PREMIERE: “Peixe de Água Doce” from Tempestade Tropical by El Conejo [La Petite Chambre]

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“I remember playing my grandfather’s old guitar, tuneless, and the haunting sound that it made…”

Nostalgia is at the heart of the music Bruno Nunes Coelho (Ana, Constantina) makes under as El Conejo, a project inspired by the first chords he played on his grandfather’s old guitar and the memories of the places he has lived. After a self-titled debut in 2015, he returns this spring with a mesmerizing second outing entitled ‘Tempestade Tropical‘ which focuses in particular on a short time spent living in the city of Rio de Janeiro and the loss of his father during that period. While many of us might associate Rio with the spectacle of its dramatic vistas, sprawling diversity, and colorful festivals, Coelho, turns inward to gently explore the immutable cycles of life universal to all places as well as his own memories and losses.

“Oh, sweetheart, I do belong here where the repetition is beautiful.I have this feeling, nostalgia, I think you can call it that. It reminds me of something. Something that I’ve been missing but I can’t tell exactly what it is. This feeling keeps coming back, like a loop. And it’s beautiful…and sad. And it’s beautiful, and sad, and beautiful, and sad.”  Bruno Nunes Coelho aka El Conejo

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A Sense of Place: Grønland by Glåsbird [Whitelabrecs]

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Glåsbird is an alluring new project inaugurated, we are told, under a cloak of anonymity by an established artist within the ambient/modern classical scene to focus on chosen themes and develop them into carefully crafted conceptual soundtracks. The first published material from this project was the highly evocative Drift Stations which took a mere ten minutes to put the listener in thrall to the austere beauty of the Arctic Circle. While the EP held its own as a compact narrative, it was also a prelude of much more to come as the “Land Ahead” at the end of  its 2-track journey turns out to be the sprawling ice-capped island country of Greenland which is majestically explored on the full-length Grønland now out on Whitelabrecs.

“Glåsbird imagined that they were assigned the task of scoring the soundtrack to a film about Greenland and spent a great deal of time researching the subject. Hours of documentaries, drone helicopter footage, NASA and satellite images, Instagram traveler accounts, 360° photos, web articles and maps were surveyed, to the point where this artist felt sufficiently immersed in this sub-zero but beautiful land…” – Whitelabrecs

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Sound Impression: A Certain Grief by øjeRum [Shimmering Moods]

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As the polar vortex plunges the northern hemisphere into a deep freeze it seems the right time to visit A Certain Grief, the latest opus from Danish collage artist and musician Paw Grabowski aka øjeRum. It is an album that was literally recorded with gloved hands in the cold as he explains himself:

“All sounds are recorded at my girlfriends parents house. They live remote in the country side and have a really old pump organ in the living room. It’s a really old house and in winter they only heat up this room for special occasions. I recorded this two winters ago in freezing cold, with gloves on and candle light. All background sounds are the actual sounds that were in the house while recording; the creaking chair, the crackling and pumping of the organ, the everyday noises of the family talking and working in the kitchen next door. “Paw Grabowski

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2018 In Review: Journeys in Ambient, Drone, and Electroacoustic

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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.

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2018 In Review: A Sense of Place and Time

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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… 

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James Murray | Falling Backwards [Home Normal]

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Those who have followed the minimal electronic and electroacoustic music of James Murray have learned there is always a method behind the London-based composer’s work. Offering much more than simple atmospheric soundscapes, there is almost always some important conceptual arc or contextual backdrop to lend deeper meaning and, hence, deeper connection for the listener. This has never been more true than on his latest opus just out on Home Normal entitled Falling Backwards. The album is a poignant exploration of a peculiar coping mechanism Murray developed in his youth.

“When I was a child I would fall backwards, literally. If I felt life unfair or hadn’t control of my world, instead of losing my temper I’d go still, silent, bolt upright, close my eyes and just let go. At home, in public, wherever, it didn’t matter. Always backwards, vertical then inevitably, violently, not. After a few of these episodes the people in my life learnt to see the signs and usually someone would be there to catch me in time…Recent scans investigating tinnitus discovered an infarct in the back of my brain. The cognitive effects of this damage are unclear, best guess as to cause is historic trauma. I’d all but forgotten those self-destructive childhood descents, but this surprise transported me back at once to those earliest, strongest feelings, to the bitter intensity of that which first mattered most. The long free fall through darkness, the outright surrender of the will, and the delicious anticipation of impact. It’s strange isn’t it, the things we do to cope.”James Murray

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Dauw + Eilean | Dialog Tapes II

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Among the musical highlights of 2015 was a collaborative project between two distinctive ’boutique’ labels – Dauw, curated by Pieter Dudal with a specialization in handmade cassette releases, and Eilean Records curated by Mathias van Eecloo, a limited edition CD imprint based on a concept of mapping out an imagined place. Located in Belgium and France respectively, they are European neighbors as well as kindred spirits. The joint project called Dialog Tapes comprised two albums released in parallel wherein every track was a collaboration between a different pairing of artists selected from each label (read more about the first volume here).  It turned out to be nothing less than treasure trove for listeners who appreciate electroacoustic ambient music steeped in eclecticism, minimalism, and filigree while at the same time blending diverse artistic styles in new & creative ways.

Needless to say, it was very gratifying news indeed to see a second iteration of the project on offer this year. Once again, the quality of the music across the two volumes is exquisite and the thoughtful pairings yield utterly captivating results full of subtle sonic surprises in their many permutations and juxtapositions. 

“In its essence, Dialog Tapes is an ambitious attempt to connect a musical field through its own creative forces. It’s about connectivity and making new unexpected musical ties between individual actors…Four years later, both labels now express a distinctive sound and found their place within the field of minimal ambient and electro-acoustic music. Hence, Dudal and Eecloo found that the time was ripe to initiate the follow-up of the first Dialog Tapes output. After a long process of carefully selecting the artists and curating the collaborations, a wonderful group of musicians started to explore musical overlap, looked for new approaches to make music and ultimately went in a dialog with another artist. ”  – Dauw/Eilean 

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Travelogue 2018.09.07: A late summer long-form journey

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This audio journey features a globe-spanning quartet of immersive long-form single releases by Saariselka (Chuck Johnson & Marielle Jakobsons), Hakobune, Arash Akbari, and Dave Watkins.

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Sound Impression: Fieldem by Silent Vigils [Home Normal]

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One of the steadiest sources of light among labels that feature & promote ambient music from around the globe is Home Normal under the guidance of Ian Hawgood, a fine artist and mastering engineer in his own right. The newest entry to their catalog brings together two outstanding artists who likewise both curate independent labels while creating their own music, Stijn Hüwels (Slaapwel Records) and James Murray (Slowcraft Records).  The new collaborative project is called Silent Vigils, a suitable moniker for the liminal quiescence of sound these two kindred spirits have reached across water to create with one another.

“Molenbrook, Mossigwell, Zwartewall, Fieldem… places neither here nor there; half in the world, half in the mind. We began this project as an exchange of gestures across the water, a dialogue motivated by mutual respect and revolving around our shared love of the minimal, the graceful and the understated. We completed it on 22nd March 2017 – the day of the Westminster attack, one year to the day after the Brussels bombings. These four pieces have become our personal dedications to the quiet strength of blended culture, free thinking and open borders.” – Silent Vigils

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Sound Impression: Distant Scenes by Ashlar [Whitelabrecs]

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Lazy Saturday afternoons in Liverpool provided the context for Ashlar, a collaborative project of  Wil Bolton and Phil Edwards. The two began collaborating about 7 years ago ahead of their debut release Saturday Drones (Time Released Sound, 2011) which was based on sessions recorded in the public houses of the city’s Georgian quarter while St. James’ Gardens (Hibernate Recordings, 2014) was inspired by field recordings made in & around the park of the same name. Bolton has since relocated to London, but the project lives on in a new record aptly titled Distant Scenes based on a similar modus operandi with adjustments made to accommodate the geographical separation. This time the field recordings come from locations as varied as Japan and Korea as well as the UK and the impromptu recording sessions have been replaced by an asynchronous approach of sharing, augmenting, processing, and remote exchange. While this may have been a dramatic change in how the project was conducted, the listener will find the languorous beauty and friendly experimentation that characterized Ashlar’s previous work lives on albeit with a new patina burnished with welcome touches of melancholy and nostalgia.

Distant Scenes is an album built around distance, time and space as their different recording locations inspired new but separate ideas. A warm but blurry canvas has been woven over a four year period, as time has rusted the memories of the good old days spent jamming on their earlier albums and newer ideas have been corroded into a melancholic fuzz. – Whitelabrecs

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Premiere: “Pont” by Zoltan Fecso [Hush Hush Records]

coverNow based in Melbourne, Australia, Zoltan Fecso‘s musical evolution began as he grew up in Budapest, studying classical piano from an early age and then discovering a fascination for electroacoustic music while at university. Seeking to fulfill a unique vision of performing live with acoustic guitar and electronics, Zoltan had an opportunity to work with renowned luthier Ian Noyce in the creation of an acoustic guitar with MIDI capabilities capable of fusing organic instrumentation with endless possibilities of electronic programming. It turned out quite the success, leading to a busy period of industry recognition, an artist residency, live performances, a viral video, recording under a variety of monikers, and engaging in music technology talks throughout Europe.

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Sound Impression: Dissimilar Lake Pigments by Lee Yi [Rottenman Editions]

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The soft pink textures on the cover of Lee Yi‘s new album Dissimilar Lake Pigments might at first seem to be at odds with its title, but delve into the liner notes and you will learn that this immersive new exploration of color and sound was inspired by Lake Hillier, a body of water just off the Pacific coast in Western Australia which is, in fact, astoundingly pink in color.

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