“I could hear everything, together with the hum of my hotel neon…” – Jack Kerouac
One of the privileges of being on this journey of musical discovery over the past five years or so has been to witness first hand the trajectory of emerging artists from their tentative beginnings to their creative peak, and one of the most satisfying among these has been Hotel Neon. What began in 2013 with brothers Michael & Andrew Tasselmyer, some inexpensive equipment, and a little inspiration from Jack Kerouac has blossomed into a vital trio (multi-instrumentalist Steven Kemner joined in 2015) that is doing some real heavy lifting in the field of ambient & electroacoustic music.
From the perspective of the outside observer at least, some of the keys to Hotel Neon’s success would seem to be an extraordinarily clear vision of their sound from the very outset, a commitment to avoid repeating themselves, an intense work ethic, and persistent efforts to cultivate a sense of camaraderie with fellow artists as well as their audience. All of this has translated into a series of albums each of which becomes essential listening as soon as it released. This travelogue features the last two most recent full-length records, the brand new Vanishing Forms and last year’s Means of Knowing, both available on Agustín Mena’s outstanding Archives imprint. Continue reading “Travelogue 2019.04.21: The Beautiful Hum of Hotel Neon”
Photo by Image by Robert Katzki
Welcome to the listening room. Make yourself comfortable and check out some of the latest sounds that have caught our ears as well as previews of upcoming releases. We begin with the quarterly Soundcloud “field journal” playlist for the spring season as well as new music by THESIS (ft. Taylor Deupree, M. Grig, & Porya Hatami), Rafael Anton Irisarri, Benoit Pioulard & Sean Curtis Patrick, Antarctic Wastelands (Ben Tatlow), Michael Price, Maiya Hershey & Steve Jansen, Sven Laux & Daniela Orvin, Richard Luke ft. Amini Bedrush-McDonald, and Laura Masotto. Continue reading “The Listening Room (April 2019)”
“A week before leaving, I bought a dictionary and phrasebook…”
Under the moniker of Celer, American musician, writer, & photographer Will Long has released a staggering amount of material – a wide assortment of drones, soundscapes, sketchworks, and processed loops. No doubt his many followers each have their own favorites, but personally I always find his work most compelling when he creates deeply immersive on-location narratives such as Sky Limits (2014) which presented a sense of daily commuter life in urban Japan, or Two Days and One Night (2016) which wistfully retraced the steps of an elderly uncle’s tragic visit to Tunisia in the 1984.
Long’s preternatural ability to capture scenes and emotions in a kind of musical amber and then turn it into a story comes to the fore again on Xièxie, in which he takes us on a journey from Shanghai to Hangzou on China’s high-speed rail line. Like a cinematographer who slows fast-moving action on celluloid for dramatic effect, Long turns the journey into a mesmerizing soporific reverie punctuated by scene-setting cues like the bustle of a busy station or the whir of a speeding train. To deepen the immersion, he narrates the excursion in the liner notes with all the eloquence of a novelist.
“Covered in rain, during the days and even the nights, Shanghai was lit in a glow, a mist turning to a constant grey fog. Buildings lined with neon and LCD screens flashed, and from around corners and behind buildings, the night was illuminated much the same as the day. Cars separated the classes, their horns voices punctuating the streets, as pedestrians in groups loosely scattered the streets, talking and walking on speakerphone…”
Continue reading “A Sense of Place: Xièxie by Celer”
After a little winter hibernation, things are beginning to spring to life over at 1631 Recordings, one of my favorite contemporary classical labels since its inception. In addition to three releases announced in conjunction with Piano Day 2019, the label will be bringing us a collection of brand new reworks of material from Jakob Lindhagen‘s ‘Paces‘ which was originally released in late 2017 (read the ST review here). While Lindhagen successfully etched the quintessence of long Scandinavian nights into each of the album’s austere, delicate compositions, these carefully curated reworks reveal how just how adaptable they are to new ideas and constructions. Continue reading “Premiere: Jakob Lindhagen – In The Machinery (Aisling Brouwer Rework)”
Ian Hawgood‘s name is absolutely inseparable from the contemporary ambient & experimental music scene. His Home Normal label, which just marked its tenth anniversary, is one of the first and still one of the best of its kind. He is also a tireless and kind supporter of other musicians in this space and has had a hand in mastering many of their albums across a wide array of labels. His own solo albums, however, have been few & precious so it comes as great news to see one arrive this spring only a year after last year’s 光 for Eilean Rec. Hawgood himself draws a connection between the two, saying that they are “partners in construction”, the result of patient late-night cultivation over nearly a five-year period spent living in Warsaw and Tokyo before ultimately selling off his entire collection of synths and reels, some of which went to the British Library. One might argue he saved his best for last as Impermanence is a sublime document of sonic ephemerality and extraordinary filigree in terms of both texture and emotion.
“After many years of in-demand mastering, label curation and collaborative focus Hawgood now offers us a definitive portrait of the technical expertise and personal integrity demanded by exemplary modern tape-based practice…In studios between Tokyo and Warsaw walls of reel-to-reel tape recorders, analogue synthesizers, processed textures and degraded cassette recordings were all carefully coaxed into braiding together their hiss, wow, flutter and warmth into this beautifully flowing nine-chapter arc of delicately unpredictable sound.” – James Murray (Slowcraft Records)
Continue reading “Premiere: “Whispers” from Impermanence by Ian Hawgood”
Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels has been writing ambient music under the name Elskavon for a decade and this past year was arguably one of his most productive with the release of Skylight and numerous collaborations and work supporting the burgeoning indie classical scene in the area along with artists like Jacob Pavek, Philip Daniel, and John Hayes. Not only that, but the Bora York indie pop project fronted by Bartels and wife Rebekah are in the process of developing a new album as well. Sounds like more than enough to keep even the most restlessly creative musician busy, does it not? Yet, somehow Bartels has found the time & energy to put yet one more iron in the fire with Blurstem.
The project was born as a piano-centric offshoot of Elskavon. Chris and Rebekah were gifted an old spinet piano when they bought a house in 2015. Always slightly out of tune, a little dusty sounding, and very much imperfect, the instrument had a character that Chris wanted to explore. He cut up an old sweater and taped it to the strings, so as to avoid waking up their children at night and ended up writing so many new songs on this spinet that he felt the need to start a whole new project. Fittingly, the first single from the album that resulted is premiered here on Piano Day.
Continue reading “Premiere: Rubrik by Blurstem + Brique A Braq”
Some artists just have a knack for engendering special collaborations and Belgian musician Stijn Hüwels is one of the those. In fact his last four releases have all been collaborative efforts – Sleep, Shared with Norihito Suda (2016, Dauw), An Unintended Space with Danny Clay (2017, Eilean), and Fieldem (2018, Home Normal) as part of Silent Vigils with James Murray, and now Tomodachi which involved ten different artists and especially highlights the two essential ingredients that makes all of these work so beautifully. But, best let Stijn tells us about that in his own words:
“The starting point for this album was simple. I sent out a question to fellow musicians I deeply respect and whose work I especially like. I know all of them for some time, and they all have a significant influence on my work. I asked them to send me ‘something’, a sample, melody or field recording I could use to create a new piece of music. This exchange of inspiration forced me to approach composing in a different way than I use to do, without abandoning my main gear (guitar and laptop). Slowly, I tried to make a consistent story from the different pieces I got. That’s how the album was formed and how it got its final shape. I decided to call it ‘Tomodachi’, Japanese for ‘friend(s)’. That’s the only thing I can say about the album: it’s about friendship and music”. – Stijn Hüwels
Continue reading “Stijn Hüwels – tomodachi [Dauw]”
Image © 2013 Russell Sherwood Photography
Welcome to the listening room. Make yourself comfortable and check out some of the latest sounds that have caught our ears as well as preview upcoming releases. Last updated on March 23, 2019 and featuring tracks by Siavash Amini, William Ryan Fritch, Philip G Anderson, Sōzuproject, Federico Mosconi, Kyle Bobby Dunn, Lowercase Noises, Heron, Ciro Berenguer, Andrew Tasselmyer, Stijn Hüwels, Jameson Nathan Jones, and Poppy Ackroyd (Hauschka rework).
Continue reading “The Listening Room (March 2019)”
In the spring of 2014 I put together my first music mix at the invitation of one of ambient community’s most gracious supporters, Thomas Mathie aka Headphonaught. Nearly five years and more than 60 shows later, it is has become one of the most satisfying avenues I can think of for showcasing the music I’ve encountered for Stationary Travels.
The site has just been extensively updated with links to all the shows from 2014 to current which you can now find in the “Streaming” menu under “Mixcloud”. If you want to browse directly on the Mixcloud website or app, just go to: https://www.mixcloud.com/stationarytravels/ Continue reading “Mixcloud Update”