Ahslar_DS_Cover

Lazy Saturday afternoons in Liverpool provided the context for Ashlar, a collaborative project of  Wil Bolton and Phil Edwards. The two began collaborating about 7 years ago ahead of their debut release Saturday Drones (Time Released Sound, 2011) which was based on sessions recorded in the public houses of the city’s Georgian quarter while St. James’ Gardens (Hibernate Recordings, 2014) was inspired by field recordings made in & around the park of the same name. Bolton has since relocated to London, but the project lives on in a new record aptly titled Distant Scenes based on a similar modus operandi with adjustments made to accommodate the geographical separation. This time the field recordings come from locations as varied as Japan and Korea as well as the UK and the impromptu recording sessions have been replaced by an asynchronous approach of sharing, augmenting, processing, and remote exchange. While this may have been a dramatic change in how the project was conducted, the listener will find the languorous beauty and friendly experimentation that characterized Ashlar’s previous work lives on albeit with a new patina burnished with welcome touches of melancholy and nostalgia.

Distant Scenes is an album built around distance, time and space as their different recording locations inspired new but separate ideas. A warm but blurry canvas has been woven over a four year period, as time has rusted the memories of the good old days spent jamming on their earlier albums and newer ideas have been corroded into a melancholic fuzz. – Whitelabrecs

Continue reading “Sound Impression: Distant Scenes by Ashlar [Whitelabrecs]”

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”

When speaking about his work, UK-based sound artist Wil Bolton has expressed that his is “particularly interested in the resonance of spaces and their history, and wider notions of place”. Take a look at his releases over the past couple of years and you will see ample evidence of this. Every album has a thematic context and every track a setting that frames the perspective and drives the musical narrative. There is a certain consistency in Bolton’s compositional approach but the sonic gradients and filigree are always crafted with great attention to detail to convey that which is unique about his subject and so it is the case with latest effort February Dawn which is soon to be released on Eilean Rec.

february dawn – frost
on the path
where I paced all winter

– Jack Kerouac, Book of Haikus

Continue reading “Wil Bolton – February Dawn [Eilean Rec.]”

Wil Bolton certainly has a way of capturing the aura and stillness of a place in music. Self-described as “an artist who works predominantly in sound”, his pieces are very much like sonic portraits that harness light, color, and texture with such patience and attention to detail that the listener can almost see and touch them, even inhabit them. His latest full length record released on the Dronarivm label, Inscriptions, began with a collection of environmental sounds collected in Tallinn, Estonia during an artist residency there in 2011.

These field recordings focus in on the quiet, everyday sounds of streets, parks, a lake and a town square. I lived with these sounds for some time, before working on the album. In spring 2013, I began to record the instrumental sounds. I started working with loops I lifted from the quietest sections of old dusty charity shop records – the sounds of piano, strings and harp, half-buried in hiss and crackle. I re-pitched, stretched, edited and processed these loops with guitar pedals and laptop effects. Then over this bed of loops, I recorded layers of digitally treated instrumental parts, played on acoustic guitar, piano and analogue and digital synths.  – Wil Bolton

Continue reading “Wil Bolton – Inscriptions [Dronarivm]”

“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:  https://homenormal.bandcamp.com/album/bokeh

Read an interview with Wil: http://homenormal.com/wil-bolton-on-bokeh

‘Bokeh’ – music and video by Wil Bolton

Listen to a sampler of Bokeh:

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

Leigh Toro| L’Esprit De L’Escalier [Eilean Rec.]

Eilean Records wraps up an impressive debut year with this release by Leigh Toro (aka Flotel) due out on Dec 12. L’Esprit De L’Escalier is the title of the album, coyly taken from a French term used in English that refers to thinking of a perfect retort too late (literally “staircase wit”). The preview tracks promise an album of exquisitely crafted electroacoustic ambient music which the label has come to typify. As with previous releases, physical copies will be beautifully presented and quite limited, so interested listeners should check this out early.

http://www.eilean-records.com/#!release-leigh-toro/c1qut

Featured: ‘Ringstone Round’

New Album Releases

The Gateless Gate | Sibir (plus bonus tracks) | [Pyschonavigation]

Toronto based duo The Gateless Gate move from one extreme landscape to another as they leave behind the desert motifs of their Steve Kilbey inspired EP Myrrh to explore the vastness of Siberia with Sibir, a release so expansive that it comes in two parts.  The first part is a 5-track, hour long journey through the landscapes of this huge territory articulated in a modern “komische” ambient style that is simultaneously lush and glacial and is supplemented with evocative field recordings.  The second part is a companion release with over 30 minutes of bonus tracks that speak to the human element with references to both the region’s industrial installations and its somber, sometimes tragic, history.

Featured: ‘Winter in Yakutia’ and ‘Norilsk’ (bonus track)

Order: https://thegatelessgate.bandcamp.com/album/sibir

Download bonus tracks: https://thegatelessgate.bandcamp.com/album/sibir-bonus-tracks

Monolyth & Cobalt | Sub + Rosa [Uknown Tone]

Mathias Van Eecloo has been nothing less than a force of nature this year.  He rolled out the Eilean Records label which produced 12 outstanding releases since the Spring and put out two full length recordings, III (exode) as  D.rhöne  and Polarlicht under his better known moniker of Monolyth & Cobalt. And that is not even to mention the lovely new collaboration he has started with composer Madeleine Cocolas. The icing on the cake is the new double album Sub + Rosa on Unknown Tone, consisting of 12 original electroacoustic ambient tracks and another dozen which are reworks by a stellar array of artists including Wil Bolton, Porya Hatami, and Machinefabriek. Sub + Rosa is offered in digital and limited edition 2CD formats.

Order: https://unknowntonerecords.bandcamp.com/album/sub-rosa

Featured: ‘Asphodel’

V/A | A Minute of Your Time [Hawk Moon Records]

Hawk Moon Records has just released a noteworthy V/A compilation called A Minute of Your Time which contains 19 tracks from an impressive list of artists from inside & outside their roster. The format is unique in that each track is exactly one minute long (give or take a few seconds).  It is an engaging listen with a broad range of styles reflective of the diverse contributors who include Moshimoss, Good Weather for an Airstrike, Olan Mill, Stray Theories, Orbit Over Luna, Tiny Leaves, Caught in the Wake Forever, and more. Best of all, all amounts paid for the download will benefit Crohn’s & Colitis UK (www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk).  Being able to enjoy this varied and engaging set and help a worthy organization is certainly a winning proposition.

Download/Contribute: https://hawkmoonrecords.bandcamp.com/

Wil Bolton| Whorl [Sound In Silence]

Sound artist Wil Bolton follows up his outstanding album Bokeh with another beautiful collection of songs called Whorl just released on Sound In Silence. Whereas the former was set in mostly urban landscapes, the latter is a more pastoral, nature-oriented affair.  What both have in common the peerless soundcraft and sense of stillness & beauty that characterize Bolton’s work. The album is offered in a limited edition of 200 hand-made, hand-numbered collectible copies.

Order: https://soundinsilencerecords.bandcamp.com/album/whorl 

Featured: ‘Leaves That Curl’

Tineidae| Shadows [Tympanik Audio]

Electronic music artist Tineidae delivers a new album of evocative music in the form of Shadows on Tympanik Audio with tracks offering deep liquid atmospheres, glitchy transitions, and occasional eruptions of towering synths and resonating percussion. Whether you enjoy ambient, glitch, progressive, or IDM electronic music, there should be something here for you in this richly atmospheric recording.  Offered in digital and CD formats including a special poster edition.

Order: https://tympanikaudio.bandcamp.com/album/shadows

Featured: ‘Unconscious’

New EP Releases

Hakobune | Vitex Negundo [Empiric Records]

Hakobune (aka Takahiro Yorifu) has released a new three track effort long enough to straddle the fence between EP and LP and stacked in rich layers of blissful drone woven from soft ambient guitar and wrapped in warm hissing tape loops. This beautiful aural journey is entitled Vitex Negundo and is available via German label Empiric Records.

http://www.store.empiricrecords.com/product/hakobune-vitex-negundo

Featured: ‘Brief Respite’

Tomonari Nozaki | The Fall of Icarus | [Taalem]

After releasing quite a few stunning single tracks on his Soundcloud page, composer Tomonari Nozaki (aka UnknownJP) has released a gorgeous two track EP on Taalem called The Fall of Icarus.  Those familiar with his work will be happy to hear more of resplendent ambient soundscapes imbued with romantic spirit.  In this record, Nozaki offers stunning abstract musical imagery inspired by the mythic character as he imagines him falling into the sea and ascending into the sky. The striking cover art is provided by Curtis Hall (www.seehall.me/home). Available in digital and limited edition 3” CDr formats.

https://taalem.bandcamp.com/album/the-fall-of-icarus

Random Forest | Hibernation |

After putting out both a full length record (Pacific) and an EP (Sierra) as The Echelon Effect, David Walters again teams up with composer Aaron Gilbert as Random Forest resulting in their second release called Hibernation. It is another enjoyable outing blending atmospheric soundscapes with post rock drive and cinematic flourish. Available as a name your price digital download.

https://randomforest.bandcamp.com/album/hibernation

Featured: ‘Iowa’

Mixes

Ambient Acoustique – Stationary Travels 2014.11.25

As Autumn turns brown & grey and the first harbingers of winter’s chill arrive, the warmth of acoustic music is always welcome. This is a new mix which features some exceptionally lovely work by the following artists:

Western Skies Motel
Sundaug
Ancient Colours
Yadayn
Belle Arche Lou
Explosions In The Sky & David Wingo
Jacob Montague
Aaron Martin
Memory Drawings
Ghost and Tape
Wickerbird
Chequerboard

Looking back on noteworthy news, musical discoveries, and social media interactions from the past week.  For a complete list of songs featured this month on the Stationary Travels Facebook and Twitter feeds, check out the July Songdrop mix.

Deru

I am at least a month late to the party, but this week I finally got to dig into the amazing new 1979 project by Deru (the electronic music project of LA-based composer/producer/sound designer Benjamin Wynn) along with Effixx (filmmaker and designer Anthony Ciannamea). On his project site Deru describes 1979 as “an audiovisual time capsule, a perpetual relic, a collective beating heart, a breathing human record, a meditation on nostalgia, my fifth studio album, the year I was born”.   The music here is outstanding, but it is about so much more. To see what it is all about, follow the the links below to visit the interactive site and to read an excellent in-depth feature and interview on the ISO50 web site (ISO50 is the design pseudonym of Scott Hansen, aka Tycho)

1979 interactive site: http://www.1979.la
ISO50 Feature: http://blog.iso50.com/33584/deru-1979-experiencing-an-album/

Tomonari Nozaki & EUS 

Tomonari Nozaki (aka UNKNOWNjp) and EUS (one of several projects of Jose Acuña) partnered to release this sumptuous 4 track album.  EUS offers his original mix of ‘Sol Levit’, which appeared on his October 2013 release of the same title, and Nozaki offers his previously unreleased ‘Adansonia’ and then each remixes the other work.  EUS brings to the table his dark ambient and rich melancholic undertones and Nozaki his cinematic, nearly effusive romanticism. The two are seamless merged through the warm analog medium of reel-to-reel tape and the end result is as absorbing and as emotionally resonant as ambient music can be.  This is generously provided as a free download.  I strongly recommend you grab it while you can.

Wil Bolton 

Bokeh is the new album by Wil Bolton mastered by Ian Hawgood and due to be released next month on Hawgood’s Home Normal label and available now for pre-orders.  Above is the album sampler on Soundcloud and below is the video Bolton created for the beautiful title track which treats the viewer to a fine example of the bokeh effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokeh).

Oskar Schuster

Berlin-based composer Oskar Schuster released a lovely solo piano EP this week called Matilda.  It is available as a 5 track digital download or in a handmade physical edition which includes sheet music for all the pieces and 2 bonus tracks.  This is one modern classical fans should enjoy and may be of special interest to those who play.  Follow the link the Bandcamp site for full information.

Matilda on Bandcamp: http://shop.oskarschuster.com/album/matilda-ep

Peaceful Wrath

Peaceful Wrath is a music project of Belgium-based artist Stéphane K. Vandezande which blends ambient, electronic, and modern classical elements together with a cinematic perspective.  Featured here is ‘Canvas’, one of my favorite tracks from his album Fields.  I was curious about the vocal sample heard around 4:40 and found that they were the words of Hal Lasko, also known as “the pixel painter”.  The video below shares his amazing story in a very touching presentation:

A Sudden Burst of Colour 

A Sudden Burst of Colour is an instrumental rock band based in Motherwell, Scotland.  They have a particularly fresh and uplifting sound which is in full regalia here on their latest single ‘Yume’ courtesy of Stereofox.  I particularly enjoy the clean, crystalline, reverb heavy sound of the guitars.  If legendary guitarist Hank Marvin made a post rock record, this is what I imagine it would sound like. Lots of melodic invention and nice changes here too. Play this one loud and often.