Calmly transportive. Blissfully adrift. Hazy and translucent. A listening journey with four exceptional albums from around the globe that delve into the idyllic side of ambient and electronic music created by The Green Kingdom (USA), Chihei Hatakeyama (Japan), Warmth (Spain), and James Murray (UK).
What a difference one letter can make. Agoraphobia is a paralyzing anxiety that causes one to fear & avoid crowds and open spaces. Change the ‘b’ to an ‘n’, however, and you have Agoraphonia, a neologism coined by Italian sound artists Francesco Giannico and Giulio Aldinucci for their latest project which is built around field recordings of public places from around the world and the resulting album about to be released is anything but anxiety inducing.
A town square is an open public space commonly found in the heart of a traditional town and used for community gatherings. Based on this basic perspective, it is easy to notice how the soundscape of this living center could represent not only sonically, but also from a cultural point of view, a priceless document. After an open call lasted 6 months to send most interesting audio material concerning the theme of the “square” the samples have been selected and reworked in order to create an ideal symphony of all living squares all over the world.
Sometimes unplanned collaborations are the best collaborations of all. When inspiration strikes like lightning and brings idle bones to fleshed out life. That seems to be the case with Branches, a new album on the Dronarvim label by Cyril Secq of the eclectic French band Astrïd and the enigmatic Scottish electroacoustic sound artist Tui who records as Orla Wren. According the label, the two musicians had been considering collaborating beyond the contributions Secq had made to previous Orla Wren albums and discovered the raw material for this in the form of various guitar parts Secq had collected for an unnamed solo project. Subjecting these gorgeous fragments to the tender musical ministrations of such an intricate sound architect as Tui turned them into something quite special that we all can now enjoy.
It’s a duet between acoustic strings and processing, field recordings, edits and organic arrangements. This music is steadily ramifies, growing out of itself like a wild tree. The tunes woven together and untwine again as a branches shaken by the wind. It sounds focused, calm and distinct. Although everything has been done in distant places (France and Scotland) the result sounds like two musicians experimenting in the same room, sharing their background and culture. – Dronarivm
Wil Bolton certainly has a way of capturing the aura and stillness of a place in music. Self-described as “an artist who works predominantly in sound”, his pieces are very much like sonic portraits that harness light, color, and texture with such patience and attention to detail that the listener can almost see and touch them, even inhabit them. His latest full length record released on the Dronarivm label, Inscriptions, began with a collection of environmental sounds collected in Tallinn, Estonia during an artist residency there in 2011.
These field recordings focus in on the quiet, everyday sounds of streets, parks, a lake and a town square. I lived with these sounds for some time, before working on the album. In spring 2013, I began to record the instrumental sounds. I started working with loops I lifted from the quietest sections of old dusty charity shop records – the sounds of piano, strings and harp, half-buried in hiss and crackle. I re-pitched, stretched, edited and processed these loops with guitar pedals and laptop effects. Then over this bed of loops, I recorded layers of digitally treated instrumental parts, played on acoustic guitar, piano and analogue and digital synths. – Wil Bolton
Cavade Morlem, due to be released soon by Moscow-based Dronarivm, is the first new work from composer and musician Alex Smalley, aka Olan Mill, since he closed out a year of numerous solo and collaborative efforts in 2014 with a fine EP on the Home Normal label called Half Seas Over. If you enjoy beautifully crafted, blissful, and serene ambient music, you won’t want to miss either one of these.
Mediterraneo is the latest full length record from Neopolitan pianist and composer Bruno Bavota. There are many reasons one might assume the theme of the album is the sea – the title, the vibrant blue-green hues of the impressionistic cover art, the location of Naples on a bay that opens into the Mediterranean Sea, and the fact that Bavota’s last album was called Secret of the Sea. Perhaps the sea cannot be ignored as a presence and influence, but Bavota tells us that is not what Mediterraneo is about at all: Continue reading
Noteworthy highlights from the past week of music discovery, releases, previews, and other news. Daily updates are available on the Stationary Travels Facebook and Twitter feeds and audio/video links to all tracks featured during the month are available on the Songdrop page.
Previews of Upcoming Releases
Poppy Ackroyd | Feathers | Denovali (November)
Poppy Ackroyd follows up her outstanding debut album Escapement with her second full length release called Feathers in November. The extensive promo for the album on the Denovali site really whets the appetite for this record, especially for those already familiar with Poppy’s wonderful compositional style and her boundless creativity that goes “beyond the keyboard” using all aspects of the piano to create – strings, soundboards, and pedals.
“Poppy’s beloved, restored Blüthner grand piano in her studio is again the backbone of the album, providing most of the melodies, bass lines and percussive sounds. Other material originated from improvised recording sessions at the Russell/Mirrey Collection of keyboard instruments in Edinburgh.”
We can also expect to hear harmonium, clavichord, harpsichord and spine, violin, field recordings and contributions by guesr cellist Su-a Lee. Check out the beautiful preview track ‘Roads’ and keep your eye on the Denovali site for the official release and upcoming tour dates.
More information: http://denovali.com/poppyackroyd/
Carlos Cipa | All Your Life You Walk | Denovali (November)
Denovali makes a strong showing this month with another highly anticipated release, the second full length album from Munich based composer and multi-instrumentalist Carlos Cipa entitled All Your Life You Walk. Carlos is an accomplished pianist who has shared the stage recently with artists such as Hauschka, Ólafur Arnalds, and Valgeir Sigurdsson and has impressed with his debut The Monarch and the Viceroy and his collaborative EP with Sophia Jani, Relive. Fans of modern classical, and piano in particular, will not want to miss out this album, especially after hearing the exquisite preview track ‘And Gently Drops the Rain’.
“Carlos Cipa created unique contemporary compositions fraught with beauty, tension and emotional intensity, clearly presenting the unique voice of a composer, who is fascinated by classical and contemporary composers ranging from MOZART, DEBUSSY or RAVEL to STEVE REICH and DAVID LANG, but is also inspired by modern bands like THE NATIONAL or MOGWAI. Though each piece is framed as a coherent song, it’s all pieces combined that create a musical flow, spanning over the whole album…conceived as concept album ‘All your life you walk’ should be listened to as a whole.”
More information: http://denovali.com/carloscipa
‘And Gently Drops the Rain’
Chihei Hatakeyama & GWFAA | Falling Sun | Rural Colours (November)
The latest release on boutique label Rural Colours is an unexpected, but delightful surprise, a collaboration between ambient guitarist Chihei Hatakeyama and Good Weather for an Airstrike, the solo ambient project of UK musician Tom Honey. The stunning cover art and generous album sampler that appeared this week promise a sumptuous and absorbing collection of soundscapes that showcases the best of these two artists. While waiting for the official release, why not saunter over to the Bandcamp sites of each where you can find an abundance of their solo material to check out.
More information: http://music.ruralcolours.co.uk/music
Chihei Hatakeyama on Bandcamp: https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com/
Good Weather for an Airstrike on Bandcamp: https://goodweatherforanairstrike.bandcamp.com/
To Destroy a City | SUNLESS | N5MD (November)
Chicago-based post rock trio To Destroy a City emerges from a three year quite period following their 2011 debut album with SUNLESS which will be released on N5MD. Having had a chance to preview the recording, I can tell you that this is a very assured and polished sophomore effort and one that should light up the eyes & ears of post rock fans with its balanced mix of organic energy and atmospheric textures. The official release is just over two weeks away, but pre-orders are available and you can listen right now to the soaring preview track ‘Last Contact’. Play it loud and often.
“At times SUNLESS is more electronic leaning than its predecessor, yet is still punctuated with sheets of glacially emotive guitar-work. Intricate electronic beats give way to propulsive live drumming. The synths, while more prominent this time out, fit effortlessly into the TDAC framework…a must-have for fans of God is an Astronaut, Hammock, and Lights Out Asia. SUNLESS will be available on CD/FLAC/MP3 as well as limited edition 2xLP with a limited amount in red/orange/black splatter.”
More information: http://n5md.com/discography/233/SUNLESS
K. Novotny | Gesture & Texture | Preserved Sound (December)
Ambient/Electroacoustic musician K. Novotny from Łódź, Poland will be releasing his newest album Gesture & Texture in December on Preserved Sound which he describes as a “collection of meditations on the soundscape around us and how it relates to the passage of our own lives”. The music is a style of which I am particularly fond – soft ambient drones adorned with natural field recordings, piano, and deft touches of electronica woven into tranquil soundscapes that caress the ears. Keep an eye out for announcement of a release date and pre-orders. In the meantime, enjoy the preview track ‘Anāhata’.
More information: https://preservedsound.bandcamp.com/
There Is No Teenage Love | LAHEX | (January)
There Is No Teenage Love is a project from Los Angeles based musicians Erik Tokle (Whale Fall) and David J. Dowling. Their second full length album LAHEX will be released on 12” white vinyl in January and can now be pre-ordered with an instant digital download. Two preview tracks are available now and both exemplify the duo’s M.O. which is to “create cinematic soundscapes through improvisation and live looping, manipulating guitars beyond recognition and dispensing with conventions of structure in favor of a post-modern, abstract and painterly approach to composition“. Both are gorgeous and unfold slowly revealing many layers of tone & melody. Beautiful stuff.
Massimo Disceopoli | Parallax | DOF (Sep 1)
Parallax is the first album that drummer and multi-instrumentalist Massimo Discepoli (aka Nheap) releases under his own name. It has the spirit of an ambient recording, but takes a unique approach in prominently featuring the acoustic drum kit. While that may sound like a musical oxymoron, it works out quite beautifully. The key is the approach in which Discepoli’s uses the set in a way that “abandons the role of mere rhythm accompaniment”, instead uses them to add color and atmosphere. And that doesn’t just mean cymbal washes and soft rolls across the toms. On some tracks Discepoli shows some real chops and delivers thunderous poly-rhythmic jams, yet somehow never spoiling the meditative ambient mood. Parallax is a seeming paradox that ends up being a delight to listen to.
(ghost) | A Vast and Decaying Appearance | N5MD (Oct 14)
Connecticut-based musician Brian Froh has delivered his second album under the moniker (ghost) on the N5MD label entitled A Vast and Decaying Appearance. At times poetic and reflective (see his words below), at others deliciously glitchy in a way that reminds one of his label-mate Ocoeur, and at others airy & melodic like Tycho, it all comes together for a great listen. A must listen for fans of intelligent and emotive electronica.
a vast and decaying appearance
withered and broken
hanging on by a thread
distorted beyond recognition
dwindling in my view
a clouded shadow
on jagged stone
More information: http://n5md.com/discography/235/A-Vast-and-Decaying-Appearance
‘A Vast and Decaying Appearance’
Kiasmos | Kiasmos | Erased Tapes (Oct 27)
We’ve been enjoying collaborative sounds from Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rassmussen as Kiasmos for several years and now thanks to the duo’s focused efforts in 2014, we finally we have a complete full-length album in the Erased Tapes catalog. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. It is nothing less than sublime, hitting the sweet spot of every genre it references – techno, IDM, modern classical, and ambient.
“Made in Ólafur’s newly build studio in Reykjavík, Iceland, a majority of the album was recorded using acoustic instruments next to a variety of synthesizers, drum machines and tape delays. It features a live drummer, string quartet and Ólafur performing on the grand piano, producing an ambient, textured sound, which makes it a perfect home listen and equally danceable record.”
I suspect most readers of ST are already enjoying this album, but if not, don’t waste anytime checking it out. A fine way to do that is this stream and track-by-track description hosted by Drowned in Sound here: http://ow.ly/DFin7
Luke Howard | Two & One | (Oct 30)
Australian composer and pianist needs little introduction. His latest recording Two & One is now available in digital format and is released in conjunction with his new photo book of the same name consisting of fifty-four carefully selected photos from travels throughout Australia, North America and Europe. Fans of his last album Sun, Cloud will be right at home as he delivers another set of fine compositions melding piano and electronic orchestrations with a touch of the cinematic. In particular, ‘Hold Me Through’, ‘Oculus’, and ‘Nocturne’ are exceptionally lovely.
Visit Luke’s Bandcamp page to get the album. The photo book and a book of concert tour posters are also both available for purchase their.
Sentimental Machines | Less | (Oct 30)
Sentimental Machines is a collaborative project between Italian sound artist Attilio Novellino and electroacoustic musicial Saverio Rosi. Having performed together at numerous festivals and art events, the duo sees their first studio album Less released on the Dronarivm label. It is a collection of six lovely tracks featuring “close-ups of melancholy piano on a vaguely industrial flow…mixing old musical instruments (piano, pump organ, tape delay and analog echo machines), field recordings and laptop treatments in order to highlight the sentimental aspect behind these electroacoustic compositions.”. Highlights in particular are the elegiac ‘The Shining Ground’ and the mesmerizing ‘Dogma – Homage to Arvo Pärt’.
Less is available in digital format or in a limited run of 3” CDr in a specially boxed package.
Sophie Hutchings | White Light | (Oct 30)
The latest recording by composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings is a gift of music and poetry offered by the artist as a free download to enjoy in between her last studio album Night Sky and the next one to come. It is a collection of exquisite solo improvisations recorded in a church hall in here hometown of Sydney, Australia. Fans of Sophie’s work or solo piano in general will no doubt welcome this present into their collections with delight and gratitude while looking forward to her next project.
With no wind and no sound
substance in the silence
a rest in fading skies
when light dips to gloaming
a subtle closing in
something whispering in the silence
shadows toward darkness
motionless on a mountain
the lonely fragrance of earth after rain
stretch out your arms and see