Whitelab Recs x 4: Teleferik/Polaroid Notes/Overshift/The Prairie Lines.

Harry Towell’s Whitelab Recs had a big 2017.  With seventeen releases (of which I got sent these four and the Covarino/ Incorvaia release sent by the artists themselves). The label even managed to snag a placing in A Closer Listens Labels of the year list – a great placing considering their one in seven strike rate for reviews. Due to the volume of submissions I have grouped these release together for a label overview.

Telerifik is Brutes, Belgium based artist Christoph Ywaska who also runs the weekly experimental music show Klankschap. “Sixteen Frames” is Ywaska’s first physical release compiling a decades worth of personal selections.  According to the label “The record is a curious mixture of Modern Classical excerpts and Ambient drones treated with electronic techniques. It might appeal if you like artists like Monolyth & Cobalt, Roel Funcken or Sylvain Chauveau.”

The album starts with ” (A) Cutlerie or how I used to eat my heart” and is a mix of vibraphone/chimes with looped distortion, short bass lines which together form a melodic and trance (not the musical style) like piece where the sounds of the vibraphone/chimes becomes muddier over time to eventually form a long slow drone.

“(B)Insert Kart” is a piece of manipulated and looped guitar playing, warping in and out joined by Nobukazu Takemura style glitches that are a different pace to the guitar, but as the track continues the focus varies from the glitches to the guitar and back again.

“(C)Close in matter” is a breakdown in transmission before a glitched section meets a small sampled and looped piano section. The track adds extra glitches elements taking away the organicness of the piano to become a purely electronic piece which also reminds me of Takemura.

“(D)Nightshift” continues the theme of manipulated recordings this time having a haunted fairground church organ sound before snatches of Amon Tobin like samples of percussion washes in and out.

“(E)Mingling” slowly approaching minimal percussion, sonar sounds, field recordings, sampled piano loops,  form this experimental track that is predominantly looped based.

“(F)Lets go nowhere else” a horn like loop that emerges right to left when listening with headphones is joined by a section of violin going in the opposite direction. After building up to similar sizes in the sound scape glitches appear as a form of detritus, much like the cut up nature of the two predominant sounds. Woozy jazz sounds enter the mix like a drunken man staggering around and join the two earlier elements to become the third main element just as looped electronics take over to the end of the track.

“(G)Klarf” sounds as if it is based on some old TV show (presumably from Belgium) alongside hauntological looped sounds not to dissimilar to that of The Caretaker.

“(H)Does it Matter” short metronomic electronic loops are joined by other electronic sounds that are also looped , but have a sound similar to an organic instrument. The layers are joined by a bass sound and squelchy sounds that look like they are looking for a beat to propel the track forward. It all degenerates towards the end of the track.

“(I)History favors the Winners”, maybe there is a Caretaker/ Leyland Kirby influence after all with a title like this? Snatches of piano, field recordings and broken electronics form this brief interlude.

“(J)The long Distance” glitchy rhythms, drones,  small fragments of percussion and oscillating electronics form the basis for this is track which is held together by the glitches. The other elements appear to be added without having much off an impact.

“(K)Lumen Reign (Telerifik reworks Illuminine)” shimmering electronics, waves crashing, drones with a hint of classical nature to them cascade against each other. The music has sections that slowly unfurl with some recordings of aeronautic nature.
“(L)Berceuse” meaning a musical passage that resembles a lullaby, with this one sounding like a demented one. Hauntological loops, glitches,  warped chipmunk like manipulated speech make for slightly harrowing listening.

“(M)Sketch 2” a long form drone, gentle bird song field recordings and soft acoustic guitar alongside some slight effects bring out a track that makes you think “Why couldnt the rest of the album be like this?” the music is gentle, but soaring , the elements all share a similar space and quality with a restraint not shown previously. Definitely a direction Telerifik should follow-up with.

“(N)Static of a Distant Storm” has a slightly sci-fi vibe with its layers of synth that float over each other with a slight sense of unease to them. The track as it progresses veers more towards a dark ambient vein with its metallic drones which are clanging in sound.

“(O)Subliminal” the glitches have returned, but following the previous track there is still a Sci-fi vibe to them. The synth sounds like stabs of arranged sound that bounce of each other and have a percussive quality.

“(P)A Minus D Minus D” swirling synth almost like a turntable that has been spun too fast joins a melodic tightly formed looped section that threatens to break out, but instead drops totally to a slow death march of retro electronic sounds an beats to the death.

Personally I feel the album is a collection of sketches that aren’t fully fleshed out. You see flashes of what could be good, but they disappear. If I am being terribly honest with the exception of (M) Sketch 2″ I probably wouldn’t listen to this again.

 

Polaroid Notes is a South Germany based artist named Andreas who has previously been released Whitelab Recs sister labels Tessellate and Audio Gourmet while also releasing dub techno music under the Kraut Sounds name. According to the label “‘Unsung Melodies” is very much inspired by film and TV series, as he strives to carve out sketches for an unreleased movie score. It plays out with each track as an episode with brooding piano and drone texture.” They recommend it for fans of Willis + Sakamoto, Robert Scott Thompson or Christoph Demean.

“A Small History of Decay” fuses ambience and solo piano with a feeling of stillness and restraint. For some reason I am thinking of winter and the ambient drones that soar around the piano are chilled while the piano itself is crisp. With subtle repetition and deft playing its a nice start to an album.

“Moment of Truth” starts similarly but with an off kilter-wish piano rhythm and glacial drones. Again I am feeling this is suitable for winter. The music starts to be manipulated with backward treatments which, if this alluding to a fictitious  film or TV program, brings the feeling of a flashback to an event or situation. So far the album has started at a relaxed pace.

“Golden Dawn” fuses icy drones, shuffling sounds, occasional bass notes, minimalistic piano and eerie electronics to create a mood rather than be a fluid piece of music. They use of the drones and eerie electronics add an element of suspense. The visual I get when I listen to this is a person, a detective,  driving through snow-covered dense forest roads with a lot on their mind such is the filmic quality of the music.

“Colours of Peace” repeating drones, electronics that briefly pop in and out, subtle sounds of an unknown electronic  nature and plaintive piano. It follows the theme set out previously with the other tracks before it, but I don’t get a visual representation with this one. It’s just a nice mix of sounds that have a similar sort of tone to each other and that work well together.

“Inside of Everything” manipulated sounds warp in and out with stark minimal piano playing alongside slightly noisy electronics – almost static like in their brief presence. The opening sounds have a distant quality to them and provide the melody and focal point. The distance felt with them is opposite to the immediacy of the piano and makes it feel like they are environmental in nature, like an outside force that is affecting something.

“Unsung Melodies” the pairing of drones and piano is strong in this title track where the drones are more central, but also threatening which is emphasized by the fragility of the piano with its delicate playing and its part slightly submerged in the mix. The nature of the piano leads to a feeling of suspense which is supported by the drones. The drones come in waves and are constructed in a pleasurable way.

“Dark end of the Street” the piano stabs that open this track and seem to go onto infinity set the scene for this track, which for me, visually is like a sister track to “Golden Dawn” but a darker version of it. The heavier keys of the piano present a dread that the other keys with their despair are leading to. As the track continues drones start to replace the initial effect that the piano had at the start and the fade the track out to the end

“Take Care of What you Love” manipulated layered electronics that warp in and out over a bed of glass-like piano playing. The electronics add a haunted and eerie feel to the music as they overlap the repetitive slightly reverberating meditative piano that has a visual quality of memories and possibly the electronics are the ghosts of the person’s life floating around.

“The Low Country” features noir-ish bass heavy minimalist piano with ever so subtle electrical sounding noise and possibly guitar generated drones which add a sinister like edge and feeling of claustrophobia to the track. You get a feeling of things closing in, but not totally engulfing the situation. The music is purely in shades of black and white.
“Nothing is Ever Over” begins with a mans voice uttering this title before synth throbs and distant birdsong and are joined by whispered vocals samples, percussion moments, field recordings of walking through bush paths, snatches of piano that is highly edited into electronic samples. The phrase “I saw you in my dreams” hints to a dream like quality of the track with the title being repeated ever so subtly. The visual feeling is an open grassy area where a person has either fallen asleep or is daydreaming and these elements are floating in and out of their consciousness.

“Once there was a beauty” a collection of howling drones over field recordings of nature sounds and small fragments of piano build up with the emphasis being the drones and the field recordings. The drones have a storm like quality without being too harsh and flow in a cyclical direction. This is a nakedness to the music as it is quite unadorned with lots of elements, but the elements that are there serve a purpose.  Towards the end the piano with its sparseness picks up intensity as the drones dissipate and between them and the field recordings take the piece to the end with a feeling of moving away from the storm.

“Dissolve” granular noises and buzzing slightly muted drones start this more electronic of tracks. Rippling keys and scattershot sci-fi sounds which fire and pulse around contain a different mood to the rest of the album. The track is still filmic, but the lack of piano makes it stand out as being from a different type of feel. While the remainder of the album feels like a Scandi noir soundtrack, this track feels like it’s from a Sci-fi soundtrack and just for that reason, because musically it is great, it doesn’t really fit the whole dynamic of the album.

A thoroughly enjoy album from someone who would easily craft a great soundtrack in the future.

Overshift is a US based artist who has been released on labels such as Psicodelica, Yoruba Grooves, Galanding and Listen:React (all of which are new to me).

According to the label “‘Of Light and Shade’ is an immersive listen with Ambient and Electronic tones that are likely to appeal ti fans of artists such as Krill.Minima, Robert Henke or Echospace.” 

The Antivedulian Question” starts off with a section of electronic sounds which sound like glass balls rolling, crackles, oscillating ambience, static, glitched beats before a dub techno beat and bass line, clipped and metallic percussion join in. Field recordings of someone speaking,  manipulated cymbals and occasional wood block sounding beats come in as elements drop in out and occasionally just leave a very dubby section focusing on the static, bass lines and cymbals. This sets the template with the addition and subtraction of elements. You get the feeling that this would not be out-of-place on the long-lost Autoplate or Thinner Net labels. There is a very laid back and summery feel to the track and it is nice and relaxing to listen to.

“Repose” after some sort of field recording and a synth line, minimal beats, field recording of someone walking,  ambience and synth drones, the drones build up and up added to by sounds of compressed air and more field recordings. Once they have built up to a certain point the texture changes with a synth line slowly replacing one of the drones. It has a fractured rhythm to it and the drones, field recordings  and synth all build up again to peak levels joined by a looped electronic alarm like section and the compressed air. You feel like you are waiting for the drop where the beat will come in, bit it never does and you are left tantalizingly on the precipice.

“Reservation” begins with glitches, what sounds like chime bars, distant percussive beats, swirling darker electronics, darker drones and a horn sound creating an almost industrial meets new age sound before synth waves and minimal ping ponging beats take it in more a prog direction. As the track goes on wind instruments that sound like a pan flute enter the sound escape and a metallic chain like a percussive element joins a bass line, before the swirling electronics become the beat less focal point for a section. The beats return but deep in the background as the track fades out.

“Pareidolia” which means to see a meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. The track begins with a collection of fractured electronics,  humming ambiance, glitches, beat like motifs, birdsong and very low-frequency glitched looped beats. A shuffling like percussion, plus other indistinguishable percussion elements join an ambient section that sounds like Alan Lamb’s electrical wire recordings as they hum with a certain level of disquiet before fading. Synth lines with a glassy, dubby feel enter alongside ultra minimal beats showing restraint,  but bring the melody and structure that was not present before. Overshift is quite adept at the use of the cut up and fractured elements that make up this track. While not feeling as summery as the opening track, it shares a certain quality and after largely beatless pieces between the two tracks it’s almost like a closing of the book in a flipside manner.

With the opening track feeling very Dub Techno,  you would think that was a direction in what the rest of this release might head in, but to the artists credit, they don’t take you down the obvious path, they steer you to the fringes with a little teasing on the way.

The Prairie Lines is South London-based artist Bill Bowden who formerly recorded under the moniker Herzog and ran the short-lived Bedside Table label. His music has previously been released by the likes of 12rec, Resting Bell, Rural Colours,  Serein and Audio Gourmet.

“This is where we Kneel” begins with hazy tumbling melodies soaked in a fog. The music feels that is weighed heavily down and distant, but as the melodies tumble in an ordered loop form, there are surrounding noises which are adding a layer of distortion to the piece. The music starts to get more distant as the distortion turns to waves of static, but not to loud as to overpower the melodies.

“Hands from the Sky” delicate looped piano lines are covered once more in a layer of fog and matched with a slight click providing a percussive element. Melodies come through in drones and hull like bass lines. Clockwork sounding micro beats appear as cascading melodies roll down like tones flowing down stairs. The haze makes the melodies masks the softness of them and adds a slight gritty feel to the music.

“Secret Home” sounds like a church organ opening it up with its relaxed, gentle melodies that slowly unfurl. The melodies are joined with cut up drones and fractured sounds that add a disjointed and nice counterpoint to the original controlled melodies. Dub style synth flashes that ricochet across add another layer to the sound palate as they ring out across the end of the track.

“Calm Landing” Warped rhythms welcome buried deep shimmering piano under a layer of static with the tones of the piano being gentle but totally immersed in haze removing any starkness that pianos can generate and making the melodies smooth. The layers of piano are slowly paced with time taken to let them breathe. The post production allows the music to inhabit a different sphere to that of it was just solo piano.

“Stop Haunting my Door” shares the sound scape with both buried introspective tones and those that are front and centre. The introspective sounds warped on the background, while the foreground ones ate cut up, layered and looped. However, they both have a feeling of memory from the hazy hated to remember background to the fractured fading away foreground sounds. At the end of the track the background sounds remain, but they have largely lost their warped edge to gently drone out.

“Smile But Prepare” Hazy glitched tones reverberating outwards in melodic tones of various layers, fill the piece with ambiance that is joined by static, fragments of percussive sounds, like sticks clacking together and a shimmering section which goes in a direction different to the main parts. At times claustrophobic, at others introspective and others with a sense of hope, the track covers a lot of territory.

“Eyes Down Slowdown”  a broken transmission welcomes you with off kilter melodies that sound like from the distant past as a buzz swells alongside them. A travelogue of sounds, you feel as if you are moving with them in a haze soaked drive through memory lane with faded Polaroids to remind you of the landmarks of the past. The speed starts to pick up with the rhythms running into each other as more sections join up together and the cut up sections splice together quickly. The bulk of the elements drop out to leave a small static section and the fractured reverberating piano bringing things slower to a more melancholic if broken down part. Before you get accustomed to the calm it all builds up once more with the gentle off kilter melodies complimenting the static fuzz till it fades to silence.

As a bonus and I guess a look back at the days of hidden tracks on cd’s, there is another version of  “Smile But Prepare” that comes on after a spot of silence and sounds like the hazy tones have had some of that haziness removed and are a bit harsher than before. Distortion is awash and in a way it is a bit of a reduction as if this is closer to the origin of the track prior to its addition of the haze and other parts.

A thoroughly enjoyable release especially if you like your ambience coated in thick haze with layers to peel back and investigate.

If this is a selection of 2017, then the new year should also be a good one for Whitelab Rec’s.

Advertisements

My Home, Sinking – King of Corns. 

“King of Corns” is an ensemble piece constructed by Italian experimentalist Enrico Coniglio (last seen on these pages with his collaboration with Mateo Uggeri on the Dronarivm. This particular release on double LP, CD and digital saw the light of day through the US label Infraction,  hone to the likes of Offthesky & Pleq, Celer, Northern and others. It features outstanding art and layout from James and Heginbottom and Chris Bigg with deft mastering by James Plotkin.

According to the label “The My Home, Sinking project is one that has been in the works for well over a year. Enrico Coniglio is the artist behind the MHS name. He collaborated with a multitude of other artists and vocalists on “King of Corns”. It is a combination of Talk Talk’s latter-day “Spirit of Eden / Laughing Stock” style of restrained tension, experimental chamber music akin to Rachel’s, chilling vocal deliveries, Finnish Folk and windswept ambience”.

I will admit being bewildered by this release. Some records have tracks that sound familiar with the artist having their ‘style’, others have tracks that have their own feel, some follow a narrative, while others can be quite experimental where it is not easy to put your finger on what the artist is doing. This album falls in the latter category and requires, for me, repeated listening to get my head around it.

On the album Coniglio plays Guitars, Melodica, Harmonica, Horn, Electric Organ, Synthesizer, Psalter, Tapes & Vinyl, Found Objects and Field Recordings. As well as individual artists on particular tracks he is joined by Elisa Marzorati on Piano and Piergabrielle Mancuso on Viola.

“Bird’s Eye” starts with bell sounds, static, warped drones that sound treated, arching drones, Melodica and minimalist piano. There is a rumbling sound to the drones and straight away that Spirit of Eden influence comes through via the Melodica and the starkness of the piano. The drones feel like they are cut up as they intersect the sound palate and have a feeling of like being generates by a train on tracks, not that they have the sound, more like the undulations of sound that you would expect on a train track. In a way the sound palate for the album is introduced slightly with this opening track, but by no means defines what the rest will sound like.

“D’automne (The Sobs of the Violin)” has a repetitive guitar piece accompanied by piano stabs, sounds similar to those of a cash register and lamenting violin sounds. The elements are in a way are disparate as while the piano and the violin occupy a similar musical tone, the guitar playing is off kilter and rolls like a drunken man. There is a very folkish feeling to the track, but one that is sinister and slightly unhinged. Even though it is off kilter, it is the guitar with its rollicking playing which gives the track its rhythm, however off-center for the other elements then to attach themselves to.

“King of Corns” featuring Jessica Constable on vocals is a dark and sinister piece with Constable’s eerily almost indecipherable falsetto vocals that remind ever so slightly of Diamanda Galas along side a filmic soundscape of horror like suspenseful electronics that lurk around the tracks darker areas before revealing themselves towards the end of the track. Marzorati’s piano is used sparingly, but effectively adds to the sinister menace of the track.

“Animating Old Postcards (Aikaa ei Ole Olemassa)” features Violetta Päivännkkara on vocals, glockenspiel and effects. The acoustic guitar surrounded by a summery hum accompanies Päivännkakara’s childlike innocent vocals and the wispy drones of the Melodica. Shuffling, almost brushed percussion effects are added as well as chimes, glockenspiel which add to the vocal quality and give it a totally different feel to the previous tracks. Where the title track as all dark atmosphere, this one is the flip side of pure innocence, but still inhabiting a folk territory.

“Love Scene” features Peter Paul Gallo on vibraphone starts with a backwards loop effect, affected guitar and slow long violin lines which are lyrical in their playing. The vibraphone adds a crystalline sound which goes well with the backwards loops and provides a totally different texture to the violin. The guitar varies from being strummed, to plucked to being manipulated which works well with the loops. If this was a soundtrack to a movie I am not entirely sure what the visual representation for a love scene would be based on the sound of the track.

“Bird’s Eye (Interlude)” dark drones, distant violin, field recordings of blown air and static, piano form the sound elements to the track and are like the opening track, but one that has been stripped of its elements and reformed using not all the constituent parts to form a ghostly version. Not a remix or a reprise, but like a reduction of the opening track.

“The Day the Earth…(Clock is Ticking)” echoing electronics that sound like sonar blips and acoustic guitar and distant sounds that are looped, but then seem to come out as this growing drone from which scraping and long bowed violin appear and work in staccato fashion. The acoustic guitar has short, but repetitive pieces which act as like a metronome. Clicking glitches, minimalist piano stabs, horns and a plucking sound add to the noir-ish quality of the piece which sounds experimental,  but at times both modern and retro it its styling.

0010749946_10

“Rachel on the Beach” fractured field recordings or tape loops that are shuffling in nature are joined by acoustic guitar which is paired with piano alongside drones and the sound of detritus or shells rubbing together. The piano that reminded me of the sound of Spirit of Eden is back to the point where I am expected minimalist Mark Hollis singing and horns wailing. Instead violin that is layered joins in and has a slightly subdued, but reflective quality.

“I can’t help it (But this is the end)” features Chantal Acda on vocals and features Peter Paul Gallo on vibraphone starts with an ambient drone, guitar, vibraphone, piano and electronics. There is shimmering quality that is brought out of the vibraphone that adds to the track. Harmonica enters the sound just before Chantal Acda transcendent vocals enter the track. I could happily listen to Acda sing the phone book such is the quality of her voice. The harmonica that enters where she sings “This is the end” brings the track up to another level. As well as the piano, the electronics of an unknown nature steer this unconventional conventional track to its end. Probably the highlight of the album.

“Along the Pipeline” features James Murray on Organ, Vocals and Loops starts with field recordings, strummed drones which radiate outwards, piano stabs heavy in sound and minimally spaced, with ethnic sounds and low pulsing electronic loops that start pulsing metronomically. Ethereal vocals briefly enter and depart and enter again, but it is the stark minimalist piano that is the instrument that is the key to bring on the other elements. It feels like it controls the mood and the pace while giving space for the other elements to find their position. The track is like an experimental chamber piece with a noir-ish, but electronic edge.

“Full Blank (No Stars)” featuring Jessica Constable on vocals and James Murray on Electronics starts with tape loops and Constables layered falsetto and emotional singing over distant sounds of piano and violin, drones and scattered electronics that have a storm ravaged like quality. There is a dark underbelly of electronics that are indistinguishable, but add to the menacing quality of the track. I have to admit not knowing what Ms Constable is singing about, but her vocal delivery is truly frightening.

As I stated before, I am totally bewildered by the album. When I think I have a handle on it, I am thrown into left field. But, by not being able to easily pigeon-hole it, it is open to more interpretation and revealing of all the layers. I would describe Coniglio as an experimental composer with an ear for construction and also for layering and working with disparate sound sources. If you like going down the rabbit hole, this album may be for you.

 

Theo Alexander – Palliative.

Theo Alexander is a Prague based London composer who has appeared on labels such as Blank Editions and 1631 Recordings while also releasing music himself with cd, cassette and digital release. “Palliative” is a standalone digital single that will appear on his forthcoming “Broken Access” release which was inspires by various live performances throughout 2017 including Piano Day and as support for Agnes Obel.

Alexander states “Palliative features an extended tape loop droned which guides a developing piano motif into a thickly textured harmonic apex“.

The piece opens with the sounds of a taped performance, glitches of technology breaking down and a repeating tape loop of piano which becomes the central rhythm of the piece and sounds like it’s ebbing and flowing. As mentioned on Alexander’s bandcamp page this was constructed using just a piano and a Tascam 414 tape recorder. The loop is joined by Alexander’s piano playing which is full of restraint. Where needed the emphasis on playing is gentle and when a bit more immediacy is required it is there as well. A long form drone joins the sound mix acting as a middle layer between the tape loop and the piano playing on top. It sounds horn like with a long duration and its fluctuations work well alongside the loops.

As the track enters the second half of its almost seven and a half minutes the intensity is increased with more layers of piano joining just as Alexander stated in becoming entwined in a textured harmonic apex. Towards the end the layers appear to mix together to form an almost jangling end.

I have to admit being unaware of Alexander and his music, but note his use of tape and loops in other releases and can see that he is quite adept with this technique. For essentially a solo piano piece the length of seven and a half minutes can be occasionally tiring, but not with this particular track. It will be interesting to see how the rest of “Broken Access” turns out when it is released.

Bruno Sanfilippo – Lost & Found / Doll.

In the last decade Modern Classical has soared in popularity for both releases and artists coming through the genre. Credit can go to the likes of Frahm, Arnalds, Richter, Johannsson and labels like Erased Tapes and 130701 in helping popularize the music. You can add Argentinian Bruno Sanfilippo to the list. His earliest release dates back to 1991 and although described as New Age his Modern Classical stylings came through circa 2000 “Suite Patagonia” album. It’s fitting that this release covers his two most recent release, one “Lost & Found” is an archival compilation and the other, “Doll” is a single coming out on January 1, 2018.

According to the label Ad21 music “the artist takes four songs that were once buries and lost in other collections, curating them together to create a new sound and feel. This re-imagination allows the listener to discover each piece as if for the first place. The songs have the power to pull memories from us, of real or imagined experience and the ethereal sounds, are at once familiar and an exploration.

“Lost & Found” features collected music released between 2006 and 2015 with a recently discovered track on the studio hard drive.

“Peter” first appeared on Ambientblog “Tenth Anniversary” usb collection from 2015 and is presumably named after the blogger in question, Peter Van Cooten. It starts of with electronics fused with piano and drones that appear joined to the piano in that they radiate out over the light electrical hum in the background. Initially appearing as a drone track or changes to focus more on the piano accompanied with field recordings of children playing. There is a slight improv feel to the piano, but after a brief fade out the piano playing becomes mote strident and controlled and introspective nature as if the piano is alluding to the field recordings of a longing for the innocence of youth.

“InTROpiano” originally the fourth track from 2006’s “InTRO” album follows the theme of additional elements to the piano with darkened drones (with a very, very slight Industrial feel), electrical buzz, field recordings of water sprinklers and crickets and deep rich spaced out Piano which if front and center in the track. The use of the non Piano elements allows the Piano to breathe and makes the track less stark than if it were Piano only. As the music starts building and evolving in the background, the piano maintains it’s pace, tone and texture and comes across with a feeling of experimentation mixed with a sense of reflection and reservation.

“Piano Texture Found” originally from Laverna net label release of the same name in 2012 starts with muted piano keys and static like glitches that force their way into the sound scape, seeping in and enveloping.  The Piano has a very distant, submerged feel to it as if from a dream such is the cloudy, hazy feel to it. It alternates from more forceful playing to shimmering qualities as it keeps a steady ebbing and flowing feel. In the final two minutes of the track the piano escapes from the shadow as the static glitches have started to fade and removes the shackles of haze to reveal a clear piano section. I am not sure of Sanfilippo’s thought about this track, but to me it is coming from the past (with the muted sound) into the present (as if everything has revealed itself).

“Soltario” also from “Piano Texture Found” is the albums epic with field recordings of someone walking in what I imagine to be in an underpass with water, gravel under foot sounds, pops,clicks and an electrically treated piano sound. There is a dark edge to the track, like it has an underbelly. There is a feeling of unease which is brought about by the additional sounds as well as the minimalist treated piano. An excerpt of this track would suit a science fiction film.

“What I Dreamed” recent studio hard drive find and exclusive to the CD and bandcamp release which is reason enough to buy the album. A beautiful pairing of layered minimalist piano, waves of ambience and string drones that circle around your ears, there is a certain degree of relaxed joy as the piece slowly unfurls in a loop like fashion with elements entering and departing gently, weaving their textures. It’s slightly different to the preceding tracks in its omission of field recordings or glitches, but has the similar tone as shared by the other tracks. If this is a case of lost material, we can only hope of more found material.

“Lost & Found” sees a collection of material from a wide span of time be collected to form a cohesive album. Some work better than others, my personal preference would be “Soltario” to be shorter, but the album is an enjoyable listen for people looking for more than just a solo piano album.

 

unnamed.jpg

 

“Doll” is Sanfilippo’s first release for 2018 coming out on the first of January on all digital platforms. Mastered by Home Normal boss Ian Hawgood (who also mastered “Lost & Found”) the track is a meditative rolling piece that has a beautiful tone alongside its controlled playing that, while conveying an intention it is never forceful nor laid back. There is an organic feel to it with the slight sound of the parts of the piano (possibly hammers or dampers – being a non musician I can only guess). There is a certain degree of romance to the music, but also a feeling of hope. At no times is it melancholic, but just a pleasure to listen to. The feeling is of a musician in control of their art and this ease that he has comes across in the enjoyment for the listener.

If this, Sanfilippo’s first entry into 2018 is a representation of what is to follow, then it should be a great year of music ahead of us.

 

Lee Yi – An Instant For A Momentary Desolation.

Spanish musician Lee Yi has already appeared on this blog this year as half of Emilìa with the stunning “Down to the Sadness River”. This time ’round he is in is solo mode and again it has been released in small collectible copies (now sold out) on Rottenman Editions.

According to the label “An Instant for a Momentary Desolation describes a place devastated by the natural reactions of these days. Nature can be as cruel as beautiful; immense and tenacious! This album goes through a path of ambiguity, of how beauty can corrupt us by desecrating what we love.  “Momentary Desolation”, “Desecration” & “Incertae” explain the feeling of despair with a heartbreaking corrosive sound, Lee draws dirty faces with lost looks without finding answers.  “Vulnerable Petal” shows us the fragility of life , emptiness after the chaos and uncertainty of what will happen”.

While the Emilìa release was a brief but beautiful collection of miniatures, Yi’s solo release has only 4 tracks but the lengths vary from five and half minutes to just over sixteen minutes.

“Momentary Desolation” opens the albums with long melancholic with a hint of something menacing drones which are bathed ever so slightly in fuzz. Joining them in the sound scape are subtle glitches loops, long string drones that hang with a certain weight that turn a modern classical style in to piece. There is a feeling of decay, rubble and isolation which the elements bring together. The presumably violin drones give a difference to the long drones that hang about in there speed of playing. They drop out to let guitar drones enter the fray, which gives the track another color. With the drones being of the darker nature it is refreshing that the track is not claustrophobic.

“Desecration” starts of with layered vocal like ambience, rippling glitches, shimmering guitars and industrial-esque sounds. The rippling provides a rhythm of sorts with which the ghostly vocal presence can hover over alongside the snapshot of darker sounds that cascade on an out – some veering in the breakdown in transmission like sounds,  some sounding like dark electronics. While the previous track felt dark ambient, this one is more electronic in nature and gives the album another feel as opposed to being drone centric.

“Incertae” (possibly referencing in taxonomy,  the taxon where it’s broader taxa is unknown ie:  the relationship between two things are unknown which fits in with the nature theme of this release). An electrical storm of sound starts building up, sounding in a way like Alan Lamb’s legendary power line recordings. A storm of such with long rumbling drones running parallel to pulsing throbbing noises and an over arching noise that takes over for a section. You get the feeling of wrestling with nature as Yi valiantly tries to hold onto control that is slipping out of his grasp as the music threatens to end in all out chaos. The track keeps incrementally building in sonics with the layers and noises fighting for position and while getting close doesn’t get to its Merzbow moment.

“Vulnerable Petal” as mentioned before is designed to show “the fragility of life , emptiness after the chaos and uncertainty of what will happen”. The track combines vocal lines alongside haze, distant shimmering guitars, softer drones, thudding minimally spaced beats with a lighter tone to the previous tracks. There is a certain cloudiness to the track caused by the haze which lends it the feeling of looking through a fog with not having the knowledge of what is around. The vocal drones and guitar provides the source of light while the beats and the sounds of detritus give it the edge of the tracks preceding it. The vocals, haze and guitar become the central focus with the other elements getting buried in the mix and there intensities fluctuate over time as the slowly unfurl to the end where it’s almost as the track has turned full circle.

Throughout the album Li has proven that he is not restricted to style. Put this next to the Emilìa release and they are quite different beasts. He has also proven that with an idea in mind it can be reflected through the music where the listener can follow the narrative. While not as immediate as the Emilìa album “An Instant for Momentary Desolation” has depth for repeated listenings with elements to reveal themselves to the listener.

In Brief: Sana Obruent – August / Vlimmer – Randow (Original Soundtrack).

Two releases from the German label Blackjack Illuminist Records (whose Leonard Donat “Deer Traps” I reviewed some time ago) have been on the list for a while. But a wealth of material being received plus the usual work/life balance have seen them sit in the queue. Time to listen and cover them, although with 33 tracks on the Vlimmer release,  its more a case of an overview.

Sana Obruent is California-based artist Paul Lopez and this is his fourth album with three on Blackjack Illuminist. It follows “Dyatlov” which was by all accounts a Dark Ambient release. “August” sees Lopez go in the opposite direction, Glacial Ambience. According to the label “On his fourth album Paul Lopez sounds as if he wanted to imitate the sound of Icebergs floating by or massive mountain ranges scraping the earth, the new album “August” is intense Drone played with guitars only, bulldozer like, heavy Drone that shakes the listener’s living room walls”

The album which was released on cassette (edition of 15), cdr (edition of 50) and digital has six numbered tracks ranging in length from five minutes to ten minutes and fifty-eight seconds in length. “I” is waves of submerged glacial drones that don’t sound as if they were constructed on guitar. There is a certain amount of distortion to the track which could be explained by the fact that there is no mastering credit which leaves the material sounding raw. “II” the epic of the album follows a similar path with layers of wind-swept like drones with a more sinister desolate edge to them.

“III” features haunting drones that give the listener feelings of isolation. They are more varied than the previous two tracks and are environmental in tone. A glacial / dark ambient balancing act. “IV” the drones sound vaguely orchestral like ringing church bells. They fan out in loops while others circle around. “V” is the album’s epic clocking in at just over eleven minutes. Circular sounding drones change sound to become off kilter and oscillating and are the most synth like of the album. Half way through the track the tempo changes to longer duration and lower intensity.

“VI” takes the album to its conclusion with a darker, harsher track. As if recorded in a snow storm. The sound is bleak with little light visible. There is a change mid way through the track which adds more texture and a more obvious treated guitar sound, but in a similar vein to the original harshness to which the track returns to.

Randow is a podcast/audiobook about a small village located in a proximity of an inexplicable gap in space and tine where Berlin used to Vlimmer’s soundtrack serves as dark and deep, sometimes terrifying, in parts melancholic assistant for an uncanny story which is full of dubious characters and disturbing encounters in strange places”

Vlimmer is an alias of label boss Leonard Alexander Donat. He also records under names like Fir Cone Children, Infravoids, Feverdreamt and others. Clearly he is quite prolific as since this was released he has put out the five track albums/ Ep’s “IIIIIIII (aka 8)” and “IIIIIIII (aka 9)”. All have been released on CD (50 copies)/ Cassette (15 copies)/ Digital.

“Randow” begins with “Hiatus” that mixes pointed synth stabs with fluid waves of drones. A mixture of experimentation meets classic synth ambience with a certain amount of degradation and eerie (if you don’t understand German) voice over.

“Biologie” reminds ever so slightly with its intro of old SPK before the synth progressions that have a sci-fi feel to them. This is carried onto the next track “Stadtkarte” which is an ominous interlude that you can imagine the filmic version having a nasty ending.

“Frage” in it’s five second glory reminds my somehow off the synth sounds of the film “Liquid Sky”, but in a way that has become broken. Its following track “Einbruch” uses bass (presumably from synth) alongside rippling keys or chords that echo out till they disappear alongside vocalized/singing like drones (though no vocals were used on the album) and what sounds like guitar drones.

“Gestalt” could be the standout with its choppy rhythm that emerges from the sound of steam. You get the feeling of a retro-futurist “Blade Runner” type piece which the rhythms are complimented by icy drones which leads the track out to electroacoustic style electronics and more distant narration.

“Gefängnis” utilizes the bass and synth stabs alongside low-level ominous drones which provide a counterpoint in some sections,  but also compliment in others and add to the sense of unease and otherworldliness. The word “Gefängnis” refers to a place of captivity so this could possibly refer to the fictitious “Randow” in the sense of being stuck in the gap of the space time continuum or as a jail located in Randow.

“dliblegeipS” is “Spiegelbild” backwards which is the German word for mirror and features layers of drones that float over each other before narration comes in. Not knowing any German I can ony guess at whether the meaning of the title or the theme is revealed in the narration.

“Walddämmerung” features guitar which adds a different element, by still retains the similar feel. Drones cascade in the background with an ominous quality and some sort of their sounds occur which sound like people talking undescipherably.

“Selbstzweifel” which translates to self-doubt is the albums epic track with its slow rumble of industrial elements , the muted sound of decay and distance alongside buried sounds that morph into harsh drones that overwhelm the sound like a swarm. The sound varies in the final minutes with less rumble and more of a constant throb of the industrial-esque sounds alongside the noisier elements.

As a comparison between two albums on the same label, I feel one works and the other doesn’t. The Sana Obruent release, for me, needs some more variation. As there is no mastering credit mentioned and I am taking that it is unmastered. If this is the case I am sure mastering could elicit some more details to the material. As for Vlimmer, there is enough variation through the music and track lengths (the shorter tracks give a filmic interlude feel) to easily ustain the eighty minute length.

Ghost and Tape – Vár.

The fourth Ghost and Tape album was released on the nomadic (Japan/UK/Poland) Home Normal label and it is a perfect fit for artist and label. Mastered by James Plotkin with photography by Hitoshi Ishigara and layout design by Jason van Wyk and label boss Ian Hawgood, “Vár” sees Heine Christensen inspired by nature. According to the artist “This album is inspired by and a tribute to Nature, in all its wonderful chaos; pure and forceful with mystifying, beautiful patterns. The word ‘Vár’ itself means spring, and originates in Old Norse, symbolising a new beginning, a chance to start fresh.”

“Sprout” opens with slightly distorted melodic tones and shimmering hum-like ambience. Buzzing bee like electronics starts scattering around the fringes of the tones threatening to over power them, but manages to come close to the intensity of the melodic tones. A third electronic source, a drone enters in the final minute of the track which over powers the tones and electronics and leads to more ambient territory with broken tones still being slightly heard giving a feeling of the sound of water running in a creek.

“Eostre” is the Germanic goddess of Spring and Dawn (and the apparent name for Easter) sounds like a dawn chorus with micro clicks, glitches, field recordings that sound like noise of nature (earth sounds, movement of things) and layers of drones. The drones have the feeling of hazy warmth with a bed of fuzz throbbing underneath while soaring drones cascade over and melodic tones reverberate out. Although no instrumentation is listed, the feeling is manipulated guitar tones, synths and samples are used. There is a warmth to the piece which makes me think of dawn and the early increase in heat of the day.

“Monarch” opens with a drone which ripples out and oscillates before being joined by others of various intensities and colours. Granular sounds enter the fray exhibiting the same qualities as the drones and are washed over with beds of ambience and tones which are spindly and soaring. Guitar is a welcome addition with its gently strummed strings giving a deep dimension of sound. The sounds converge and wash over each other with a hive like intensity which is best noted at just over five minutes into the track which leads the track to its ending with layers of electronic spluttering.


“Hatch” field recordings of wind, bird song and someone or something walking through tall grass or scrunching things are joined be delicate and minimally spaced melodic tones which shimmer and hold drones as they radiate out. The track reminds me of Australian artist Cornel Wilczek aka Qua who can produce melodic tones that also sound like they are degrading, much like they do in this track. It’s almost as if something is breaking down which is noted by the way the track just stops.

“Anemone” looped tones with cascading transmissions that circle around your ears are accompanied by meditative guitar that sounds as if it was recorded on cassette and the tape came out and got warped when it was wound back in. Train like rattling sounds in the background give as close as you are going to get percussion on a Ghost and Tape album, but give a rhythm for the looped tones and guitars to sort of anchor to as they pulse in and out.

“Solsort” references the Blackbird, a territorial bird known for attacking other males. The track, while not attacking has the darker tones than those that have preceded it. There are scattershot electronics that jag around, Eon-esque soaring sky like ambience, shimmering electronics that chug in certain places,  long guitar tones which radiate out and electronics that remind me of Morse code tones.

“Vár” returns to the field recording/ environment feeling previously heard in the likes of “Eostre” with the sounds feeling they have come from a lake area early in the morning. Chimes and synth ambience are joined by well spaced out electrical pulses and glitches. This is as close to electronics as Ghost and Tape will get to. Tones are manipulated and semi looped as not to be predictable and offer a focus for the listener while the other elements wash over each other. Towards the ends the field recordings and glitches tones remain after the other elements have dropped out. These are then joined by distorted shortwave radio-like transmissions which lead to the end.

“Seabird” field recordings of storm like wind sounds which are gentle and joined by warm drones, degrading glitches, swathes of ambience and delicately played minimal guitar. There is a high quality of ambience as if looking down surveying the ground below you, which may be why the track is called “Seabird” and why the elements sort of undulated like waves. The music is meditative and slow taking its time to unfurl and gently reveal itself with a depth of layers.

Over the course of four albums in seven years, with the others appearing on Schole  and Slaapwel as well as Ep’s on Rural Colours and Hibernate, Heine Christensen has created his own place in the ambient scene with his thought out minimalistic, micro glitches and melodic tones. Expertly mastered by the former experimental grindcore practitioner Plotkin, “Vár” is a trip down the sun soaked dappled miniatures of Ghost and Tape and lives up to both his history and that of Home Normal’s class of 2017. Recommended.