus kick-off the very first in our new series of artist interviews called Duologues.
The field of film & theater composers releasing debut albums of original compositions is ever-growing. For lovers of indie, modern, & post-classical music it is a healthy trend that means we are increasingly spoiled for choice, but it also raises the bar for the kinds of creativity and inventiveness needed to keep the genre fresh and compelling. That is where artists like James Maloney come in.
Originally from Birmingham, having studied music at Oxford, and now the Music Associate at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Maloney has just released his debut solo record entitled Gaslight on Moderna Records. Conceived of largely at night as a reaction to the noise and the pace of city life and built around a closely mic’d old piano accompanied by trumpet, vibraphone, & glockenspiel, it sparkles with that elusive lustre of pure inspiration and effortless enchantment.
Archives is a label based in Valencia, Spain run by DJ, producer, & musician Agustín Mena (aka Warmth, SVLBRD). You won’t find a lot of words written by the label about itself. Its impressum can be found in the music which focuses uncompromisingly on pure ambient, downtempo & dub techno aesthetics with a preference for soothing, warm tones and meditative atmospheres. Presented here are six recent releases by an international roster of artists including Logic Moon (Germany), Robert Farrugia (Malta), Yoyu (Canada), Purl (Sweden), Shuta Yasukochi (Japan), and Halftribe (UK). Also highly recommended are their Ambient and Soundscapes compilation series and Warmth’s own ‘Essay’ which was one of the best reviewed ambient albums of 2016.
“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke
A brief survey of an exquisite quartet of modern classical albums for the Spring season by Christoph Berg & Henning Schmiedt on Flau, Tambour on Moderna Records, Julian Marchal on the newly launched Whales Records, and Moinho on 1631 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.
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.
Even if you don’t know the name, there is a very good chance you’ve heard the music of composer Angus MacRae before. His compositions have graced films & commercials ranging from the BBC to companies like Sony, Toyota & Vodaphone while he has also written for a wide variety of live arts performances across Europe including theater and dance. Having released a pair of studio EPs in 2015 which saw a combined digital release last year on 1631 Recordings, he returns to the format and the label with a beautiful collection of modern classical vignettes entitled Cry Wolf.