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

Continue reading “James Murray | Falling Backwards [Home Normal]”


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

Continue reading “Sound Impression: Fieldem by Silent Vigils [Home Normal]”

Since its founding in 2009, Home Normal has consistently been one of the shining lights on the landscape of experimental ambient & electronic music. Conscientiously curated and uncompromisingly supportive of its artists, it is more than a label; it is a hub for a community of artists and mindful listeners who appreciate thoughtfully crafted, emotionally honest music.

“Based in Japan, the label was run as a way to connect to a sense of what ‘home’ and ‘normal’ could mean to someone who was in what was essentially an alien environment to them. The focus of the label was to release the ambient and electronic works of friends within the live scene we were part of in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, but soon expanded to include the work of many artists worldwide…We see the label as a family of friends who work together to create unique works that have a hold and impact on whoever can take their time to absorb our music and aesthetic” 

Featured here are recent & upcoming releases by Ian Hawgood + Wil Bolton,  Giulio Fagiolini, and Jason Van Wyk,

Continue reading “Travelogue 2017.08.07: Spotlight on Home Normal”

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

Continue reading “James Murray – Killing Ghosts [Home Normal]”

Ensconced in the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean and surrounded by fabulous cities such as Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Valencia, and Marseille, one is tempted to imagine a blissfully idyllic existence on the island of Sardinia, but it is home to one of the most industrious and prolific modern classical on the scene today in  Stefano Guzzetti. In addition to scores & sound design for short films, applications, and video games, he has put out 3 full-length releases in 2016, the most recent being Escape (music for a ballet), which features music he composed for the ‘Escape’ aerial dance performance by LCP Dance Theatre performed in London and at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  As a result of positive feedback from those shows, he edited and distilled the music into shorter pieces suitable for an album-like listening experience and offered them in an eye-catching CD package.

Continue reading “Stefano Guzzetti – Escape (music for a ballet) / Leaf / Waiting for Spring”

You would be hard pressed to find an ambient composer/musician out there with a more clearly defined minimalist aesthetic than Baltimore-based M. Ostermeier.  He describes his compositions as often featuring “skeletal piano melodies that are augmented with electronics, acoustic recordings, and occasionally guitar”. True to that aesthetic, his most recent work draws inspiration from simple and elegant structures found in both the seen and unseen world, a propensity which perhaps has its origins in his background as a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

In the case of Still, released on his own Tench label last year, the inspiration was architecture, a musical echo of the clean and spacious designs of the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry.  On his latest, about to be released by Home Normal, it is the marvelously lightweight and compact natural engineering of the humble bird.

…amongst the gorgeous little melodies at play here, there is a careful depth of sound design from a variety of found sounds and field recordings…It is just the kind of album we love around these parts: namely, a work that takes its time to develop as it sees fit, without any need to rush to its restrained conclusion. – Ian Hawgood

Continue reading “M. Ostermeier – Tiny Birds [Home Normal]”

OM_Covers_2Cavade Morlem, due to be released soon by Moscow-based Dronarivmis the first new work from composer and musician Alex Smalley, aka Olan Mill, since he closed out a year of numerous solo and collaborative efforts in 2014 with a fine EP on the Home Normal label called Half Seas Over.  If you enjoy beautifully crafted, blissful, and serene ambient music, you won’t want to miss either one of these.

Continue reading “Olan Mill – Cavade Morlem / Half Seas Over”

 Hotel Neon

In the summer of 2013, brothers Andrew and Michael Tasselmyer released their first album under the name Hotel Neon.  While it embraced the same thoughtful, unobtrusive minimalism of some of their earlier work as The Sound of Rescue, especially Furniture Music, it had a distinctive enough focus to warrant being inaugurated as a new project.  And, with the release of the expansively dynamic Forms by the band as well as the recent addition of 4th member, it seems perhaps that the Tasselmyers now have two well defined canvases on which to continue rendering their creations going forward – one steeped in immersive drones and another near the summit of elegant, melodic post rock.

Early 2015 marks the reissue of the self-titled Hotel Neon debut on the Home Normal label, remastered by none other than Ian Hawgood himself.  He explains what drew him to the album as well and how he both preserved the intent of the original recording, which was created simply with a 2-track USB recording device and inexpensive equipment, while drawing out some of its hidden treasures.

“Much like the music, Michael and Andrew are wonderfully understated when noting the album came about through simple means: a usb recording device, cheap guitars, effects processors, and a computer. Yet the result is really quite something, as a good few people have now started to notice…When we heard it, apart from enjoying it solidly for a good few days, we decided to play around with twin  decks to focus on the beautiful lows that were hidden within. Through tape saturation the lows became beautifully transparent giving us a deeper focus to the work, and hopefully an album that contains with it that stirring element of something glorious yet hidden within the recesses of the mind’s eye”. 

The difference remains subtle in ‘A Lament’, the achingly melancholic opener, but becomes increasingly apparent as the album becomes more sonically subaqueous, particularly the grainy textures and mechanized rhythms of ‘Dust and Drag, the subterranean pulses of ‘The Eye’s Mind’, and the distant thundercloud rumblings that permeate ‘Lowly’.  The effect is not unlike the way the right matte and frame can flush out the deeper hues and enhance the composition of a painting.

The mantra of the project is “Restraint over haste, Perception over presumption, Awareness over intent”, a perspective that is born out in the music and maintained consistently throughout the record.  If you have not heard Hotel Neon and appreciate well crafted ambient drones, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  If you are familiar with the original recording, you owe it to yourself to hear this lovingly remastered version. Either way, it’s a very rewarding and immersive listening experience.

The Home Normal edition of the album can be obtained in digital format or in a CD edition using locally cultivated and harvested washi paper stock including unique vintage slide and photograph (limited to 500 copies).

More information


Album sampler:


“Through a musical lens” is a short series of reviews focusing on albums that present and explore human experience through music. Each album incorporates field recordings, ephemera, or motifs that revolve around everyday life and memory thus creating an especially intimate connection between their transportive sounds and the listener. 

Bokeh by Wil Bolton

An artist in sound, video, and photography, Wil Bolton‘s music is always rich in texture as well as human and environmental connections. His summer release on Home Normal entitled Bokeh is a wonderful addition to his body of work and one that that had a very specific motif:

The album’s title obviously refers to a photographic term, deriving from the Japanese word for blur and used to describe the aesthetic quality of background blur in photographs especially with a shallow depth of field. My work is often informed by visual cues, particularly from the landscapes and architecture of the environments where their initial sounds were recorded. For this album I was particularly interested in parallels between the aural and the visual and between photography and sound – it’s pretty abstract, but when working on these tracks I was constantly thinking in terms of photography, qualities and effects of light, and other visual elements and trying to express these in sound …” 

Like its namesake, the title track is diffuse and captivating, an exquisite piece of sound craft. Gentle drones ebb and buzz as Bolton creates a sense of light and color through percussive bells and chimes. As it progresses, sounds of city life slowly introduce themselves and become part of the music such as the Doppler effect of running engines and tires rolling by in the rain, or the hiss and gasp of a stopping bus.

This approach is repeated through the album, but the tones and sounds vary for each track, thus creating a different mood and sense of place in each case. ‘Tremadog’ incorporates sounds captured in a picturesque Welsh village. ‘1887’ and ‘Sash’ bring the listener back to the city, namely Liverpool, the former invoking street sounds and the later a mild cacophony of voices indoors. ‘Pentaprism’ takes the listener on a walk about the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  In every piece the sounds of the environment blend seamlessly with the music, capturing motion and activity while preserving a sense of stillness and objectivity. It is as if we are experiencing these places through the camera eye.

The album then ends on a charming and magical note with ‘Moonlight (for Sophie)’ in which Bolton recorded and looped sounds from his niece’s toy telephone and rattles. With the din of the day’s sounds faded away, it wraps the listener in a cocoon of soft light and the comforts of home, a perfect way to end the journey.

Bokeh was mastered by Ian Hawgood for his Home Normal label and is available as a digital download or in a limited edition on CD packaged with locally cultivated and harvested washi paper cover and a unique vintage slide.

Order the album:

Read an interview with Wil:

‘Bokeh’ – music and video by Wil Bolton

Listen to a sampler of Bokeh: