Taking their name from the alias of the figure at the center of Rembrandt’s masterpiece “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” who was central to the theme of their debut album (‘Floods’, 2015), Aris Kindt is a collaborative project from Gabe Hedrick and Francis Harris. The duo once again choose an artistic reference as a conceptual touchstone for their second album entitled Swann and Odette, a pair of protagonists from Marcel Proust’s sprawling seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time. The album is a heady offering from a sonic perspective as well as a thematic one:
“Picking up where their first record (2015’s Floods) leaves off, ‘Swann and Odette’ is an evolutionary leap forward for the duo. The sonic palette is deeper, the grooves more sparse and the melodies are given more room to seep deep within a mix so expansive it feels almost tactile…a seamless interplay of synths and instrumentation cast loose from their origins and awash in oceanic delay.”
You can sample the ornate, cerebral soundscapes Hedrick and Harris are able to conjure from their extensive gear in this exclusive premiere of “Treatise”, a mesmerizing track that juxtaposes hazy swirls of guitar and malleable sonic forms with a steadily metronomic, pulsing groove.
If this all sounds rather modern for an album steeped in references to a turn-of-the-century novel, the point is not so much to soundtrack Proust’s story itself, but to explore concepts it suggests about the relationship of music to experience and memory or perhaps just the act of reading it in a current setting, both of which are suggested in John Stroud’s liner note essay (“Future Ghosts: Aris Kindt’s Soundtrack for a Radical Materialist Ontology”) which offers an assessment of the record as a kind of “post-structuralist pop”:
It is a science fiction record that launches our consciousness out into a speculative emotional landscape of decisively Proustian flavor while using techno’s taxonomic/serial bed of reference as an invitation to transmogrify that future into the pulsations of the actual body. As for Proust’s novel, it feels as much like a paperback thrown in a backpack more than any sort of foundation, something to read along the way while you’re waiting for your train (an image of which Proust would absolutely approve) while Swann and Odette plays over the radio in an altogether saner world. – John Stroud
Swann and Odette inaugurates Kingdoms, a new label being launched by Harris which he describes as “a new platform for adventurous music ranging from new voices in club-inflected jazz, contemporary composition, ambient, and electronic music to reissues of little-known obscurities from across the musical spectrum”. Editions of the album will be available from October 20 on digital and an attractive limited edition colored vinyl LP.
Links: Bandcamp (DL/LP) | Kingdoms
On their first two albums Chicago-based trio To Destroy a City introduced us to a sophisticated and exhilarating sound forged from layers of guitars, synths & pianos and driven by electronic beat production intertwined with live percussion. In two weeks when they roll out their third record entitled Go Mirage, fans and new listeners alike will be treated to not only their most stunning sonic tapestries yet, but an inspired new vocal dimension which does no harm whatsoever to their post rock pedigree.
“This follow-up to 2014’s post-rock paragon SUNLESS has an added immediacy due to the soaring nature of guitarist Michael Marshall’s step toward the mic…Idealists might bark that To Destroy A City can’t continue to fly the post-rock flag with such a vocalic album. The enlightened will find that the addition of vocals places the band as contemporaries to artists such as Caspian, Mogwai, and Album Leaf which have effectively used vocals as key components in their music.” – n5MD
Founded by members of two projects known for soaring instrumental rock, namely No Grave Like The Sea and Katmai, Purna is a newly formed experimental/ambient trio that explores much more nebulous territory where stillness, restraint, and nuance hold sway. Their debut effort entitled Grachiel is on the cusp of its release via AM 800, a recently established DIY label that is also home to bands previously featured here such as North End and Signal Hill. To give a taste of the lush, moody soundscapes on display on this record, you can have an exclusive first listen here to the track ‘11545kHz’
After releasing a number of EPs and singles under his own name, Brooklyn-based composer and filmmaker Austin Johnson will be making his official debut under his new alias breaking with the October 20 release of the soundtrack to his short film babyteeth on Seattle’s Hush Hush Records. The unobtrusive textures and moody atmospherics of his minimalist soundscapes well serve the film’s intimate indie feel and its understated treatment of tension & conflict in the context of everyday life.
“The main idea behind both the film and the soundtrack was to convey anxiety and angst through the lens of tranquility. It’s easy to get lost in anxiety, so in “babyteeth” I depict a boy’s rough journey to tranquility in an environment where that seems impossible.” – Austin Johnson (aka breaking)
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).
Hymn Binding marks the third full-length album by From the Mouth of the Sun, a collaboration formed in 2011 by Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist. It also marks a new zenith in the potency of their alchemic fusion of acoustic sound sources (cello, piano, acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, singing bowls, and pump organ) into creations of otherworldly beauty and stirring emotion. Organic by its very nature, it is a process which Rosenqvist explains requires the musician to be willing to embrace forces over which they do not have complete control:
“There’s something very beautiful and rewarding to working with acoustic sound sources. Because when you record them, you never know what you’re going get, and you can never repeat it exactly the same way. The wood in the instrument changes from air pressure and with different temperatures. You change your sitting position from one take to another and all of a sudden it sounds slightly different. You move the microphone or you move something in the room and it sounds slightly different. Acoustic sound sources allow for chaos to be a part of the creative process, allowing for something you can never fully control.” – Dag Rosenqvist
It is time for the slow fade of summer. The northern hemisphere starts to tilt away from the burning sun and the slanted light begins to take on a golden tint in the afternoons. The comforting crisp austerity of autumn awaits, but it is still warm, hazy, and verdant and a fine time to sink into languid, introspective sounds of the kind of delicate construction that can be found on the six albums featured here – a trio from the Whitelabrecs label by Ludmila, Steve Pacheco, and Floor Overhead along with EPs by M. Grig and Josh Mason, and a forthcoming October release by Ghost and Tape on Home Normal.
No matter how many solo piano pieces I listen to, I never cease to be amazed how musicians can channel so much of their own individual character through the same single instrument and weave so many intangible qualities into the notes and hammer strokes. As I listened to the music on Tristan Eckerson‘s new album Disarm, I found myself laboring to articulate what those intangibles were – that is until I read his bio.
The composer is currently based in the lovely mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina but was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and has lived, traveled, & studied in places as far-flung as Charleston, South Carolina, San Sebastian, Spain, San Francisco, California, & Seattle, Washington and has performed in multiple groups on both U.S. Coasts recording with members of the Ray Charles Orchestra, writing string arrangements for the Magik*Magik Orchestra, and performing at numerous music halls & festivals. And then it suddenly seemed obvious what I was hearing woven in and around the notes was a kind of restlessness, a sense of wanderlust and hunger for new experience.
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.
These days of noisy chaos, heated rhetoric, and voracious content consumption in which we find ourselves present a daunting challenge to artists who express themselves with restraint and nuance. The temptation to get louder and angrier, or even just walk away from it all must be ever-present. That is what makes bands like Balmorhea (pronounced bal-mə-ray) such a treasure. Founded a little over 10 years ago by Rob Lowe and Michael Muller, they have produced a consistently refined, eclectic, and appealing brand of instrumental music that has earned its loyal & appreciative following. Though they certainly have stayed busy in recent years with EPs, reissues, and live performances, the expansive 2012 effort Stranger remained Balmoreha’s last full-length studio record for nearly five years, but that drought will end in September with the release of Clear Language, a lucid and intimate gem of an album that gently but resolutely repudiates bombast and fractiousness in favor of simplicity, warmth, and personal connection.
“A decade-plus on the road, near-constant musical output, and shifting creative priorities caused the revered Austin duo to soberly assess the band’s future. What, in the form of Balmorhea, was there left to say? And did they have the energy to say it? To answer that question the duo decamped to their east Austin studio, where they worked simply and with restraint, letting intuition guide them…”
Soft Ice is a gorgeous, billowing immersion in youthful memories of winters past by ambient artist Angela Klimek under her musical nom de plume, poemme. The album which she released herself earlier this year is now available in a nicely packaged CD edition on Polar Seas Recordings where these beautiful monochromatic dreams in drone form find a fitting home.
“This collection of songs was composed specifically for sleep and reflects my memories of winters growing up in Cleveland. The endless gray skies, the magic of a fresh blanket of snow, and more wonder still once Lake Erie transforms into a vast, frozen desert. The scene takes place at my favorite lakeside park, with a pale sky above and waves of solid ice below. All is silent but for a flock of geese in the distance, making its way to warmer land…” – Angela Klimek
Few sounds evoke soulful yearning and rural landscapes as the venerable pedal steel guitar. For many listeners its dreamy, tremulous twang is inextricably wound into the roots & branches of country and western music, but over the years some have creatively sought to unshackle it in other genres and contexts. I dare say none of them have turned out as beguiling and restorative as what Chuck Johnson coaxed from the instrument to create the tone paintings and soundscapes on his latest album entitled Balsams.