Whale Fall – Sondersongs

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This summer marks the welcome return of instrumental collective Whale Fall with their first album in nearly four years and a glorious one it is. The sprawling vistas of The Madrean, their 2014 post-rock homage to the natural & urban landscapes of the American southwest, give way to a more broadly referential cycle of songs called Sondersongs which takes inspiration from the neologistic definition of a word found in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk”  – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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Jeff Mercel – Lunescapes Volume One

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If you don’t know Jeff Mercel by name, there is a pretty good chance you have heard at least some of his music. A composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Mercel was a contributing member of the pioneering American indie rock band Mercury Rev from their critically acclaimed album Deserter’s Songs in 1998 until leaving the band in 2010 to focus on composition for television and film. His work has appeared on major TV shows like CSI and This American Life and commercials for mega companies like Pepsi, BMW, & Google and he continues to work as a session musician, band member (Miracle Whips, Ultraam), as well as being national music director for O+ (a national non-profit, based in Kingston, NY that works to provide musicians & visual artists with access to health care).

The music for his first full-length solo recording under his own name, however, is a much more intimate affair and was recorded in his home “mostly in the kitchen, on a sometimes unruly upright piano”. Lunescapes Volume One is a shimmering collection of instrumental “vignettes, intimate landscapes, and lo-fi fantasies” rendered with the sure hands of a skilled composer and journeyman musician with a keen melodic ear.

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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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Video Premiere: Unimaginable Light Shines Out by The Gateless Gate

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The Gateless Gate is a music project of Allister Thompson, a singer-songwriter currently based in North Bay, Canada, who started it to explore his interests in ambient, psychedelic, post-rock, progressive and experimental music. It embraces a wide-range of influences from not only the masters of those genres, but also “kosmische musik” and the music of Central and East Asia. The albums with which I was previously most familiar were from a period several years ago when a boreal mood prevailed with such evocative, landscape-themed recordings as Near North, Sibir, and Landslag Norður Íslands. This summer, however, the project comes in from the cold and will see the release of the radiant new album Nothing Is Missing which dwells in decidedly warmer climes where the sun shines brightly and life is in full bloom.

“The aim of this music is to illustrate through sound that no matter how turbulent the times become and how hopeless life seems, underneath all the turmoil and tragedy — everything is actually all right. All is as it should be. ” – Allister Thompson 

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Album Premiere: Orbit by Snorri Hallgrímsson [Moderna Records]

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Snorri Hallgrímsson is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Reykjavík, Iceland. Originally starting out as a classical guitarist, he fell in love with film music during his teen years and, having secured a degrees in composition from both the Iceland Academy of the Arts and Berklee College of Music, his name is associated with a growing list scores for cinema and television. Now he has a full-length solo album to call his own and it is very much imbued with not only the atmospheric elements of filmic music but also an elusive and haunting mystique captured by only a handful of Icelandic composers such as Ólafur Arnalds with whom Hallgrímsson has worked on such projects as Island Songs, The Chopin Project, and the BAFTA-winning score for Broadchurch. Certainly one can hear echoes of these works on the sumptuous offering that is Orbit, but we are also introduced to Hallgrímsson’s own voice not only as a composer and arranger, but quite literally thanks to his bold decision to add vocals to many of the songs. The result is an album of arresting, hypnotic beauty and extraordinary emotional depth.

“Recorded primarily at Ólafur Arnalds’s studio in Reykjavík, the songs on Orbit explore the difficulties of living in and moving between vastly different places: from Mexico’s sunny days to Iceland’s long winter nights and their emotional toll. Orbit is also about people met along the way, of friends and family whose absence is bittersweet. The concept of ‘home’ is replaced by an ‘orbit’ the composer circles from place to place.” – Moderna Records

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Sound Impression: A Light, A Glimmer by Various Artists [Polar Seas Recordings]

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Since starting out mostly as a home for Canadian duo North Atlantic Drift and the side projects of members Brad Deschamps and Mike Abercrombie, Polar Seas Recordings has expanded its reach in recent years and boasts a surge of excellent new releases for 2018 by artists such as Celer and Hakobune. The most recent of these is an outstanding new charity compilation called A Light, A Glimmer which will support of Wishing Well Sanctuary, a farmed animal sanctuary in Ontario that provides both for animals in need and education for children and adults with the goal of promoting compassion for other species.

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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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Video Premiere: What We Should Protect by Hoshiko Yamane

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The music of violinist and composer Hoshiko Yamane embraces a wide and vibrant spectrum. Not only has she has been involved in a diverse array of collaborative, dance, and film projects, but as a member of Tangerine Dream you can find her lighting up stages across Europe this spring and summer as part of the band’s kinetic, kaleidoscopic shows. There is a much more introspective side to her music, however, which she displays on her latest solo album soon to be released by 1631 Recordings. Threads is a luminous collection of pieces leaning toward a minimal ambient aesthetic woven from loops & layers of acoustic violin into tapestries of sound both tender and transcendent.

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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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Kaada – Closing Statements [Mirakel]

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Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, composer, & producer John Erik Kaada knows a thing or two about making sounds that people want to hear. Over the course of his musical career he’s made quiet a lot of them across a diverse spectrum of genres and formats – solo albums, collaborations, soundtracks, and live shows. He has just released another album and while he no doubt wants people to hear to it, what he really hopes is that it will drive home the message of how important it is for people to listen, really listen, to one another. The title of each song on Closing Statements is either a quote or fragment from things that people, both famous and infamous, uttered when they were about to die. A somber theme to be sure, but Kaada gives it a life-affirming twist. While so much music about death look inwards towards feelings of grief, loss, or nostalgia, he discards such well-worn tropes to reveal a surprisingly poignant lesson for the living.

“I don’t think I’ll have more important things to say when I’m on my deathbed than I have generally in life. This applies to most people, I guess. Final words aren’t any wiser or cleverer than anything you’d normally say. But it’s the fact that you’re not going to say anything else ever again that makes this moment so special. You have the audience’s full attention…The underlying message of the album is that we have to listen to each other. In a modern world where people mostly don’t have the time or interests to get to know one another, we need to be reminded that we need to listen.”John Erik Kaada

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A Sense of Place: Solan Goose by Erland Cooper [Phases]

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Erland Cooper is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer whose previous projects include The Magnetic North and Erland and the Carnival as well as scoring and producing music for TV & film. Cooper was born and raised far from the urban landscape surrounding his London studio in Orkney, situated just beyond the northern tip of the Scottish mainland. It is a breathtaking locale steeped in folklore, myth, and nautical culture and it is the place to which he returns for his debut solo project called Solan Goose. The album prominently features the area’s avian fauna and the local Orcadian dialect which reflects the intertwining of its Scots and Norse lingual heritage.

“Having grown up on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney, he wrote this work as a response to ease anxiety and claustrophobia working in a city. It explores the borders between electronic, alternative and classical music while creating for him and the listener a work of balance and calm – a kind of liminal space. Each song is entitled with a bird name but in local ‘Orcadian’ dialect. It’s a record to travel to, and evokes themes of migration, restoration and childhood memory.”

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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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