Lowercase Noises – The Swiss Illness

It is hard to believe it has been three years since the last full-length Lowercase Noises album.  Chalk part of that up to the ever-increasing speed with which time in general seems to pass these days and the rest up to Andy Othling’s constant efforts to stay in touch with his fans, put on live performances, and regularly share new EPs, improvisations, and videos. But you have to go back to 2014’s This Is For Our Sins to find an album as immersive and conceptually integrated as The Swiss Illness which will be releasing in May.  The theme once is again is a somber one, but the post rock, vocal, and folk elements that served well in telling the tragic story of Russia’s Lykov family give way to a more  contemplative, modern classical leaning style that suits a highly emotional exploration of the emotion of nostalgia even as he exposes the very origins of the word.

I wanted this album to be about death, but it didn’t fit. Instead I expanded on the idea of loss and made it about nostalgia, which for me means the loss of things both large and small, both incredibly heavy and largely inconsequential. I experienced all those things in 2016, and as a result the only thing I could create was a minimal, slowly-evolving and (hopefully) beautiful dive into that feeling. Overlaid is the story and history behind the word “nostalgia”, which was coined by doctors studying Swiss mercenaries far away from home, and the physical ailments brought on by their feelings. – Andy Othling

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Travelogue 2016.04.21: Spotlight on Shimmering Moods Records

Shimmering Moods is a label based in Amsterdam that has already had a fruitful 2017 with a number of excellent limited edition CD releases and quite an international roster of artists. Featured here are recent works by Andrew Tasselmyer (USA), Snufmumriko (Sweden) , Rime Trails (Denmark), and Gallery Six (Japan). Also highly recommended are two albums featured on our 2016 year-in-review – Radio Sea’ by Adzuki and ‘Mothers Garden’ by Å Asher-Yates, a brand new reissue of ‘Naar Vi Vaagner’ by øjeRum, and a pair of works by Dimitar Dodovski, ‘Derive’ (2016) and ‘In Every Direction’ (2015). All releases can be found here on their Bandcamp site

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Travelogue 2017.04.18: Spotlight on Sound in Silence

Sound In Silence is a small DIY record label based in Athens, Greece that has been releasing limited editions presented in collectible handmade packaging since 2006.  Featured here are four of their most recent releases by moshimoss & stabiloanthéne, bvdub, and (ghost). I also recommend browsing through the rest of their Bandcamp catalog where you’ll find gems by artists such as Wil Bolton, Caught in the Wake Forever, Good Weather for an Airstrike, and North Atlantic Drift

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Leandro Fresco & Rafael Anton Irisarri – La Equidistancia [ASIP]

La Equidistancia (‘the equidistance’) is an extraordinarily apt title for the first-fruits of a newly formed creative partnership between Leandro Fresco and Rafael Anton Irisarri just released by A Strangely Isolated Place. It can be seen as a nod to the meeting of creative minds over long geographical distances (Fresco in Argentina and Irisarri in New York) but the album also intersects some musical and symbolic midpoints as it consummately strikes a balance between careful sound design and raw emotion, between melodic sensibility and textural aesthetics, and between melancholic reflection and purifying catharsis. In the sublime center of all of these things we find these six beautifully constructed, soul-searching instrumentals that are capable of forging a powerful human connection.

I really love that grainy aspect you can hear in the music, degraded in a way, like it’s been trough some rough patches (as both Lean and I have been through over the years)…There’s a lot of sadness and memories in the music. I feel that one most embrace this sadness and share it; make others know we are not so different; not alone in this world”. – Rafael Anton Irisarri

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Sound Impression: Clem Leek – America [YEN]

There always been something quite personal in the music of Clem Leek. Trained as a pianist from a young age and now a developed into a composer, sound artist, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist, he has drawn heavily on his surroundings and life experiences from the very start; consider the misty, overcast reflections of growing up in England on Holly Lane (2010) and the intimate piano & guitar based sketches of Lifenotes (2011) and Rest (2013). The past year has apparently been on one of significant change for Leek and this is reflected in his latest opus and third studio album entitled America. 

“America is a reflection of Clem’s personal transition from Europe to the U.S. Each track refers to new experiences, both information and sensory. Moving from the countryside to the city brought about a plethora of new friends, landscapes and routines and this is reflected in the new styles, instruments and techniques that have bled into the album. “

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Hotel Neon – Context [Fluid Audio]

Whoever said “don’t sweat the small stuff” surely was not talking about ambient music. When it comes to this genre, nuances can make all the difference between a bland listening experience and a compelling one. For an outstanding example of the latter, consider Context, the forthcoming third album by Hotel Neon, the Philadelphia-based trio of Michael Tasselmyer, Andrew Tasselmyer & Steven Kemner. Speaking of his own ambient music, Brian Eno once suggested that it should “accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular”, a characteristic very much on display here. It was the band’s choice on this record not to thrust any particular narrative on the listener but rather, as the album title suggests, to provide a context to which they could connect to their own.  Spend an hour or so with these warm, heavily textured crepuscular drones and you are likely to agree it is mission accomplished.

“Context is arguably the only thing that gives a song its meaning in the mind of a listener. The direct message of a track title has disappeared. Vague symbols have usurped them, unable as they are to contain any kind of subliminal message. As a result of this, the listener has been given a lot more freedom to interpret the music as they see fit – they put the ambient washes of sound into a context of their own making. ” – Fluid Audio

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Sound Impression: You Are Here Now by Heron

Hailing from Northwestern Pennsylvania, instrumental quartet Heron arrive like a rush of fresh mountain air on the post rock scene with You Are Here Now, a magnificent debut album bursting with melodic invention, infectious energy, and arrangements that demonstrate meticulous attention to space, tone, and texture.

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Sound Impression: Floating Away From the World by OKADA [n5MD]

Floating Away From the World is the third album in as many years by OKADA on the n5MD label and his fifth overall (the first two being issued by Fluttery Records). It is the first, however, that Gregory Pappas developed for this project since relocating from Mobile, Alabama to Seattle, Washington with a corresponding shift in style that seems to match the cool, wet climate of his new home. As on previous albums, Pappas offers up a quartet of fluid & emotive long form works that fuse ambient textures & modern classical elements with downtempo beats and ethereal vocals, but the mood on the new album is distinctly overcast and deeply introspective while the rainy textures will be pure bliss for even the most casual pluviophile.

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Josh Mason & Nathan McLaughlin – On the Brink [Eilean Rec]

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Collaborative releases are not the mainstay of the Eilean Rec. label, but when they appear, they are always something special. The latest of such is On the Brink which brings together two authentic sonic explorers from the eastern seaboard of the USA – Josh Mason (Jacksonville, FL) and Nathan McLaughlin (Hudson, NY). The album is a metaphorical journey from a unique perspective that examines the state of mind as one faces the possibility of failure.

“…we traveled together with the wind on our faces, holes in our shoes and short that one layer that can provide the necessary comforts we tend to rely upon. raw nerves, biting hunger and a drive to see the unknown corners kept us moving forward. we can offer these markers and surveys as proof of our trip and as evidence of what lies slightly beyond our immediate purview but with a combined effort – within reach.” – Nathan McLaughlin & Josh Mason

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Sound Impression: Presence, Volume 1 by Andrew Tasselmyer

The “Presence” series is a new solo project from Andrew Tasselmyer (Hotel Neon, The Sound of Rescue) which he frames as “an ongoing experiment in intentional listening” and describes as “a combination of found sound and intuitive, responsive composition…the product of being present”. The first volume in the series consists of eight variations on this theme, each one building a musical narrative around a field recording taken from the context of everyday life and ordinary objects.

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Glories – There Is No Stillness

Finding the right balance between continuity and change is challenge all bands have to face once they establish themselves with an audience. Change too much and risk losing your artistic identity; change too little and risk boredom and stagnation. But find the right balance and it can be a beautiful trajectory, which I would argue is the case when it comes Glories as the prepare to release their third full-length record, There Is No Stillness. The key elements that have endeared the Birmingham, Alabama based band to so many post rock music fans remain firmly in place, but enough has changed to endow the album with a luster of freshness and excitement.

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North End – Alpha State [AM 800 Sound]

Listening to the taut, lightning-quick interplay of instrumental rock band North End on their new album Alpha State, it seems impossible to imagine they did not record it in the same room feeding off each other’s energy, making eye contact, and communicating in the seemingly telepathic way of kindred spirits who are used to performing together. But that is hot how the new record came together at all. Whereas the band members were once co-located within a 20 mile radius near Philadelphia, life changes scattered them around the country forcing them to find new ways to collaborate if they were to continue, a challenge they embraced with the same unbridled enthusiasm that characterizes their music.

Life changes quickly, in a positive way, if you let it, and Alpha State is a culmination of these changes manifesting into the style of music we love to write, play and share….Drums were tracked in KB’s basement, guitars, some keys, and bass were tracked at Pete’s house, mixes were generated by Kam while still in an RV in Yellowstone and tracks were mastered by Paul Gold of Salt Mastering in Greenpoint Brooklyn. If you listen to the closing moments of “Imperial” you can hear the faint sound of rain captured by a single microphone in the park as Kam wrapped up the final edits during mixing.” – North End

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