In the space of ten months, Dennis Huddleston has released three albums from his experimental ambient project 36 (pronounced three-six). Far from making music to simply zone or chill out to, Huddleston often weaves rich thematic and imaginative material into his sonic tapestries for an especially emotive and cerebral listening experience. Considered together, this trio of albums cover a vast perspective spanning past, present, and future.
French composer & sound designer Ocoeur (Franck Zaragoza) enlisted the services of Christoph Berg, The Green Kingdom, and Julien Marchal to create this intended prologue to his 2016 full-length album Reversed, his fifth release on Oakland, California-based label n5MD. Reversed – Remixes is an entrancing quartet of reworked pieces, one of Zaragoza’s own creation and the remainder from his hand-picked team of collaborators.
Since this blog began only a few odd years ago, we’ve seen the emergence of some wonderful new labels which are now fixtures on these pages – Eilean Rec., Moderna Records, and 1631 Recordings to name a few. But there is plenty of room for new voices and new ideas as evidenced by the recent arrival of Subtempo Records on the scene. The label founded last year by Rocco Tyndale will be focused on “left-field leaning, classical and electronic” music coupled with a strong focus on visual art and an emphasis on creating “long lasting pieces of art” and their first physical release is a delightful EP by Alejandro Bento, a self-taught pianist from Spain who also records electronic music as Axel Toben. Ripples is a triptych of solo piano pieces accompanied by a remix contributed by award-winning producer/composer Robot Koch. The heartfelt sentiments that come across in the music are just as Bento intended.
“These songs speak of origins and horizons. But most of all, they speak of love, friendship and care, of presence and joy. They speak of following the heartbeat and believing in one’s self and in others.” – Alejandro Bento
This year saw the return of some a number of beloved and well-known bands from quiet periods ranging from several years to as long as a decade along with bright splashes from some new & dynamic voices. This is a particularly vibrant and diverse selection where genres never define of confine, but only serves as reference points for those of us with inadequate words to describe the music.
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).
The best songs live on not only in the way they are experienced by the listener but in the way they engender new possibilities and interpretations from the seeds of their inspiration. Such is the case with Anne Garner‘s beguiling fourth album Be Life released last year. As it turns out, the songs had more to give, much more, and a fine assemblage of musicians and producers have been to explore to re-imagine them on a splendid follow-up record entitled Be Life Relived.
Knowing these songs had more stories to tell we invited some of our favorite producers to rework and reinterpret, providing fresh and illuminating perspectives on Anne’s heartfelt material..
Listen here to an exclusive premiere of the opening track, a tender interpretation of “Come In” by Christoph Berg (aka Field Rotation) that adds depth and breadth to the fragile yearning expressed in its lyrics.
San Francisco based musician Tim Arndt expands his catalog on the n5MD label this month with an album that is realization of a concept which has been gestating for nearly ten years. Apparently as far back as the period after the lush electronica of his 2006 debut Go Out and See was released, Arndt intended to create a beatless ambient follow-up, but that idea did not come to fruition until now with the release of Helical, his sixth release on the label.
“The focus on the organic is clear, but moments of ethereal breath weave in and out and prevent the album from becoming too self aware. Helical, as a loose reference to the geometric structure of our very DNA and it contains themes that are driven by a recent discovery of Arndt’s past and ancestry.” – n5MD
As a captivating amalgam of electronica, folk, pop, and cinematic elements, the evocative and “densely referential” Everyone Was A Bird by Grasscut is a brilliant album. But the duo of Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair never intended to release it simply as a collection of songs. Rather they have dug deep into into its rich creative loam and the sense of place at its core to create a series of extended experiences. Part of that vision included the commissioning a series of landscape-based films from director Roger Hyams and photographer Pedr Browne to accompany each track on the album. Today, Stationary Travels is proud to premiere the final video release, “Halflife” directed by Hyams.
“Halflife was the last film we shot for Everyone Was A Bird, and was made by director Roger Hyams, who also made the film for The Field. We filmed it in 2 days in mid Wales around the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, and also in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. It’s a song about decay, and the presences and stories that are buried in, and emerge from the landscape. Making these films has been a wonderful journey, and we hope everyone enjoys them as much as we did making them.” – Andrew Phillips
A look back at some of the most memorable journeys in music taken this year in post rock and electronica. It is clearly not a comprehensive look at either genre, but rather a selection of albums I connected with, enjoyed, and enthusiastically recommend. Expansive, dynamic, sophisticated, clever, and cathartic – all those qualities are here in some measure and sound best when played loud.- Click on album titles in the list below for more information
Editors note: Few of the albums presented in these lists fit neatly into a single genre and we would not have it any other way, nor would the artists. The categorizations used here should not distract the reader from the joy of discovery. They are simply a way to organize and present based on my perceptions of compatible listening experiences and I was not above stretching the boundaries and making exceptions to fit in the most music possible. Continue reading
Just like the short story in prose, the haiku in poetry, or the short subject in film, the humble EP is a form that can be enjoyed on its own terms. These four wonderful EPs that have something on common – each has exactly 3 tracks. The shortest lasts barely 11 minutes and the longest just over 20. Yet, each one is a complete and memorable musical journey worth taking. Interestingly I also found they they flow very nicely into each other when played through in the order presented, forming a lovely arc from sparkling tones into deep reflection.
Cétieu – Into the Light
[Twice Removed Records]
In this musical excursion, we look at a quartet of albums featuring electronic music by Ocoeur, Idlefon, John Lemke, and 36. Each one will fill your headphones with a stunning palette of sound, light up your neural pathways, and engage both your thoughts & emotions.
Ocoeur – Parallel Life (N5MD)
Due for release on July 22, A Parallel Life is the second full length release by Ocoeur (aka Franck Zaragoza) on the vaunted N5MD label. Sounding equally organic and mechanized, cosmic and earthy, glitchy and melodic, it is quite simply a tour de force of sonic craftsmanship that will delight your ears from the first note to the last.
Among the highlights here are the opener, ‘Universe’ which features a fusion of bouncy and scratchy textures percolating over spacey, melodic synth lines, the affecting ‘Kofski’ led by mournful strings, the cinematic ‘North’, which plays like a soundtrack to a science fiction melodrama begging to be filmed, and the pulsating, twitching title track. The album then ends quite beautifully with ‘Red’, a melancholic and moving drone that could be the meditations of a soulful machine.
Zaragoza has a fine ear for both fetching melodies and inventive percussion lines as well as a midas touch with his beats and textures which makes this Ocoeur record a must-listen for fans of ambient, downtempo, techno, and IDM alike.
Order from N5MD (CD/LP/MP3): http://n5md.com/discography/229/A-Parallel-Life
About Ocoeur: http://ocoeurofficial.virb.com/about
Listen to the title track, ‘A Parallel Life’:
Idlefon – Intensive Collectivity Known as City (Tympanik Audio)
Intensive Collectivity Known as City, Idlefon’s new full length release on Tympanik Audio, is further evidence of a burgeoning electronic music scene in Iran. Idlefon himself is Hesam Ohadi, a computer musician and sound artist based in Tehran. He is also a member of the post-rock/ electronica band Photomat along with Siavash Amini and Nima Pourkarimi, each of whom makes a guest appearance on the album. Idlefon adds a wonderful new dimension to the Typmanik Audio catalog, as acknowledged in their introduction to this artist:
“In 2014, Idlefon found his way to Tympanik’s doorstep to present his debut full-length album Intensive Collectivity Known as City. A haunting yet beautiful collection of soundscapes and ambiance, this collection of sounds ebb and flow like a gentle tide, calibrating the subconscious and aligning the soul. Complex and intricate beats blend with ambient textural sounds, signed by distant voices and enticing melodies to create a wondrous world where responsibilities are disregarded and time is infinite.”
There is indeed a a contemplative melancholy that pervades the record, even a sense of desolation, as evidenced by some of the early tracks like ‘Kuchiniwa’ and ‘Reminiscence’. But, it also simmers with hypnotic beats, deep liquid bass lines, glitchy textures, melodic synths, and haunting vocal samples, all of which inject serene and scintillating energy into the mix. The juxtaposing of these aesthetics is both effective and mesmerizing, especially on tracks such as ‘Intensive Collectivity’ and ‘Ikigami’. And, when it all coalesces and blossoms into a cinematic swell of emotion, as it does on ‘Of Rust’, it is breathtakingly beautiful.
Other highlights here are the collaborative tracks that close the album, the densely atmospheric ‘Pretend It’s Spring’ with Siavash Amini and the airy ambient drone ‘Pickers of Empty Cocoons’ with Nima Pourkarimi (aka Umchunga).
Intensive Collectivity Known as City is available from Tympanik in digital or CD format.
Listen to ‘Of Rust’:
‘Reminiscence’ (video by Arash Akbari aka Odepth):
John Lemke – Walizka (Denovali)
Walizka by John Lemke is a significantly enhanced reissue of a three track EP that was originally released as a teaser for the Lemke’s full length album People Do on Denovali. The new version includes the three original tracks (‘Walizka’, ‘Drift’, and ‘Kompass’) along with stunning remixes by fellow Denovali artists Piano Interrupted, SaffronKeira, Everyday Dust, and Petrels. According to Lemke, the songs on Walizka were actually developed after the material on People Do and shift the electro-acoustic feeling of that record into “more dub drenched territories”. The origin of the project is described thus:
“three items in a suitcase, a clarinet, a looper and a microphone – is how it all started. a free improvisation with friend & collaborator lukasz bernacki (on clarinet) sparked john’s desire to bring his compositional and production approach back down to the most basic elements. creating simple, yet distinctive rhythms only through tapping contact microphones run into noisy guitar amps became the base for the ep’s three tracks, consequently inspiring its live, lo-fi feel. written and recorded between john’s native berlin and his adopted home of glasgow, walizka (polish for ‘suitcase’) somehow absorbs the defining atmospheres of both cities in its core.”
If you have not heard the original tracks, you are in for quite a treat. Syncopated, percolating rhythms and impossibly catchy bass lines flow throughout, and the balance of acoustic and electronic elements is seamless and intoxicating. The remixes then take these tracks in surprising new directions. In each case, the guest artists slow down the original source material and uncover entirely new sonic possibilities which underscore the strength of Lemke’s compositions.
Piano Interrupted slows ‘Walizka’ down into a graceful waltz with the most delicate of electronic flourishes. Saffronkeira takes ‘Kompass’ for a deep ambient dive while preserving the glitchy dub aesthetic, albeit in slow motion. Everyday Dust then takes the same track and, dropping the percussion elements, transforms it into a transcendant and contemplative drone. Finally, Petrels takes ‘Drift’ and stretches it into nine minute abstract excursion of changing moods and electronic alchemy. Despite the diversity of styles and artists, it all meshes together beautifully and flows coherently. A unique and captivating album.
Walizka is available from Denovali in CD and MP3 formats as well as two flavors of 180g vinyl, clear gold and black.
Order from Denovali: http://www.denovali.com/johnlemke/
John Lemke web site: http://www.lostinsounds.com/
Listen to ‘Kompass (Everyday Dust Remix)’:
36 – Dream Tempest (3Six Recordings)
With Dream Tempest, Dennis Huddleston was looking to take his very successful musical project, 36 (pronounced three-six) into some new territory.
“Dream Tempest is my 6th studio album. It’s probably the most optimistic of all the works I have made. It still has that glowing melancholy I just can’t seem to shake from my music, but in a very different way to the pitch-black isolation of Lithea. I wanted it to be inspirational as well as downcast; playful as well as moody. I don’t want to write music that is discarded when the next big trend or genre blows up. I want to create something that you can listen to 10-20 years later and still feel a connection to.”
The last thing fans of 36’s earlier work would want would be to lose that “glowing melancholy” and they will find it on Dream Tempest, especially on tracks like ‘Tired’ and ‘Entropy’. But one need go no further than the arpeggio synthesizer runs and the buzzing swells of distortion on the title track to realize that the new album is painted with a more vivid palette and on a wider canvas than its predecessors. The playful element Huddleston mentions is here too, as evidenced by the wobbly, slow motion jazz chords of ‘Neon Sunset’, the quirky cosmic throwback sound of ‘Perfect Numbers’, and the music box tones of ‘Hyperbox’, an especially bright and ear catching track.
It is the inspirational element, however, that ultimately gives Dream Tempest the breadth and depth that make it such an extraordinarily enjoyable album. An outstanding example would be the beautiful ‘Sun Riders’, which Huddleston released earlier this year as a special EP reflecting his own fascination with the exploration of space he experienced while growing up. Also, ‘Redshift’, a melodic drone in a sea of blissful guitar textures, and ‘Always’, a lush and beautiful ambient piece with a cathartic tsunami of distortion at the zenith of it’s emotional arc.
Dream Tempest is a feast for the ears and should both please fans of 36 while enjoying the broader reach that he makes into both lighter and darker sonic territories. The variety of moods and styles make the time spent listening to it pass quickly and will likely have you turning on repeat mode. The album is offered in MP3 and FLAC digital formats, as a stand alone CD, and in a specially priced CD bundle which includes Hyperpersona, Hollow, and Lithea.
Listen to the title track, ‘Dream Tempest’
Sun Riders music & video by 36:
July is turning out to be quite a month for new releases. Now available in MP3 format and for CD & Vinyl pre-order is the full-length album “People Do” from John Lemke, whose EP “Walizka” we featured in May. The brand new preview track, ‘Illuminations’ continues in the same vein, an intoxicating blend of acoustic instruments and subtle electronica fused together to form a uniquely sophisticated and rhythmic sound.
Artist & ordering information at: http://www.denovali.com/johnlemke/