It has been a little over two years since we heard from Good Weather For An Airstrike, the project British musician Tom Honey conceived nearly nine years ago to help alleviate suffering caused by tinnitus. Little Steps is a fine addition to his catalog as it finds the sweet spot between the ambient, post-rock, and electronic elements which are all integrated into a seamless organic flow with a deft and delicate touch.
Jason Sweeney is known for a wide variety of projects and many musical aliases over the past two decades. Perhaps the most personal and intimate is the classically oriented Panoptique Electrical which saw a new release this month, the first since last year’s Disappearing Music for Face. A great deal of what you need to know about the know record is encapsulated in its title – Quiet Ecology.
In 2016 Sweeney undertook a quiet odyssey across four Australian cities (Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne), searching out and mapping quiet spaces in and amongst these built environments. He wanted to discover as many zones of quiet or retreat in these cities and make compositions in response to these locations. He created maps and listening walks that took him from space to space. His desire was to ask a simple question: Can you find a way to release yourself, if only temporarily, from the noise of the world? ‘Quiet Ecology’ is a sonic memorial to these spaces and a musical act of quiet preservation. – Sound in Silence
Few artists in the world of instrumental music have a compass as locked on to true north as Hammock. For years, this Nashville-based project of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson has served up a rich sonic feast spanning the genres of ambient, post-rock, and modern classical while resonating with heartfelt, and often heart-wrenching, emotion. Perhaps what they are capable of was summed up best and most succinctly in a comment to one of their recent videos where the listener said “Hammock has this way of telling you, ‘Everything will be okay.’, in the most beautiful way possible”. And in 2017 we have a double helping of new work from the band, an original motion picture soundtrack and a full-length studio album.
Following last year’s impressive full blossom of the evening, California-based r beny returns with another beautifully crafted opus fashioned from modular and hardware synthesizers entitled cascade symmetry. The album, which was recorded in San Jose but features additional field recordings captured in South Korea is a work the artist refers to as the “culmination of an intense and transformative year-long period” and “an ode to new beginnings and the disintegration of the past”. While that may be true creatively speaking, the listener will experience this album as a soothing immersion in a world of sumptuous textures; a warm and inviting quiescence of time as lush, shrouded, and remotely melancholic as Austin Cairn’s imagery of the Oregon coast on the cover suggests.
Don’t be fooled by Martyn Heyne’s youthful appearance. The Hamburg-born composer & producer brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his debut full-length album. He took up piano and guitar at an early age teaching himself the instruments in non-traditional ways before going on to be classically trained at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. In addition to being a live performer with the acclaimed indie band Efterklang and opening shows for Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory for the Sullen as a solo artist, Heyne has worked with a diverse group of high-profile artists in his Lichte studio in Berlin including Peter Broderick , alt-J, and The National (for a nice sampling of these check out his ‘Monday is Ok’ mix here). He brings all of this compositional and recording experience as well as his fondness for the electric guitar to the table for the recently released Electric Intervals, an album which he approached with a very specific philosophy.
“The number of parameters that determine a recording appears to be infinite. The mood, instrument, tuning, settings, microphones, room, placement, temperature, time of day, etc. all contribute to sound. The magic, once captured, is impossible to recreate. This might seem a hindrance, but it’s really the whole point of recording for me and also the reason why I never use samples or virtual instruments…the better the instrument sounds, the more you want to convey that quality.’’ – Martyn Heyne
Minnesota based composer Chris Bartels is a man of many musical faces. Under the umbrella of his hybrid record label and production house Anthem Falls Music, he tends a variety of projects under different monikers along with work under his own name for film, TV, & advertising. The one that should be most familiar to fans of ambient music with a cinematic bent is Elskavon, which saw its debut in 2012 with the excellent Movements In Season followed by Release in 2013 and Reveal in 2014. Three years later, it is great to see Chris reactivating the project with previews of a fourth LP due in January. Each song on the new record is inspired by a particular memorable moment or era in his life and he has furnished us a prime example in “Dusk Line Hills” which I am pleased to premiere today. The backdrop for this track is an unforgettable moment that occurred in the Black Hills where Bartels was vacationing with his wife, one-year old son, and in-laws just as they were discussing how much they would like to get a glimpse of the elk that roam the area.
Literally as we take a right on the road to exit the route, there’s an elk, and then we see another one. We slow down and pull over to watch. It was getting close to dark. All of a sudden we hear some cries and look up the hill. There’s about somewhere between 60 to 80 elk. They started calling at or to each other, and then running up and down the hill for a minute – maybe there were two herds, I’m not sure. I just remember that moment so clearly – I remember all of us in the car just sort of gasping and then falling silent for a bit, watching, listening, taking it all in. Then in no time, they were gone. Disappeared over the dusk line hills”
Unsichtbar is a new project from Lima (Peru) shrouded in a mystery by design. The word, meaning ‘invisible’ in German, is an apt choice for the anonymous alter ego chosen by the artist for an intuitive creative process unencumbered by preconceptions or set guidelines and deliberately unmoored from a conscious sense of self.
If I give too many details, I go back to myself, and that’s something I am trying to avoid. Here, I experiment with completely different and new sounds with the only intention of experimenting. No hidden messages, no complicated concepts, nothing at all. Just textures and sensations. That’s what ‘Erlebnis’, my debut album, is about. A creative process that, if transposed into life, could be seen as youth and the experiences we go through while growing up and discovering ourselves. – Unsichtbar
The debut album Erlebnis (‘experience’) offers 8 mostly unstructured sonic experiments that skew heavily toward the crepuscular and opaque. Dense, even ominous at times, there is an emotional undercurrent throughout which occasionally breaks through in fragments of melody and tender moments of heightened perception. These characteristics are abundantly evident in “Junges Liebespaar” which you can listen to here in an exclusive premiere. Continue reading
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.
There are few artists who are able to convey the full drama and scope of the existential ache through their music as Amir Abbey aka Secret Pyramid. Drawing inspiration from the vast Pacific Northwest where he is based, he builds plaintive minor key melodies into monumental edifices of sound that somehow never lose their intimacy or emotional compass and he as the height of his powers on his latest album entitled Two Shadows Collide. This music is full of compelling paradoxes. It is crepuscular and illuminated; tentative and transcendent; lush and barren, majestic and devastating. But it is these very conflicts that are at the heart of the album’s themes.
Carefully built and fluidly performed, the record expands Abbey’s relationship with modern composition and abstract songcraft. Each song’s main inspiration comes from the notion behind the album title, the intersection and attraction of forces and worlds, clashing of sounds, and the dualities within our lives. That such a meditative release is built upon conflict is ironic, but therein lies the perfect way to listen. – Ba Da Bing Records
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).