From the heartland of America comes a fascinating split release by Kyle Bobby Dunn and Wayne Robert Thomas that will engage your mind as much as it will your ears. Each artist contributes a single long-form track to be released together in a limited vinyl edition by Ohio-based Whited Sepulchre based in Cincinnati, Ohio. By now the savvy reader might be bemoaning my ignorance saying to themselves Dunn is Canadian. True enough, but he his explores a distinctly American theme on his composition which both complements and segues the wistful ruminations offered by his Indianapolis-based collaborator.
Dauw is a Belgian boutique label based in Ghent that specializes in handmade cassette releases of electroacoustic ambient music of an especially organic & pastoral nature and features a unifying visual aesthetic based on the graphic artwork of Femke Strijbol. The label offers sounds and colors eminently suited to the gentle awakenings of springtime and it is our good fortune that they have put up some irresistible new releases for the season.
A little over a year after his patient fusion of close mic’ed solo piano with delicate synthesizer constructions on The Words She Said (reviewed here), Irish-born, Montreal-based composer/producer Paddy Mulcahy returns with an enigmatic foray into finespun electronica & percussion in the form a striking five-track EP entitled From Water. It begins with the shimmering “You Could Walk Across the Shannon” which treads a fine line between hope & melancholy in keeping with what Mulcahy sought to put across in the song.
“‘You Could Walk Across The Shannon’ is about overcoming the impossible. It’s a musical representation of being an underdog in a vicious race; it’s the rare ability to walk across a riverbed at low-tide. I want to inspire people who are suffering, people who are sad and feel like there’s no point. This music was inspired by nature, people and overcoming my depression.” – Paddy Mulcahy in DJ Mag, 03/09/2018 Continue reading
It is hard to conceive of a more fitting title for latest offering from 36 (pronounced three-six), the ambient / experimental project of Dennis Huddleston from the United Kingdom. Circuit Bloom is like a garden of electronic flowers that bud and blossom in a slow, kaleidoscopic efflorescence of fleeting ephemeral beauty. In a shift from recent 36 releases that resonated on a cosmic scale, Huddleston chose a more introspective theme for a group of songs which serves as a prelude a full-length album to come later this year.
“[Circuit Bloom] contains a selection of 6 predominantly piano-based tape loops, exploring the themes of isolation and escapism, through a Cyberpunk-inspired lens. For me, Cyberpunk is about people living on the fringes of society, finding ways to deal with the hardships they face, through the manipulation and exploitation of technology. It’s a genre/aesthetic I’ve always loved and its influence has always seeped into my music.” – Dennis Huddleston, aka 36
It almost sounds like a pitch for a screenplay. European jazz guitarist travels to New York and answers and ad for an open room posted by an experimental electronic music producer. Kindred spirits who followed very different musical paths, the two hit it off and end up creating an album of music together. Only it’s not a screenplay. It is the story of Munich-born and Zurich-based guitarist Max Frankl and Brooklyn-based Christian Banks aka Walrus Ghost. At the time Frankl moved in, Banks was about to release his debut album Uplifting Themes for the Naysayer. Despite striking up an instant friendship, it took time for their mutual appreciation of each other’s approaches to writing & playing music to grow. But, grow it did. First a song, then a handful of tracks, and finally a complete album called Avenues and Remembrances which will be released later this month.
“When we first met, we could both feel a great connection between the two of us. Some weeks later we recorded some music together, which was one of the greatest experiences I had while playing and recording with a lot of different musicians in New York. The things I treasure in Christian`s music have a lot to do with my compositional approach towards music: I like warm and rich environments that bring a particular quality to the music that is sometimes lacking in hectic day to day life: calmness, silence, and tranquility.” – Max Frankl
Some artists prefer to work under a cloak of anonymity and let their music forge its own identity, and so it is with Rime Trails, an ambient music project based in Denmark. Over the past few years that identity has emerged as one associated with contemplative soundscapes rich in textural elements and reflective of natural surroundings. Given the Scandinavian setting, it is not surprising to find an abundance of wintry themes, but the latest offering is music for another season. Sacred Groves is “music for springtime in eight parts” that was recorded between April and September of 2016.
Crafted from various unnamed instruments and synthesizers, each track is a verdant reverie and an evocation of mystery and contemplation in equal measure. The mood is cloistered and meditative while the sounds wind their way through wooded paths wrapped in tendrils and bathed in shifting light. When the din and clamor of the world becomes too much, you might find this is just the sanctuary you crave.
A couple of years ago I left my listening chair and went on a rare musical field trip to see Slow Meadow and Hotel Neon play an intimate show at the now defunct Union Arts Center in Washington, DC. It all seems a bit surreal now. For one thing, I rarely make it to live shows, let alone ones featuring artists I write about, and, for another, the property that once hosted the eclectic venue is now undergoing major redevelopment. So, by and large, the experience only lives on in my memory as a pleasant dream. One of the sharper recollections, however, was the unexpected pleasure of meeting the affable and talented Mattson Ogg, aka Dura, who opened the proceedings by filling the room with some captivating and heady soundscapes crafted from looping ambient guitar. Since then he has put out a number of releases each one taking its listeners on similar thoughtful and abstract journeys.
Electronic ambient music is a funny animal when you think about it. How is it possible to create compelling music with no conventional instruments, no words, and no beat? But, Austin Cairns, aka r beny, is one of those rare sonic alchemists who does just that weaving rich aural tapestries and exploring the labyrinths of memory using modular & hardware synthesizers and tape machines. Using His 2016 debut full blossom of the evening deservedly caught the ear of many discerning followers of the ambient scene with its broad spectrum of beautifully crafted sounds and varying moods. Then, after a period of personal difficulty and transformation he created what surely must be considered one of the best albums of its kind last year, cascade symmetry. Far from exhibiting a sophomore slump, Cairns found the soul of his machines and delivered a quiet stunner with a palpable melancholy and potent emotional undertow that was little short of astonishing. Now, following his most recent release, the delicate and peaceful saudade on Belgian tape label Dauw, Cairns talks with us about how he got started, his creative process, his gear, and what’s on the horizon. Continue reading
Amidst the teeming diversity and cacophonous sprawl of Los Angeles are scores of people who specialize in making and selling dreams. There is probably no place on earth that has not been imagined or portrayed there and preserved on celluloid. But to truly experience the soul of a place, to connect with it, soak it in, and meaningfully interact with it, you really do need to be there. Perhaps it was with this mindset that Brian Allen Simon aka Anenon packed up his instruments in the spring of 2017 and left behind a roiling political/cultural climate for the serene and picturesque rolling hills of Tuscany, home to millenia of sublime artistic expression and enviable provincial life. There, in a makeshift attic studio on the third story of a 16th century villa in the small town of Palaia he embarked on a month long musical odyssey which resulted in his fourth LP entitled Tongue.
“I live in the city of ephemerality. The omnipresent LA light soaks my mind and body and moves me forward towards a dark and inconsistent absence of remembrance. Around me, histories are bought and sold daily in an unplanned, urban and suburban dwelling that on paper makes zero sense, but in reality has become a haven for wide open creative thinking and action that couldn’t exist anywhere else…I wanted to make music that can live inside of anywhere one finds themselves: city or country. It’s a series of shifting moods and melodies that through the heart, mind, hands, throat, and tongue sing an outpouring of metaphysical, nuanced psychedelic passing truth.” – Brian Allen Simon
Aukai is a Hawaiian word for seafaring traveler or sailor, a suitable metaphor for the musical project of the same name from Markus Sieber conceived after a move from Europe to Mexico and born from his desire to create music that could work in tandem with film, video, theater and the visual arts. The distinctive sound that permeates the music of Aukai owes much to the love affair Sieber has cultivated with the ronroco, a stringed instrument of Andean origins recently popularized by film composer Gustavo Santaolalla. The magic happens as the instrument’s brightly arpeggiated strings are deftly woven into expansive compositions fleshed out by an ensemble that includes cellist Anne Müller (Agnes Obel Band, Nils Frahm), violinist Bogdan Djukic, pianist Angelika Baumbach, keyboardist Alexander Nickmann, and longtime collaborator Jamshied Sharifi (Laurie Anderson, Sting, Dream Theater) .
It is a formula that received a warm & enthusiastic reception for Aukai’s self-titled 2016 debut and works a treat again on the forthcoming follow-up album Branches of Sun which began as a series of recordings made by Sieber during a retreat to a small cabin near the Old Spanish Trail in Colorado last winter far away from a world of human and technological distractions. Perhaps the mood is a bit more austere and contemplative this time as the pristine, remote atmosphere of the high-mountain country looms in the background, but the luminosity and nomadic spirit in the music remains irrepressible and life-affirming. For a taste of the new record, have a listen to the gorgeous interplay of cascading piano runs with the sun-soaked ronroco set off by warm swells and textures of cello that characterize “Fragmentary Blue” offered here in an exclusive premiere.
One of the most unexpected and pleasant surprises of the year so far is a stunning new collaboration between a pair of sound artists from separate continents – Dalot (Maria Papadomanolaki), originally from Greece and currently based in London, and Sound Awakener (Nhung Nguyen) from Hanoi, Vietnam. Imaginatively conceived and elegantly packaged, Little Things presents a pastiche of sonic artifacts and divergent personal narratives transfigured into wondrous inner landscapes that become wholly immersive for the listener.
It starts from ground-level interactions, field recordings of soundwalks in parks, on the streets, hydrophones in rivers and contact microphones on bridges and delicately moves to the ethereal…The album creates a journey for the listener; a journey of changes between the two artists’ lives; the changes in seasons, life-events, ordinary moments and creative processes that affected the perspectives and emotional states within which this album was produced. In ‘Little Things’ the two artists offer an adventurous exploration of internal landscapes through sound and memory, the light and shadow encountered within. – Fluid Audio
Since 2005 Jamie Stillway has self-released 3 full-length records of original compositions garnering accolades from the likes of Fretboard Journal and Jazz Times while drawing numerous lofty comparisons, but March of this year will bring us her first album of solo electric guitar recordings entitled City Static which finds the Portland based guitarist exploring contemplative ambient territory while deftly blending in classical, jazz, & melodic elements.
Stillway was inspired to record City Static in conjunction with her 40th birthday. An electric approach resonated with what she observed in the world around her; as she created space for silence in her life, the constant background noise of the city became more and more noticeable— a droning static hum that inspired [her] most experimental and compelling work to date. – Fluff and Gravy Records