Video: “Universalis” by Hammock

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On their first full-length studio album since the deeply elegiac ‘Mysterium’ a little over a year ago, the Nashville-based duo of Marc Byrd & Andrew Thompson known as Hammock find themselves following a “vertical, upward movement back toward the light”. This progression from the low places of grief toward beckoning illumination is subtly depicted on the cover of Universalis and the hopeful, healing tone of the music echoes that trajectory while hearkening back to some of the most beloved recordings in the band’s canon as well as some of their early influences. For example, one can hear the sweeping atmospheric balladry of ‘Raising Your Voice to Stop an Echo’ and the glacial stillness of ‘Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow’ alongside the orchestral neoclassical grandeur of their more recent works.

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North Atlantic Drift | Departures, Vol 2 [Sound in Silence]

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In the early stages of my discovering new realms of instrumental music (circa 2012), one of the first albums that really caught and held my attention was Canvas (Polar Seas Recordings) by North Atlantic Drift. I was mesmerized and haunted by the vast melancholic landscapes and the melding of statuesque post rock melodic structures with glacial ambient texturesFollowin in fairly quick succession with Monuments (Sound in Silence) and Resolven (Polar Seas Recordings), the project entered a relatively quiet period as members Mike Abercrombie (aka Transits of Mercury) and Brad Deschamps (aka Anthéne) worked on their respective solo endeavors and growing their Polar Seas Recordings label.

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Whale Fall – Sondersongs

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This summer marks the welcome return of instrumental collective Whale Fall with their first album in nearly four years and a glorious one it is. The sprawling vistas of The Madrean, their 2014 post-rock homage to the natural & urban landscapes of the American southwest, give way to a more broadly referential cycle of songs called Sondersongs which takes inspiration from the neologistic definition of a word found in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk”  – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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Video Premiere: Unimaginable Light Shines Out by The Gateless Gate

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The Gateless Gate is a music project of Allister Thompson, a singer-songwriter currently based in North Bay, Canada, who started it to explore his interests in ambient, psychedelic, post-rock, progressive and experimental music. It embraces a wide-range of influences from not only the masters of those genres, but also “kosmische musik” and the music of Central and East Asia. The albums with which I was previously most familiar were from a period several years ago when a boreal mood prevailed with such evocative, landscape-themed recordings as Near North, Sibir, and Landslag Norður Íslands. This summer, however, the project comes in from the cold and will see the release of the radiant new album Nothing Is Missing which dwells in decidedly warmer climes where the sun shines brightly and life is in full bloom.

“The aim of this music is to illustrate through sound that no matter how turbulent the times become and how hopeless life seems, underneath all the turmoil and tragedy — everything is actually all right. All is as it should be. ” – Allister Thompson 

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PREMIERE: “Here” by Walrus Ghost & Max Frankl [Hush Hush Records]

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It almost sounds like a pitch for a screenplay. European jazz guitarist travels to New York and answers and ad for an open room posted by an experimental electronic music producer. Kindred spirits who followed very different musical paths, the two hit it off and end up creating an album of music together. Only it’s not a screenplay. It is the story of Munich-born and Zurich-based guitarist Max Frankl and Brooklyn-based Christian Banks aka Walrus Ghost. At the time Frankl moved in, Banks was about to release his debut album Uplifting Themes for the Naysayer. Despite striking up an instant friendship, it took time for their mutual appreciation of each other’s approaches to writing & playing music to grow. But, grow it did. First a song, then a handful of tracks, and finally a complete album called Avenues and Remembrances which will be released later this month.

“When we first met, we could both feel a great connection between the two of us. Some weeks later we recorded some music together, which was one of the greatest experiences I had while playing and recording with a lot of different musicians in New York. The things I treasure in Christian`s music have a lot to do with my compositional approach towards music: I like warm and rich environments that bring a particular quality to the music that is sometimes lacking in hectic day to day life: calmness, silence, and tranquility.” – Max Frankl

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Tomorrow We Sail — The Shadows [Gizeh Records]

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The very name of the band Tomorrow We Sail evokes an aura of journeys into far off horizons full of promise, an apt metaphor for the creative odyssey the Leeds-based band has been on since their formation in 2009. Their 2014 debut, For Those Who Caught The Sun In Flight, was the culmination of four years spent developing the euphonious and stirring blend of folk, post rock, neoclassical, and atmospheric elements they can now claim as their own signature sound. What followed was a restless period of musical exploration and a traveling hiatus with the band eventually reuniting less one member (violinist David Ramsey who remained abroad) to work on a new record. Without venturing any conjecture about the personal sojourns that took place during the intervening years, what is abundantly clear is how much band has grown musically. Now out after three years in gestation, The Shadows finds the six-piece collective spreading their wings wide and soaring to majestic new heights on the strength of potent songwriting, intricate arrangements, and engaging vocals.

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yndi halda – A Sun-Coloured Shaker

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If yndi halda was in the market for a new tag line they might consider “no music before its time” (a riff on the 70’s era Orson Wells commercial for Paul Masson wine for any of our readers too young to remember). Consider their resplendent opus Under Summer (2016), which the band worked on over a nine-year span following 2007’s Enjoy Eternal Bliss, clear evidence of their patient willingness to take as long as necessary to nurture their music to the point they feel it is ready to put out into the world. The same can be said of their new single A Sun-Coloured Shaker. In fact, it was that extended period of slowly chipping away at the composition, arrangements, and production of the last record that left the band with what they refer to as “small pockets of music which [they] really loved but had no home for”.  One piece in particular they felt truly belonged with the album but simply needed more time to develop and so they lovingly tended the vine as best they could until the fruit was ready.

“We knew it had to be a part of the album eventually, but also that it needed more time. So, between tours and obligations for Under Summer, we met to continue writing, and we eventually reached our destination: an accompaniment to the album, a new song that tells the leftover stories. We see A Sun-Coloured Shaker as the passing of night that follows Under Summer’s day. The dawn after the album’s dusk has faded. We wanted to express the realization that something as simple and everyday as sunrise can be so truly life-giving. That the natural rhythm of nightfall and daybreak is a foundation of reality and being.” – yndi halda

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PREMIERE: “I Can’t Start Being Happy For Feeling Sad” by Winterlight

The first time hearing the music of Winterlight is a pleasurably disorienting experience. Circulating amidst its dizzying swirls & sonic eddies are decades of musical influences and waves of reverb-drenched melody which coalesce into sumptuous, prismatic compositions with vast depth of field. Structurally uncomplicated, but texturally complex, the origin of the sound traces its roots to founder Tim Ingham‘s absorption in the post-punk and shoegaze music of the 80s and 90s in his native Thames Valley England.  It was not until 2006 that Ingham mined those influences in an effort to recreate the lush and hazy sounds of his youth. It was then the project came into being and quickly integrated itself onto the ambient/electronica scene over the course of several albums, singles, and remixes.

This band’s latest album had a lengthy gestation period of its own. The Longest Sleep Through Darkest Days is the culmination of nearly seven years of on and off “creative spurts, false starts, and second guesses” and reflects a turmoil hinted at in its title. The listener, however, is not burdened with the arduousness of this genesis. For us, there is only the bliss of its “melancholic euphoria”, expansive beauty, and deft nostalgic nods to the electronic music that informs it. Even better news is we don’t have to wait until the March release to enter the vortex of these mesmerizing sounds as the band is releasing the single with a pair of exclusive B-sides next week and you, dear reader, can check them out right now.  Continue reading

2017 in review: Journeys in Post Rock, Experimental Folk, & Electronica

A vibrant and eclectic selection where genres never define of confine, but only serve as reference points for those of us with inadequate words to describe the music. 

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Sound Impression: Little Steps by Good Weather For An Airstrike [Sun Sea Sky]

It has been a little over two years since we heard from Good Weather For An Airstrike, the project British musician Tom Honey conceived nearly nine years ago to help alleviate suffering caused by tinnitus. Little Steps is a fine addition to his catalog as it finds the sweet spot between the ambient, post-rock, and electronic elements which are all integrated into a seamless organic flow with a deft and delicate touch. 

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Hammock – Columbus (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) / Mysterium

Few artists in the world of instrumental music have a compass as locked on to true north as Hammock. For years, this Nashville-based project of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson has  served up a rich sonic feast spanning the genres of ambient, post-rock, and modern classical while resonating with heartfelt, and often heart-wrenching, emotion. Perhaps what they are capable of was summed up best and most succinctly in a comment to one of their recent videos where the listener said “Hammock has this way of telling you, ‘Everything will be okay.’, in the most beautiful way possible”. And in 2017 we have a double helping of new work from the band, an original motion picture soundtrack and a full-length studio album.

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Sound Impression: Go Mirage by To Destroy a City [n5MD]

On their first two albums Chicago-based trio To Destroy a City introduced us to a sophisticated and exhilarating sound forged from layers of guitars, synths & pianos and driven by electronic beat production intertwined with live percussion. In two weeks when they roll out their third record entitled Go Mirage, fans and new listeners alike will be treated to not only their most stunning sonic tapestries yet, but an inspired new vocal dimension which does no harm whatsoever to their post rock pedigree.

“This follow-up to 2014’s post-rock paragon SUNLESS has an added immediacy due to the soaring nature of guitarist Michael Marshall’s step toward the mic…Idealists might bark that To Destroy A City can’t continue to fly the post-rock flag with such a vocalic album. The enlightened will find that the addition of vocals places the band as contemporaries to artists such as Caspian, Mogwai, and Album Leaf which have effectively used vocals as key components in their music.” – n5MD

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