Floating Away From the World is the third album in as many years by OKADA on the n5MD label and his fifth overall (the first two being issued by Fluttery Records). It is the first, however, that Gregory Pappas developed for this project since relocating from Mobile, Alabama to Seattle, Washington with a corresponding shift in style that seems to match the cool, wet climate of his new home. As on previous albums, Pappas offers up a quartet of fluid & emotive long form works that fuse ambient textures & modern classical elements with downtempo beats and ethereal vocals, but the mood on the new album is distinctly overcast and deeply introspective while the rainy textures will be pure bliss for even the most casual pluviophile.
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.
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
The experience of being a parent, or even just the prospect of it, can endow one with a profound 360-degree view of life, a fluid consciousness that is simultaneously nostalgic for the past and acutely sensitive to the present, while focused keenly on the future. On her latest full-length record as dalot, Greek-born experimental musician Maria Papadomanolaki has distilled this life-changing awakening into captivating musical form with mutogibito now out on n5MD.
While her previous solo effort on the label, Ancestors (2013), looked almost solely backward through a melancholic ambient/modern classical lens, mutogibito is a much brighter, even playful, album that is multi-referential on a number of levels and finds her embracing multitudinous musical influences and experiences with a vibrant forward-looking optimism.
In Mutogibito, it is frequently difficult to tell who is actually the composer: Dalot herself as a sound artist in 2016, the teen Dalot music collector of the late 90s, the abstract and yet unformed new-born Athena baby, Dalot’s long-time collaborators, the parade of influences and the history of ambient music, the passing of time itself. The listener is invited to immerse themselves in it and bring their own aural experiences, adding yet another layer to the cyclical multi-referential nature of the album – n5MD
Based in England’s West Midlands, visual artist and musician Mark Harris uses generative systems to create pieces which he can gradually develop and improvise upon. Such is the case with his return to the N5MD label In the with In The Forests_The Animals Are Moving, a new long form opus based on a series of experiments with modular synthesis processes mimicking the harmonic properties of bell tones which he then mixed and shaped over a long period of time resulting in a 45 minute ambient narrative.
As for the title, as I mentioned I spent a long period just listening to these original “bell improvisations” and these had obviously wormed their way into my subconscious As I had a recurring dreams over the period of time working on the project of being alone in a forest at night and hearing a single repeated bell which I used orientate myself to find my way home and avoid the wild animals that I could hear moving around unseen in the forest…I hope the listener catches some of that mood. – Mark Harris
Noteworthy highlights from the past week of music discovery, releases, previews, and other news. Daily updates are available on the Stationary Travels Facebook and Twitter feeds and audio/video links to all tracks featured during the month are available on the Songdrop page.
Previews of Upcoming Releases
Poppy Ackroyd | Feathers | Denovali (November)
Poppy Ackroyd follows up her outstanding debut album Escapement with her second full length release called Feathers in November. The extensive promo for the album on the Denovali site really whets the appetite for this record, especially for those already familiar with Poppy’s wonderful compositional style and her boundless creativity that goes “beyond the keyboard” using all aspects of the piano to create – strings, soundboards, and pedals.
“Poppy’s beloved, restored Blüthner grand piano in her studio is again the backbone of the album, providing most of the melodies, bass lines and percussive sounds. Other material originated from improvised recording sessions at the Russell/Mirrey Collection of keyboard instruments in Edinburgh.”
We can also expect to hear harmonium, clavichord, harpsichord and spine, violin, field recordings and contributions by guesr cellist Su-a Lee. Check out the beautiful preview track ‘Roads’ and keep your eye on the Denovali site for the official release and upcoming tour dates.
More information: http://denovali.com/poppyackroyd/
Carlos Cipa | All Your Life You Walk | Denovali (November)
Denovali makes a strong showing this month with another highly anticipated release, the second full length album from Munich based composer and multi-instrumentalist Carlos Cipa entitled All Your Life You Walk. Carlos is an accomplished pianist who has shared the stage recently with artists such as Hauschka, Ólafur Arnalds, and Valgeir Sigurdsson and has impressed with his debut The Monarch and the Viceroy and his collaborative EP with Sophia Jani, Relive. Fans of modern classical, and piano in particular, will not want to miss out this album, especially after hearing the exquisite preview track ‘And Gently Drops the Rain’.
“Carlos Cipa created unique contemporary compositions fraught with beauty, tension and emotional intensity, clearly presenting the unique voice of a composer, who is fascinated by classical and contemporary composers ranging from MOZART, DEBUSSY or RAVEL to STEVE REICH and DAVID LANG, but is also inspired by modern bands like THE NATIONAL or MOGWAI. Though each piece is framed as a coherent song, it’s all pieces combined that create a musical flow, spanning over the whole album…conceived as concept album ‘All your life you walk’ should be listened to as a whole.”
More information: http://denovali.com/carloscipa
‘And Gently Drops the Rain’
Chihei Hatakeyama & GWFAA | Falling Sun | Rural Colours (November)
The latest release on boutique label Rural Colours is an unexpected, but delightful surprise, a collaboration between ambient guitarist Chihei Hatakeyama and Good Weather for an Airstrike, the solo ambient project of UK musician Tom Honey. The stunning cover art and generous album sampler that appeared this week promise a sumptuous and absorbing collection of soundscapes that showcases the best of these two artists. While waiting for the official release, why not saunter over to the Bandcamp sites of each where you can find an abundance of their solo material to check out.
More information: http://music.ruralcolours.co.uk/music
Chihei Hatakeyama on Bandcamp: https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com/
Good Weather for an Airstrike on Bandcamp: https://goodweatherforanairstrike.bandcamp.com/
To Destroy a City | SUNLESS | N5MD (November)
Chicago-based post rock trio To Destroy a City emerges from a three year quite period following their 2011 debut album with SUNLESS which will be released on N5MD. Having had a chance to preview the recording, I can tell you that this is a very assured and polished sophomore effort and one that should light up the eyes & ears of post rock fans with its balanced mix of organic energy and atmospheric textures. The official release is just over two weeks away, but pre-orders are available and you can listen right now to the soaring preview track ‘Last Contact’. Play it loud and often.
“At times SUNLESS is more electronic leaning than its predecessor, yet is still punctuated with sheets of glacially emotive guitar-work. Intricate electronic beats give way to propulsive live drumming. The synths, while more prominent this time out, fit effortlessly into the TDAC framework…a must-have for fans of God is an Astronaut, Hammock, and Lights Out Asia. SUNLESS will be available on CD/FLAC/MP3 as well as limited edition 2xLP with a limited amount in red/orange/black splatter.”
More information: http://n5md.com/discography/233/SUNLESS
K. Novotny | Gesture & Texture | Preserved Sound (December)
Ambient/Electroacoustic musician K. Novotny from Łódź, Poland will be releasing his newest album Gesture & Texture in December on Preserved Sound which he describes as a “collection of meditations on the soundscape around us and how it relates to the passage of our own lives”. The music is a style of which I am particularly fond – soft ambient drones adorned with natural field recordings, piano, and deft touches of electronica woven into tranquil soundscapes that caress the ears. Keep an eye out for announcement of a release date and pre-orders. In the meantime, enjoy the preview track ‘Anāhata’.
More information: https://preservedsound.bandcamp.com/
There Is No Teenage Love | LAHEX | (January)
There Is No Teenage Love is a project from Los Angeles based musicians Erik Tokle (Whale Fall) and David J. Dowling. Their second full length album LAHEX will be released on 12” white vinyl in January and can now be pre-ordered with an instant digital download. Two preview tracks are available now and both exemplify the duo’s M.O. which is to “create cinematic soundscapes through improvisation and live looping, manipulating guitars beyond recognition and dispensing with conventions of structure in favor of a post-modern, abstract and painterly approach to composition“. Both are gorgeous and unfold slowly revealing many layers of tone & melody. Beautiful stuff.
Massimo Disceopoli | Parallax | DOF (Sep 1)
Parallax is the first album that drummer and multi-instrumentalist Massimo Discepoli (aka Nheap) releases under his own name. It has the spirit of an ambient recording, but takes a unique approach in prominently featuring the acoustic drum kit. While that may sound like a musical oxymoron, it works out quite beautifully. The key is the approach in which Discepoli’s uses the set in a way that “abandons the role of mere rhythm accompaniment”, instead uses them to add color and atmosphere. And that doesn’t just mean cymbal washes and soft rolls across the toms. On some tracks Discepoli shows some real chops and delivers thunderous poly-rhythmic jams, yet somehow never spoiling the meditative ambient mood. Parallax is a seeming paradox that ends up being a delight to listen to.
(ghost) | A Vast and Decaying Appearance | N5MD (Oct 14)
Connecticut-based musician Brian Froh has delivered his second album under the moniker (ghost) on the N5MD label entitled A Vast and Decaying Appearance. At times poetic and reflective (see his words below), at others deliciously glitchy in a way that reminds one of his label-mate Ocoeur, and at others airy & melodic like Tycho, it all comes together for a great listen. A must listen for fans of intelligent and emotive electronica.
a vast and decaying appearance
withered and broken
hanging on by a thread
distorted beyond recognition
dwindling in my view
a clouded shadow
on jagged stone
More information: http://n5md.com/discography/235/A-Vast-and-Decaying-Appearance
‘A Vast and Decaying Appearance’
Kiasmos | Kiasmos | Erased Tapes (Oct 27)
We’ve been enjoying collaborative sounds from Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rassmussen as Kiasmos for several years and now thanks to the duo’s focused efforts in 2014, we finally we have a complete full-length album in the Erased Tapes catalog. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. It is nothing less than sublime, hitting the sweet spot of every genre it references – techno, IDM, modern classical, and ambient.
“Made in Ólafur’s newly build studio in Reykjavík, Iceland, a majority of the album was recorded using acoustic instruments next to a variety of synthesizers, drum machines and tape delays. It features a live drummer, string quartet and Ólafur performing on the grand piano, producing an ambient, textured sound, which makes it a perfect home listen and equally danceable record.”
I suspect most readers of ST are already enjoying this album, but if not, don’t waste anytime checking it out. A fine way to do that is this stream and track-by-track description hosted by Drowned in Sound here: http://ow.ly/DFin7
Luke Howard | Two & One | (Oct 30)
Australian composer and pianist needs little introduction. His latest recording Two & One is now available in digital format and is released in conjunction with his new photo book of the same name consisting of fifty-four carefully selected photos from travels throughout Australia, North America and Europe. Fans of his last album Sun, Cloud will be right at home as he delivers another set of fine compositions melding piano and electronic orchestrations with a touch of the cinematic. In particular, ‘Hold Me Through’, ‘Oculus’, and ‘Nocturne’ are exceptionally lovely.
Visit Luke’s Bandcamp page to get the album. The photo book and a book of concert tour posters are also both available for purchase their.
Sentimental Machines | Less | (Oct 30)
Sentimental Machines is a collaborative project between Italian sound artist Attilio Novellino and electroacoustic musicial Saverio Rosi. Having performed together at numerous festivals and art events, the duo sees their first studio album Less released on the Dronarivm label. It is a collection of six lovely tracks featuring “close-ups of melancholy piano on a vaguely industrial flow…mixing old musical instruments (piano, pump organ, tape delay and analog echo machines), field recordings and laptop treatments in order to highlight the sentimental aspect behind these electroacoustic compositions.”. Highlights in particular are the elegiac ‘The Shining Ground’ and the mesmerizing ‘Dogma – Homage to Arvo Pärt’.
Less is available in digital format or in a limited run of 3” CDr in a specially boxed package.
Sophie Hutchings | White Light | (Oct 30)
The latest recording by composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings is a gift of music and poetry offered by the artist as a free download to enjoy in between her last studio album Night Sky and the next one to come. It is a collection of exquisite solo improvisations recorded in a church hall in here hometown of Sydney, Australia. Fans of Sophie’s work or solo piano in general will no doubt welcome this present into their collections with delight and gratitude while looking forward to her next project.
With no wind and no sound
substance in the silence
a rest in fading skies
when light dips to gloaming
a subtle closing in
something whispering in the silence
shadows toward darkness
motionless on a mountain
the lonely fragrance of earth after rain
stretch out your arms and see
Noteworthy highlights from the past week of music discovery, releases, previews, and other news. Daily updates are available on the ST Facebook and Twitter feeds and audio/video links to all tracks featured during the month are available on the Stationary Travels Songdrop page.
V/A – SEQUENCE8 [Futuresequence / Aug 20]
One of the biggest highlights of the week surely is the release of SEQUENCE8, the latest, and apparently the last, in a series of stellar V/A compilations by UK label and experimental music magazine Futuresequence. This is a lovingly curated collection of tracks from 28 artists selected from over 200 submissions.
As with SEQUENCE7, I found the majority of the tracks compelling, some being from artists I follow closely and others being new discoveries who I will be following from now on. Which tracks standout will depend on what style of ambient or electronic music you prefer, but there is an impressive range here from the most delicate and introspective pieces to subwoofer rattling drones with a wide variety of styles and textures. Below is a sampling of some tracks I particularly enjoyed and that demostrate the spectrum of music you will find here.
The information page for SEQUENCE8 is beautifully presented with a portrait of each artists, a well written description of the selected track, and links for deeper discovery. As with past compilations, the download is absolutely free, so go get a copy for yourself and dig in!
Artist/Track Profiles: http://www.futuresequence.com/sequence8/
Memory Drawings – There Is No Perfect Place [Hibernate Recordings / Aug 18]
UK label Hibernate Recordings has just released the new album from Memory Drawings, a project from hammer dulcimer player Joel Hanson, multi-instrumentalist Richard Adams (also of Declining Winter), violinist Sarah Kemp (also of Lanterns on the Lake), and pianist Gareth S. Brown. There Is No Perfect Place is a sheer delight, an exotic and alluring blend of folk and modern classical styles that is joy to listen to.
In addition to the 10 original tracks, the first 200 CDs sold will come with a bonus remix disc which includes alternate versions and reworks by artists such as Pausal, Talvihorros, and Benoît Pioulard. All 20 tracks are available for streaming and purchase on the Bandcamp page. It is hard to think of a better instrumental album to enjoy in the waning days of summer. Highly recommended.
‘Coldstream’ by Memory Drawings
Rumour Cubes – Appearances of Collections – [Aug 18]
Rumour Cubes are a London-based six piece who create instrumental music featuring guitar, violin, viola, and piano with a variety of other instruments and electronics. Their highly anticipated new album Appearances of Collections was released this week and is already generating lots of well-deserved buzz and positive reviews. Sometimes graceful, sometimes bomabastic, but always melodic and inventive, this is a great collection of songs that brings modern classical and post rock elements together in an exuberant cinematic fusion. Another great summer record, Appearances of Collections is available digitally and on CD on the Rumour Cubes Bandcamp page.
‘A Homecoming’ by Rumour Cubes
Near the Parenthesis – Cloud.Not.Mountain – [N5MD / Aug 19]
Cloud.Not.Mountain is the latest album from Near the Parenthesis, the moniker used by San Francisco based electronic musician Tim Arndt. Released this week on the vaunted N5MD label, the album continues to explore the less organic approach of his previous full length album Japanese for Beginners. Beautiful piano motifs and layered electronics blend harmoniously to create emotionally resonant atmospheres, but with enough abstractions and inventively syncopated percussion to never become predictable or bland. This is a record that really rewards repeated listening.
Order from N5MD: http://n5md.com/discography/232/Cloud-Not-Mountain
‘Falling Up’ by Near the Parenthesis
Abstract Aprils – Blossom Ends
Sometimes you find the music and sometimes the music finds you. Abstract Aprils is an ambient music project from Collin Welner based in the big sky country of Missoula, Montana USA. I checked out the July 2014 release Blossom Ends after seeing Abstract Apriils show up as a follower of Stationary Travels on Twitter and was delighted with what I heard. This dreamy, pristine style of guitar based ambient will especially appeal to fans of Hammock and Helios and sounds very refined and assured for a debut effort. Available digitally on Bandcamp.
‘These Moments Live’ by Abstract Aprils
Until We Last – Earthgzing
Until We Last is a four man post rock band from Bangalore, India started in 2011 by guitarist Ketan Bahriat and fully formed in late 2012. This discovery came from the daily updates on the excellent Post Rock Facebook community page (the same great folks who produce the Arctic Drones webzine). Until We Last produce a style of post rock I am especially fond up which is highly melodic, atmospheric, and full of life-affirming energy. It should appeal to many post fans around the world and has the exciting potential to broaden the appeal of the genre in their home country. Their four-track Earthgazing is really enjoyable and available on their Bandcamp page on a pay-what-you-want basis.
‘Earthgazing’ by Until We Last
Square Peg Round Hole – Corners
Square Peg Round Hole is more of a re-discovery for me as I revisited their July 2013 debut album Corners when the band announced that 100% of album sales (digital and physical) until September 1 would be donated to the ALS Association (the same beneficiary of the donations from the now viral “ice bucket challenge”). My original discovery of the band came from following the solo work of Evan Chapman who published an astounding series of videos featuring his percussion-only covers of songs like ‘Your Hand in Mine’ (Explosions in the Sky) and ‘Holocene’ (Bon Iver). Square Peg Round Hole is a trio that is heavily percussion driven across an eclectic and vibrant blend of rock, jazz, ambient, and electronic motifs. Corners is playful in spirit but serious in its musicianship and a lot of fun to listen to. Grab a copy this week and you can enjoy it for yourself and donate to a worthy cause without having to pour a bucket of ice cold water on your head.
‘Culturalist’ by Square Peg Round Hole
Abiogenesis – Short Film by Richard Mans, Music by Rhian Sheehan
Abiogenesis is a stunning animated short film by New Zealand filmmaker Richard Mans that has won a number of awards and been successful on the film festival circuit, but is just now available online through his Vimeo page. My discovery of the film came via the Facebook feed of Rhian Sheehan who provided the soundtrack to this sci-fi mini-epic which feels much more expansive than one would expect for something that lasts less than 5 minutes. Full screen HD and headphones are the perfect way to experience this feast for eyes, ears, and imagination. Also follow the link directly below for much more information (synopsis, gallery, making-of features, downloads, etc.)
More Information: abiogenesisfilm.com
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:
“The Angry Child” is the latest full length work from UK based artist, musician, and programmer Mark Harris which has just been released by n5MD. It is a serene, evocative, and polished album of pure ambient music that can be appreciated just on the hearing, but it is best enjoyed with an appreciation of his creative process along with the narrative that surrounds the making of the record.
What is unique about the way Harris works is his evolutionary approach which combines generative processes, composition, and improvisation. The process begins with amassing a pool of raw sonic material – generated sounds, processed samples, and field recordings – and then organically improvising with and reworking it until a finished product emerges. Harris likens the end product to an iceberg with “…the final work as the bit which floats above the surface, and under the surface is the mass of unused material which never see the light of day.”
With this modus operandi, the same raw material can yield multiple pieces, each with a different mood and perspective which reflects the mind set of the artist at the time of creation, and that where specific narrative comes in. As Harris tells it, the narrative behind “The Angry Child” goes back to the final stages of his work on his previous n5MD release, “An Idea of north / Learning to walk”, where he worked on a series of compositions that coalesced into the title track and then returned to them months later only to rediscover much untapped potential. This discovery led to the decision to build a complete album around that pool of material.
Lest all this sound too scientific, there is a strong emotional element in the improvisation and those emotions convey through the music to the listener. About the six pieces on “The Angry Child”, Harris says “I was stuck by how all of the pieces were evocative of the landscape of rural Norfolk in the UK where I spent a lot of time when I was a boy, an endless flat landscape where the tide would take the sea out from miles and at times the sea / the sky / and the weather all gradually merge together. I remember how as a boy I would spend hours sitting on a small hill looking out to sea watching the light / clouds and weather gradually change… I hope the listener catches something of the feeling of that place and time by listening to this work.”.
I believe Harris has succeeded admirably in conveying just what he describes. The music on “The Angry Child” indeed evokes a grand sense of place and, through a nostalgic artistic lens, manages to capture many emotions experienced during youth. Harris reminds us childhood is sometimes and isolated and uneasy place (‘the tributary_losing your way’ and ‘in spite of everything_the night that made the darkness’). Sometimes it is full of painful growth and regrets (‘the angry child’ and ‘everything i did was wrong’). At other times it is full of mystery and wonder (‘before you wake_or the fool who mimics the sun’) and, not to be overlooked, love and gratitude (‘running forward_ to the object of ones affection’).
All in all, ‘The Angry Child” is a very satisfying and polished outing for Mark Harris and would make a fine addition to any ambient music collection. With full appreciation of the manner it was created and the narrative surrounding it, the album should yield many enjoyable listening sessions, especially if you take the time to find the stillness and inner child within yourself when you lend your ears to it.
Ordering (CD/MP3/FLAC): http://n5md.com/discography/223/The-Angry-Child
Tuesday was the release day for the brand new full length effort on n5Md by Ex Confusion, the musical nom de plume of Atsuhito Omori. Whereas the preview track ‘Two Things’, featured in May, weaves it’s magic with acoustic guitar and subtle ambient effects, the title track, ‘With Love’ relies solely on a wonderfully resonant piano to transport the listener to a place of wistful beauty and gives us a hint of the subtle variety and pleasures in store on the full album.
Complete album and ordering information available at http://n5md.com/discography/212/With-Love
I admit to not being overly familiar with long form pieces of ambient music, but I have to believe that “An Idea of North/Learning to Walk’ by UK sound artist Mark Harris would be considered one of the finer expressions of the genre. It is an absorbing, immersive journey in sound that is full of depth and nuance and which can be enjoyed either with careful attention to all of its facets, or subconsciously as it connects to deeper senses of place and memory.
Not unlike preparing to watch a film, before one takes on tracks of this length, it is probably helpful to know something about both the artist and the piece both so you can get the most from the experience. Via his n5MD artist profile, we learn that Mark usually works from heavily processed samples of live instruments and field recordings along with live synthesis in a unique generative process using his own custom developed software applications and real-time improvisation.
By Mark’s own account, the central piece, ‘An Idea of North’, flowed out seamlessly in one take initiated after an unusually heavy English snowfall during the Christmas period of 2010. Then, Mark says, “As I usually work by a process of improvisation, and often use memories of environments / landscape as a starting point for a composition – I gradually began to think of creating a longer composition which would seamlessly merge pieces around the work I’ve just created, which would give the listener the impression of a journey through various environments / landscapes (both physical and emotional) gradually moving from the familiar to the more extreme / isolated and “darker” spaces and then gradually returning “home” at the end of the piece.”.
Indeed, the piece begins with familiar and calming sounds of rain, birdsong, and the Doppler effect of the occasional car coming and going over wet roadway. This goes on long enough to immerse the listener in a sense of place before the synthesized sounds begin to gently assert themselves. Gradually, the rain falls harder and the music slowly begins to move front and center until it finally takes over completely and a sense of isolation is created, as if one is turning deeply inwards or retreating from the trappings of civilization.
About 12 minutes in, just as Mark description suggests would happen, the landscape changes. We hear waves and the very distant droning of engines which create a sense of both seclusion and orientation to a new a place. At this point we here one bright, chiming note, then another, then several more spaced unevenly apart to create a musical impression of the feeling of taking first steps and here the words in the title, “learning to walk”, suddenly seem to fit perfectly. This sense of discovery and determined movement is a nice change and adds an element of brightness and optimism to the piece before the synthesized music begins a long, slow fade to sustain a feeling of calm reflection.
Besides the music and sculpted sounds themselves, the album is finely mastered and just sounds great coming through a pair of headphones, a quality which only enhances the journey. If you appreciate long form works, you will not want to miss this. If not, perhaps this would be a good one to get your feet wet with. Either way, I recommend a listen with no reservations. See below for links to the album and a Soundcloud preview:
Mark Harris on Vimeo (includes links to him on Soundcloud, Facebook, & Google+)
Here is some new music from Diamat, a project formed by Attilio Bruzzone, co-founder and composer of port-royal, and Andrea Zangrandi. The album releases on July 30 on n5MD. This sample track is today’s Friday listening feature and has a lush and warm sound that definitely whets my appetite to hear the rest of the record.