Blue is the color and blue is the mood of Down to the Sadness River by Emilía, a new collaboration between Lee Yi & Vanesa Jimenez (aka Meneh Peh). The album is being released on the multi-disciplinary Rottenman Editions which was founded by Jimenez and where you can also find their 2012 recording under the moniker Niñocometa along with Yi’s lovely Motet EP from earlier this year. The album’s description alludes to “a painful life” and “a suffering past, tragedy and the slow search of the long road to stillness” and while the artists respect their own privacy regarding the details, there are poignant clues in the song titles and there is certainly nothing held back in the haunting intensity of the music.
Toronto based Polar Seas Recordings was founded a little over five years ago and for most of that time has primarily served as a home for the releases of Brad Deschamps & Mike Abercrombie as North Atlantic Drift as well as their respective side projects anthéne and Transits of Mercury. In the past year however, the label has released no less than eleven albums, matching the output of the first four years put together while expanding their roster of artists and encompassing a broader sonic palette. Here is a roundup of some the most recent and recommended.
Heavy, oscillating waves of sound wash up on imaginary shores warmed by the rays of a distant sun. The Vacation, the latest album by Oleksiy Sakevych under the moniker of Endless Melancholy is a worthy follow-up to his well reviewed 2015 release Her Name In A Language of Stars.
Even more so than its predecessor, it evokes a sense of cosmic wonder and vast, otherworldly vistas while being anchored to a strong emotional undertow which lends it the haunting poignancy that makes it so compelling. Best experienced as a complete journey from start to finish, there are some individual standout moments, with tender stillness at the heart of “Wouldn’t We Be Lonely” and the transcendent, palatial slow build of “Enough to Cost Us a Lifetime” being arguably among the most striking.
Imagine the textured, aerated drones of Sky Margin (Own Records, 2013) and the pastoral romanticism of Along the Mantic Spring (Infraction, 2014) fused into a single amalgam and then elevated into a dazzling, symphonic edifice of sound. Avifaunal is the brand new lush and expansive musical narrative created by Alex Smalley (aka Olan Mill) and Simon Bainton under their collaborative moniker of Pausal now out on Dronarivm. The grandiosity of the new record has its origins in a live performance a couple of years prior at a venue which invited experimentation on a large sonic scale.
In 2015 the band were asked by Martin Boulton of Touched Music to perform in Pembrokeshire, Wales and set about generating new material for the show. It was also an opportunity to develop a new equipment setup including looped turntable, voice microphones and synths. A local hall was hired for improvisation and practice sessions which provided an interesting sonic space to explore and possibilities to work at far louder volumes, both of which helped shape the eventual live set and the track “Murmuration” as that is represented here. “Spiral”, “Scatter” and “Soar” were also edited and assembled from the recording sessions around this time.
The reassuring steady hum of soft drones, temperate in mood, weightless as if held aloft on gentle air currents; permeable to texture and filigree; slowly turning to catch shimmering glints of light; calm; harmonious. A salve for the ears and a balm for the soul. These are the things that come to mind listening to Constellate by artist & musician Steve Pacheco which he recorded in Santa Fe and Los Angeles. Understated and beautifully crafted, it is an excellent an inspiration to moments of reflection and an excellent companion to working in solitude.
With more than half of its 100 map points now filled in, the imaginary island of Eilean has evolved into a remarkably eclectic, globally diverse, and often magical place. Point 80 on the map has been selected by a pair of collaborating musicians from Latvia – sound designer and field recordist Sound Meccano (aka Rostislav Rekuta) and ambient guitarist Jura Laiva. Together they have contrived a vivid collection of soundscapes entitled Salty Wind and Inner Fire.
Shimmering Moods is a label based in Amsterdam that has already had a fruitful 2017 with a number of excellent limited edition CD releases and quite an international roster of artists. Featured here are recent works by Andrew Tasselmyer (USA), Snufmumriko (Sweden) , Rime Trails (Denmark), and Gallery Six (Japan). Also highly recommended are two albums featured on our 2016 year-in-review – Radio Sea’ by Adzuki and ‘Mothers Garden’ by Å Asher-Yates, a brand new reissue of ‘Naar Vi Vaagner’ by øjeRum, and a pair of works by Dimitar Dodovski, ‘Derive’ (2016) and ‘In Every Direction’ (2015). All releases can be found here on their Bandcamp site.
Sound In Silence is a small DIY record label based in Athens, Greece that has been releasing limited editions presented in collectible handmade packaging since 2006. Featured here are four of their most recent releases by moshimoss & stabilo, anthéne, bvdub, and (ghost). I also recommend browsing through the rest of their Bandcamp catalog where you’ll find gems by artists such as Wil Bolton, Caught in the Wake Forever, Good Weather for an Airstrike, and North Atlantic Drift.
La Equidistancia (‘the equidistance’) is an extraordinarily apt title for the first-fruits of a newly formed creative partnership between Leandro Fresco and Rafael Anton Irisarri just released by A Strangely Isolated Place. It can be seen as a nod to the meeting of creative minds over long geographical distances (Fresco in Argentina and Irisarri in New York) but the album also intersects some musical and symbolic midpoints as it consummately strikes a balance between careful sound design and raw emotion, between melodic sensibility and textural aesthetics, and between melancholic reflection and purifying catharsis. In the sublime center of all of these things we find these six beautifully constructed, soul-searching instrumentals that are capable of forging a powerful human connection.
I really love that grainy aspect you can hear in the music, degraded in a way, like it’s been trough some rough patches (as both Lean and I have been through over the years)…There’s a lot of sadness and memories in the music. I feel that one most embrace this sadness and share it; make others know we are not so different; not alone in this world”. – Rafael Anton Irisarri
Whoever said “don’t sweat the small stuff” surely was not talking about ambient music. When it comes to this genre, nuances can make all the difference between a bland listening experience and a compelling one. For an outstanding example of the latter, consider Context, the forthcoming third album by Hotel Neon, the Philadelphia-based trio of Michael Tasselmyer, Andrew Tasselmyer & Steven Kemner. Speaking of his own ambient music, Brian Eno once suggested that it should “accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular”, a characteristic very much on display here. It was the band’s choice on this record not to thrust any particular narrative on the listener but rather, as the album title suggests, to provide a context to which they could connect to their own. Spend an hour or so with these warm, heavily textured crepuscular drones and you are likely to agree it is mission accomplished.
“Context is arguably the only thing that gives a song its meaning in the mind of a listener. The direct message of a track title has disappeared. Vague symbols have usurped them, unable as they are to contain any kind of subliminal message. As a result of this, the listener has been given a lot more freedom to interpret the music as they see fit – they put the ambient washes of sound into a context of their own making. ” – Fluid Audio
Originally released on cassette in 2013, Italian label KrysaliSound has remastered and reissued a mesmerizing long form composition by Danish collage artist & musician Paw Grabowski under his artistic pseudonym of øjeRum. An undulating, hypnagogic organ-based drone, He remembers there were gardens was conceived as an alternate soundtrack to the 1962 “photo-roman” (photo-novel) La Jetée by Chris Marker which is still recognized as a unique and highly influential experimental cinematic work.
The film, presented in a series of stills, paints a dystopian vision of post-apocalyptic Paris where survivors live underground below the galleries of the Palais de Chaillot. Its protagonist is a man who is held captive and forced to travel time in a quest to find a source of energy to regenerate a decimated society. The man is chosen because of the power of his obsession with the past, specifically the allure of a fragmented, pre-war memory of a woman on the observation platform (“the jetty”) at Orly Airport and a tragic incident that occurs there which becomes the focal point of the story’s haunting denouement.
“Those familiar with the film with have no difficulty in recalling the flashes of a destroyed world, the status of the museum, and the moment on the platform. Even if you haven’t seen the film, the breathing of Grabowski’s organ will conjure similar images and moments. It fluctuates between the drifts and falls and the throb and hum of a person lost in time and place.” – KrysaliSound
The origin of the latest work by James Murray goes back to 2014 when he and his wife Anne were set to vacation in a remote log cabin in the mountains. Unfortunately, Anne took ill from the moment they arrived, but as it turns out James had packed a laptop, small midi keyboard, and hard disc recorder, and while she recuperated the eerie beauty of the surrounding landscape invoked his creative mode which he now had time to indulge.
“Pines groaned in the woods all around us, walls and floorboards continually creaked and china rattled on the shelves. I recorded everything that made a sound, then manipulated and distressed those recordings, letting them bleed into one another, forming their own shifting rhythms and gritty, grainy textures. I added deep sub-bass sines, electronic washes and gently improvised motifs that felt in step with the strangely watchful energy of the place. Between the crackling of the open fire and the wild, wide landscape outside, I seemed to have stumbled into the perfect environment for exploring these unsettled yet tenderly nostalgic feelings I’d been having. The music flowed…” – James Murray