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“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: The Beautiful Hum of Hotel Neon”

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Photo by Image by Robert Katzki  (source: unsplash.com/photos/yKWuzGyVsBM)

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)”

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“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”

Impermanence (2000x2000)

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 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”

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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)”

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Atsuhito Omori has been making nostalgia-tinged instrumental music as Ex Confusion for the better part of a decade now and will be soon be making his third appearance on the n5MD label with ‘I Remember When’.  This will be the first of his albums to see a vinyl release which seems apropos given its highly ephemeral qualities which are ideally suited to the format.

Continue reading “Sound Impression: I Remember When by Ex Confusion [n5MD]”

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The EP is often overlooked when it comes year-end retrospectives, but this format can provide us with some very special musical moments and here are some from 2018 that I would not have wanted to miss.

Continue reading “2018 Year in Review: The Art of the EP”

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This list can never be big enough to include all the beautiful work done in these genres over the course of a year, but here are 25 albums that left a lasting impression. Here you’ll find rich atmospheres, deep emotional undercurrents, and organic, warm, and tactile soundscapes. Among these albums we find as much decomposition as composition, an embrace of stillness and naturally occurring beauty.

Continue reading “2018 In Review: Journeys in Ambient, Drone, and Electroacoustic”

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Each of these sixteen albums is conceptually, thematically or musically connected to places or moments in time. While this is a somewhat common motif in instrumental music (ambient in particular), it is absolutely integral in these outstanding works released in 2018. Some are personal narratives and some are depictions of landscape either real or imagined. Others are sonic interrogations or interactions inextricably linked to the locations where they were formed. Whatever their nature, all of them proved captivating and memorable. One might say they represent the very essence of stationary traveling… 

Continue reading “2018 In Review: A Sense of Place and Time”