This edition of Field Notes surveys eight outstanding drone, & electroacoustic ambient releases from late 2017 and early 2018 representing hours of immersive listening. Featuring Tapes and Topographies, Olli Aarni, Magdalene Flowers, Erik Levander, A Lily, the volume settings folder, and Bradley Sean Alexander, along with an expansive 30-track charity compilation from the Dronarivm label.
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 2017 that you might not want to miss.
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.
It has been a little while – too long in fact – since we have visited the shores of the Eilean, an imaginary territory the map of which is now dotted & colored by 60 albums covering a broad and eclectic spectrum of ambient, electroacoustic, and modern classical music. The label saw five outstanding releases over the summer months by Bill Seaman, Toàn, Josco & Spheruleus, Francesco Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci, and Monty Adkins and has begun the transition to autumn with an exceptional debut record by Cicely Irvine. Here is a brief synopsis of each along with selected tracks for the reader to explore as well as links to the artists whose work is featured on the covers where available. (Note: most of these limited editions sold out soon after their release, but some may be available in small quantities; check the linked Bandcamp pages for details).
Hymn Binding marks the third full-length album by From the Mouth of the Sun, a collaboration formed in 2011 by Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist. It also marks a new zenith in the potency of their alchemic fusion of acoustic sound sources (cello, piano, acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, singing bowls, and pump organ) into creations of otherworldly beauty and stirring emotion. Organic by its very nature, it is a process which Rosenqvist explains requires the musician to be willing to embrace forces over which they do not have complete control:
“There’s something very beautiful and rewarding to working with acoustic sound sources. Because when you record them, you never know what you’re going get, and you can never repeat it exactly the same way. The wood in the instrument changes from air pressure and with different temperatures. You change your sitting position from one take to another and all of a sudden it sounds slightly different. You move the microphone or you move something in the room and it sounds slightly different. Acoustic sound sources allow for chaos to be a part of the creative process, allowing for something you can never fully control.” – Dag Rosenqvist
It is time for the slow fade of summer. The northern hemisphere starts to tilt away from the burning sun and the slanted light begins to take on a golden tint in the afternoons. The comforting crisp austerity of autumn awaits, but it is still warm, hazy, and verdant and a fine time to sink into languid, introspective sounds of the kind of delicate construction that can be found on the six albums featured here – a trio from the Whitelabrecs label by Ludmila, Steve Pacheco, and Floor Overhead along with EPs by M. Grig and Josh Mason, and a forthcoming October release by Ghost and Tape on Home Normal.
Lowlands is the third edition of the recently launched IIKKI project, a unique concept in which each entry in the series is the outcome of a creative dialog between a visual artist and a music artist which results in parallel imprints – a fine art book and a vinyl record. This one began when Ester Vonplon traveled last year to Spitsbergen, an island in the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago, where she captured impressions of the calving glaciers and melting ice of the Arctic Ocean aboard a three-masted sailing vessel. The musicians chosen for this edition are Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer, frequent collaborators and potent alchemists in the art of electroacoustic minimalism, who fashioned an audio narrative from recordings made over a 3-year period in locations as far-flung as Iceland, Oregon, Florida, and New York.
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.
Part of the Spring 2017 series and the most recent addition to the Eilean Rec. catalog is a first-time collaboration between Belgian musician & Slaapwel Records curator Stijn Hüwels and American composer & sound artist Danny Clay. It turns out to be an inspired pairing in a wonderfully understated kind of way as Hüwels somnambulent guitar-loop minimalism finds a perfect complement in Clay’s delicate electroacoustic ephemera fashioned from turntables, sine waves, and celesta.
Collaborative releases are not the mainstay of the Eilean Rec. label, but when they appear, they are always something special. The latest of such is On the Brink which brings together two authentic sonic explorers from the eastern seaboard of the USA – Josh Mason (Jacksonville, FL) and Nathan McLaughlin (Hudson, NY). The album is a metaphorical journey from a unique perspective that examines the state of mind as one faces the possibility of failure.
“…we traveled together with the wind on our faces, holes in our shoes and short that one layer that can provide the necessary comforts we tend to rely upon. raw nerves, biting hunger and a drive to see the unknown corners kept us moving forward. we can offer these markers and surveys as proof of our trip and as evidence of what lies slightly beyond our immediate purview but with a combined effort – within reach.” – Nathan McLaughlin & Josh Mason
The “Presence” series is a new solo project from Andrew Tasselmyer (Hotel Neon, The Sound of Rescue) which he frames as “an ongoing experiment in intentional listening” and describes as “a combination of found sound and intuitive, responsive composition…the product of being present”. The first volume in the series consists of eight variations on this theme, each one building a musical narrative around a field recording taken from the context of everyday life and ordinary objects.
Various artist compilations can be treasure troves of discovery whether it be previously unheard material from a favorite artist or a finding a completely new voice. Often both types of discovery happen on the same album. These twelve offerings comprised some of the most memorable moments of the year in this category spanning works by over 200 artists that you can find nowhere else.