Travelogue 2018.06.17: An Ambient Summer

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As spring dissolves into summer, the stillness of beautifully crafted ambient drones and languid electroacoustic soundscapes are just the ticket for the right state of mind. Fortunately some of the finest artists in the field have unveiled new recordings for us to enjoy and here is a look at eight of them you won’t want to miss.  Featuring Ant’lrd, Benoît Pioulard, Bradley Sean Alexander, Halftribe, Solidarity Hymn, Sven Laux, Tapes and Topographies, Valotihkuu, and Warmth

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Sound Impression: Adam (OST) by Aaron Martin

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There is a fascinating paradox in Aaron Martin‘s music I’ve come to appreciate. On one hand, there are the rustic tones and earthy folk melodies that ring with the homespun authenticity of a sprout from pure Americana rootstock. On the other, it is possessed of an exotic and transcendent quality that is malleable to a disparate range of contexts. Ample evidence of this would be Martin’s collaborations with experimental musicians from around the globe such as Machinefabriek (Netherlands), Orla Wren (England), Christoph Berg (Germany), or his From the Mouth of the Sun partner Dag Rosenqvist (Sweden). More recently we’ve seen it in his original soundtrack work such as Menashe set in an orthodox Jewish community in New York City and the newly released Adam, a short film directed by William Armstrong that tells the story of Adam Voigt, a vital young South African surfer faced with a life-altering diagnosis.

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From the Mouth of the Sun – Sleep Stations [Lost Tribe Sound]

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With their third consecutive release on Lost Tribe Sound, it seems that the duo of Aaron Martin & Dag Rosenqvist as From the Mouth of the Sun have found an ideal home for their music on the Phoenix-based label which eloquently describes itself as specializing in “organic, gentle, and exploratory music that transcends genre, technique, or trend”. That is not just a well articulated statement of its vision; it is a spot-on characterization of the exquisite, ephemeral experience offered by Sleep Stations which will see release as part of the label’s Dead West cassette series.

In the liner notes we learn that the somnolent title track was originally meant to be included on the sumptuous full-length Hymn Binding (2017) and subsequently acted as both centerpiece and starting point for the music that Martin & Rosenqvist recorded in the process of scoring Joshua Z. Weinstein’s ‘Menashe’. The film ultimately demanded a more sparse & rustic style and this freed the duo to plant the composition in a new context, this time building their own distinct narrative around it.

The core sound will be instantly recognizable for those who’ve followed their previous endeavors, comprised of cello, piano, acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, pump organ, soft humming electronics and warm layer of static… Arranging Sleep Stations as an EP, has allowed Aaron and Dag to tell a shorter story, one that doesn’t have to be such a grand gesture, which is something they’ve wanted to explore for a while now. It’s a beautiful reminder, that a collection of music can still be simple yet deeply affecting, without being overwrought and excessive.  – Lost Tribe Sound

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Various Artists – Thesis Collected 01

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Gregory Euclide is an artist and teacher living in the Minnesota River Valley. A recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, his work has been featured in museum exhibitions both across the country and abroad and has been featured in a variety of prestigious publications. His work has also been frequently connected to music. He provided the memorable cover for Bon Iver‘s self-titled 2012 Grammy winning record as well as album covers for a number of artists featured on these pages including Will Samson, Seabuckthorn, and Loscil – which brings us to the topic at hand, the THESIS project founded by Euclide in 2016 with assistance from Gabor Kerekes. More specifically, the occasion is the first CD release from this remarkable project, Thesis Collected 01, which allows entry into its vault of musical wonders for those for whom the vinyl format is still a constraint.

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Sound Impression: The Doctor From India by Rachel Grimes [Temporary Residence]

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New music from Rachel Grimes is always cause to sit up and take notice. The in-demand  pianist, composer, arranger, and collaborator extraordinaire  has been involved in numerous projects of late, but we’ve not been treated to a full-length album of her own compositions since 2015’s The Clearing, that is until now with the release of her splendid soundtrack to The Doctor From India by filmmaker Jeremy Frindel,a portrait of the life and work of Dr. Vasant Lad who first brought the ancient medical practice of Ayurveda from India to the west in the late 1970s. I confess to not having seen the film nor being familiar with Dr. Lad and his story, but having spent some time with the album, I can attest to the uplifting power and quietly dazzling beauty of the music it has inspired Grimes to compose and perform along with Scott Moore on violin, Jacob Duncan on saxophone & flute.  Continue reading

Sound Impression: Millpond Way by M. Grig [Other Songs]

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Originally from the Pacific Northwest and now living Durham, North Carolina, Mike Grigoni is a composer & multi-instrumentalist who plays dobro, lap steel and pedal steel guitar and records under the name M. Grig. While he has settled personally in the Tar heel state, Grigoni’s music has found a home on Canadian label Other Songs where he has released a trio of delightful EPs – Field Notes (2016), Still Lifes (2017), and the brand new Millpond Way.

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Sound Impression: The Searchers / Voyevoda – Kyle Bobby Dunn & Wayne Robert Thomas [Whited Sepulchre]

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From the heartland of America comes a fascinating split release by Kyle Bobby Dunn and Wayne Robert Thomas that will engage your mind as much as it will your ears. Each artist contributes a single long-form track to be released together in a limited vinyl edition by Ohio-based Whited Sepulchre based in Cincinnati, Ohio. By now the savvy reader might be bemoaning my ignorance saying to themselves Dunn is Canadian. True enough, but he his explores a distinctly American theme on his composition which both complements and segues the wistful ruminations offered by his Indianapolis-based collaborator.

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PREMIERE: “Here” by Walrus Ghost & Max Frankl [Hush Hush Records]

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It almost sounds like a pitch for a screenplay. European jazz guitarist travels to New York and answers and ad for an open room posted by an experimental electronic music producer. Kindred spirits who followed very different musical paths, the two hit it off and end up creating an album of music together. Only it’s not a screenplay. It is the story of Munich-born and Zurich-based guitarist Max Frankl and Brooklyn-based Christian Banks aka Walrus Ghost. At the time Frankl moved in, Banks was about to release his debut album Uplifting Themes for the Naysayer. Despite striking up an instant friendship, it took time for their mutual appreciation of each other’s approaches to writing & playing music to grow. But, grow it did. First a song, then a handful of tracks, and finally a complete album called Avenues and Remembrances which will be released later this month.

“When we first met, we could both feel a great connection between the two of us. Some weeks later we recorded some music together, which was one of the greatest experiences I had while playing and recording with a lot of different musicians in New York. The things I treasure in Christian`s music have a lot to do with my compositional approach towards music: I like warm and rich environments that bring a particular quality to the music that is sometimes lacking in hectic day to day life: calmness, silence, and tranquility.” – Max Frankl

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Travelogue 2018.03.30: Field Notes

Still basking in the afterglow of Piano Day 2018, this edition of Field Notes puts the spotlight on a superb quartet of new & upcoming piano-themed releases by Goldmund (Western Vinyl), Stefano Guzzetti (Home Normal), Muriël Bostdorp (Whales Records), and a cadre of artists associated with Moderna Records. Continue reading

Dura – Repetition Suppression [Scissor Tail Records]

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A couple of years ago I left my listening chair and went on a rare musical field trip to see Slow Meadow and Hotel Neon play an intimate show at the now defunct Union Arts Center in Washington, DC. It all seems a bit surreal now. For one thing, I rarely make it to live shows, let alone ones featuring artists I write about, and, for another, the property that once hosted the eclectic venue is now undergoing major redevelopment. So, by and large, the experience only lives on in my memory as a pleasant dream. One of the sharper recollections, however, was the unexpected pleasure of meeting the affable and talented Mattson Ogg, aka Dura, who opened the proceedings by filling the room with some captivating and heady soundscapes crafted from looping ambient guitar. Since then he has put out a number of releases each one taking its listeners on similar thoughtful and abstract journeys.

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Duologue: A conversation with r beny

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Electronic ambient music is a funny animal when you think about it. How is it possible to create compelling music with no conventional instruments, no words, and no beat? But, Austin Cairns, aka r beny, is one of those rare sonic alchemists who does just that weaving rich aural tapestries and exploring the labyrinths of memory using modular & hardware synthesizers and tape machines. Using  His 2016 debut full blossom of the evening deservedly caught the ear of many discerning followers of the ambient scene with its broad spectrum of beautifully crafted sounds and varying moods. Then, after a period of personal difficulty and transformation he created what surely must be considered one of the best albums of its kind last year, cascade symmetry. Far from exhibiting a sophomore slump, Cairns found the soul of his machines and delivered a quiet stunner with a palpable melancholy and potent emotional undertow that was little short of astonishing. Now, following his most recent release, the delicate and peaceful saudade on Belgian tape label Dauw, Cairns talks with us about how he got started, his creative process, his gear, and what’s on the horizon.  Continue reading

A Sense of Place: Anenon – Tongue [Friends of Friends]

Amidst the teeming diversity and cacophonous sprawl of Los Angeles are scores of people who specialize in making and selling dreams. There is probably no place on earth that has not been imagined or portrayed there and preserved on celluloid.  But to truly experience the soul of a place, to connect with it, soak it in, and meaningfully interact with it, you really do need to be there. Perhaps it was with this mindset that Brian Allen Simon aka Anenon packed up his instruments in the spring of 2017 and left behind a roiling political/cultural climate for the serene and picturesque rolling hills of Tuscany, home to millenia of sublime artistic expression and enviable provincial life. There, in a makeshift attic studio on the third story of a 16th century villa in the small town of Palaia he embarked on a month long musical odyssey which resulted in his fourth LP entitled Tongue. 

“I live in the city of ephemerality. The omnipresent LA light soaks my mind and body and moves me forward towards a dark and inconsistent absence of remembrance. Around me, histories are bought and sold daily in an unplanned, urban and suburban dwelling that on paper makes zero sense, but in reality has become a haven for wide open creative thinking and action that couldn’t exist anywhere else…I wanted to make music that can live inside of anywhere one finds themselves: city or country. It’s a series of shifting moods and melodies that through the heart, mind, hands, throat, and tongue sing an outpouring of metaphysical, nuanced psychedelic passing truth.” – Brian Allen Simon

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