flica – Sub:Side.

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“Sub:Side” is the fifth album from Kuala Lumpur based artist flica aka Euseng Seto.Previous releases have been on labels such as Mü-Nest, Impartmaint, Self released and Japanese label Schole, who are the home to this, their third collaboration with Seto. In their press release Schole Records after describing his ten-year musical history which covers music of styles such as “capricious, twee electronica” through to “sombre atmospherics” describe the “Sub:side” as “the album favours a more lo-fi and minimal approach to ambient that seamlessly mixed the oriental with the experimental without sounding overwrought. The decade’s worth of experience has taught flica how to best convey melancholy – with simplicity“.

For an album that is largely constructed by organic instruments, there is a strong ambient/electronica feel to it that manages to make the music be much more vibrant than if just utilizing organic instruments. A mention should go to the deftness of Kent Lee’s bass playing which adds depth and support, but doesn’t overwhelm the music.

“Listener” fractured recordings flutter in and out increasing in volume and presence as guitar tones and ambient fuse together before piano with a percussive feel and bass enter the picture. Classic electronica beats enter the mix giving an alternating tempo to that of the ambience and piano. The piano sounds padded which slightly mutes it but adds to the overall percussion. The guitar and piano work well together following a very similar feel in how they are played. The piano has an emotive and hopeful feel to it and the melody of the track brings a certain innocence and joy to the music.

“Moor” follows on with a similar muted and padded piano sound which is joined by another layer of piano that feels slightly off, but complementary to the original piano section. Spluttered beats and echoing rippling guitar lines welcome the next section before the beats drop out to leave the piano layers and guitar fuse together before the beats return this time with a slightly more club like feel with Lee’s bass adding to that feel. While it is never truly an electronica track it is largely rooted in that genre, but also traverses other. Both openers are similar in feel and work well together.

“Aire” Light delicate keys ripple in repetition building ever so slightly with a slight percussive element are joined by minimal bass parts, another hand played instrument of some sort to create a layered piece that veers into almost post rock/folktronica territory with its stylings. There is a light feel to the music that is not rushed in any way as it takes it’s time to unfold. The addition of violin is a welcome one as it is not overpowering and as it hasn’t been used so far in the album. It adds to the sound scape. Towards the end the track breaks down into an ambient section that is both natural and also revealing a slight bit of decay in the way it changes and how the instrumentation fades out of the track.

“Waver” barely there electronic progressions lead on to more obvious chime like tones and bass lines before a beat takes us in an unexpected direction. Clipped Electronics, Piano, chopped up broken beats bring us back the flica sound of previous tracks that balances the organic with the electronic creating a sun dappled form of music. The multiple layers of stabbed and warped electronics meets bass drum beats, percussive elements and innocent melodies all work well. There is never a point where the music goes over the edge. It is controlled, thought out and craftily constructed.

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“Whisperer” oriental tones of a percussive instrument (possibly Kalimba) are mirrored by guitar lines that follow the same, albeit distorted melody. The layering works well to make the introduction full before the next section appears. A piano section arrives with a clear, but strident sound which almost acts as a counterpoint to the rather laid back beginning, which while demonstrating a degree of volume is not overpowering, more like adding color to the piece.

 “GMT+0”  ultra quiet chimes welcome long warm expansive piano chords under which a choppier piano (with the padded percussion) rhythm emerges. Soaring ambience roars after emerging alongside broken beats and fluid bass lines. With so much going on there are several elements equally vying for focus with the piano, beats and ambience being the central features. A breakdown interlude led in by backward glitches focuses on the ambience, which is now slightly subdued and the piano which is possibly choppier than at the beginning. After a brief moment the track reverts back the full array of instruments with the beats leading the way.

“Sputnik” Deep singular bass thumps welcome a darker toned piano, not yet seen on the album. There is something austere in the sound of the instrument. As the playing increases with an additional layered piano added and a hand played percussive instrument, the original piano remains the same, acting as a counterpoint. What sounds like kalimba runs over the music with fluid movements which are entrancing, while adding a melodic layer to the music lighter than the track has shown thus far.

“Wednesday” affected guitar tones played in a glitchy way with percussion are joined piano lines, scattered broken beats and bass. The music is introspective and shows restraint in the playing where the intensity is never overpowering. The elements share a melodic touch with a winding down relaxing feel which is slight detriment as the track ,while nice, isn’t as strong as its predecessors.

 “336 Hours” glacial like wind-blown ambience that haunts leads on to loop like guitar lines that reverberate. Minimal piano lines and short fractured beats are added with the return of the muted piano lines which hold the keys to the melody. With all the time available the music delicately unfolds with extra piano elements and subtle, but also jazzy/funky bass lines adding a different edge. Fragments of guitar, signal the end of the track that slowly returns to the piano playing reminiscient of the start.

“Nephilim”warped piano and the jazzy/funky bass lines underscore fractured looped beats and modern classical styles piano form a rather free sounding track which feels that the importance is on the sounds of the instruments and their placement rather than the tighter patterns from the tracks before them. For that reason it reminds me of “Wednesday”, but more with a sense of identity. An interesting way to finish the album as it leaves it open-ended as opposed to full circle if the closer was “Moor”.

With “Sub:Side” flica has, in his words, created music with “an Asian sound with experimental element.”. There is a feel of  reflectiveness with his own musical history with also a nod to lo-fi, blurred and intimate music. The album works especially well with the  fusion of organic and electronic instruments and also the balance of the various elements. At time certain Modern Classical, Electronica, Ambient and Experimental sounds rear their heads, but at no point can the tracks be exclusively confined to any of these genres. “Sub:Side” is perfect music for an enjoyable sun soaked day with little to do, but sit back and relax. Recommended.

You can get the album here.

Schole

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Various – Artifacts.

The Default label is a new one from Wrocklow, Poland with their first physical release the “Artifacts”. The music is based on found recordings and sonic detritus and released on cassette in an edition of just twenty copies. All artists are new to me although three of them (Amevblement, Sp@m and Omnisadness) are all the work of Andy Nyxta.

“Jvst Fields” by Amevblement – fuses loops that sound like short snippets of synths and repetive piano keys that work well together. The tones generated are both melodic with both sections being manipulated as to offer variance within each other’s sound and also the sound of them combined. For a minimalist track such as this it can be a tightrope to walk on with it being easy to fall into boring territory which, thankfully, this does not happen.

“And Water” by Amevblement – brings in synths loops with an addition of detritus to give it a bit of an edge. The loops feature a hypnotic foreground with a dub techno-like background that cascades as opposed the pulsing focal point. A third center section is a very repetitive pulsing part which balances between the two other sections.

“Sp@m 2000 (2017 edit) by Sp@m – ominous futuristic synth reverberations meet fast paced glitch percussion which scatters around the listeners ears. A noisy soundscape adds in which breaks up the elements, but also adds to glitch percussion with a melodic section of what sounds like rolling glass balls, such is the crystalline sound. While the other two tracks were more controlled in their pace, this particular track is almost a blur in its franticness. Towards the end of the track synth starts to creep in with melodic ambience which adds to the overall feel of the track.

“Omnisadness (The Closure)” by Omnisadness – is a near ambient-ish swell of loops and degraded sound that sounds like an electric swarm has met a post industrial soundscape meets The Caretaker. As the track progresses other sounds which sound as like bombs going off enter the picture. For the majority of the track the elements are fairly constant up till the final minute and a half where the breakdown fully occurs and the loops are slower, longer and are at the point of collapse.

“Blacklightlabs vs Omnisadness” – synth washes move right to left with an ominous menace pulses of sound similar to that of pressurized air pump away. More of an interlude than a fully formed piece as it doesn’t really vary over the rather short duration.

“Dying Bride” by Blacklightlabs – returns to the glitchy tones of the earlier pieces, but this time fashioned on an ambient/drone theme were tight glitch elements flicker from the drones which are melodic and deep. While the other tracks were in a way tightly held, this time is long and warping. The track completely changes for the second half were it is subdued and at times almost barely there.

There are points of interest to listeners here with the use of loops that work well to a certain extent. Despite at times using a minimal sound pallet, there is not the repetitiveness that can overpower some music. If you are interested in new labels and artists, this may be for you.

Ihä – Esperanza.

Ihä is the solo project of Chilean drone musician Ignacio Moreno Fluxà founded on 2011. His music is described as “sonic journeys (that) are peaceful yet courageous, and are based upon an introspective, minimalist spirit which evokes dreamy soundscapes and misty atmospheres.” on this release he uses Guitar, Keyboard and effects. He has appeared on over a dozen releases on labels from Chile, Peru and United States.

“Esperanza” was released on Chilean label Ce Chemin Est Le Bon who are a new label to me.

“Esperanza” opens with lightly strummed and slightly distorted guitar lines that start to form a circular like drones spiraling around and pulsing. The music incrementally increases in volume and intensity as the loops start to become shorter in duration and the tone becomes noisier with an equally noisy undercurrent. The music does not change that much in its nineteen minute duration which is a bit of a drawback.

“Un salto dichoso hacia la Eternidad” introduces the keyboard part into the equation and the difference between the first and second track is noticeable. Gone are the minimalist guitar movements as the track is made up of waves of sci-fi sounding synths that conjure up things like Stranger Things soundtrack and early 80’s era Tangerine Dream. With a bed of synths to use as a base, there are several layers of synths progressions which either act as a bass-line of sorts, a melody or just out there explorations. The various layers and the separate tones they create are a welcome change to the opener.

“Tiro Al Are” acts as a middle point between the first two tracks. The instrumentation stays the same as “Un salto dichoso….”, but this around the minimalism of the opener returns. There are slight looped sections that gently come in and kit that are mostly obscured by the synths. The music works at a lugubrious pace with sections unfurling over time that alternates their position in the music. While not noisy there’s a certain edge to the music that places it in the darker quality.

I am not sure if the tracks are un mastered, but the music is lacking on depth that mastering could bring out to make it more vibrant and bring out more layers to reveal itself a bit more. The opener and the final track require a bit more for me personally, but for those that like more minimalistic and repetitive music, it would be up their alley. I feel the direction to take is influenced by the track “Un salto dichoso hacia la Eternidad” as it offers something else and is concise and to the point.

Elskavon – Skylight.

Elskavon is the work of Minneapolis native Chris Bartels who runs the Anthem Falls label while also being musically involved in other projects such as Bora York, Hi Fi Cali, Vitamin June and under his own name. Each project allows Bartels the ability to stretch musically and collaborate with other like-minded artists to create anything from Dream Pop to minimalist electronica (parts of which also make up the Elskavon sound palette). “Skylight” is his fourth album under the Elskavon name and the first in four years. The project tentatively started in 2007 with the first release not seeing the light of day until 2012. In that five-year time span demos and compositions were recorded that would plant the seed for the future debut “Movements in Season”, which has been followed by the albums “Release” and “Reveal”.

With “Skylight” Bartels says in regards to influences and methods for the album  “Every single song is inspired by a memorable moment in my life – some huge moments, like the birth of my child; some smaller, like the tranquility of exploring the woods with my best friend years ago. I really believe memorable moments that we relive over and over again are so incredibly valuable, and remind us to not miss the potential in the making now – these gifts we can never fully get back, so really living these moments is important.

I embraced imperfections and made a point to step outside my comfort zone in the studio with this album. From hearing the wood floor creek in piano recordings while my family walked around upstairs, sampling in washing machine sounds via iPad, sending synths and vocals to guitar pedals, recording unplugged electric pianos, or using my body as drum triggers, each song was created in a unique way.”

The album starts in a gentle aquatic way with the ambient lines of “Harvest” being constructed by layers of lightly plucked acoustic and electric guitars that appear like tendrils alongside waves of lush synths and snatches of piano. There is a very bright feel to the track, but it is not all crystal clear with the hint of haze or something being covered up. As a stand alone track it is a nice, but when you take it as part of the album a whole, it is almost like a signpost for what is coming ahead.

“Syna” which was the first single released back in September of last year was inspired by using new methods on the studio to reveal a darker, trippier style of music. Pulsing and slightly glitching electronics meet static buzz, orchestral drones, electrical chimes and epic modern classical style strings to form a soundtrack-esque slice of drone based electronica. Fractured beats and the sounds of clacking sticks form the percussion over which a bass line section and string drones are joined by snatches of haunted vocal sections (presumably by Katylin Strasburg )which sound more like a brass instrument. Acoustic guitar joins in to provide an organic element and brings to mind Message to Bears with its fusion with the beats as the drones cascade over everything. Towards the tracks final minute the elements largely drop out leaving the string drones and initially the fractured beats.

“Anthos” opens with delicate rich piano and drones that affix themselves to the end sections of piano. A string section weaves its way in alongside fast strummed guitar and violin which is held back in the mix as not to over power the track. A nice soundtrack-esque piece that acts as am interlude.

“Dusk Line Hills” another single released late last year inspired by witnessing a wildfire in the South Dakota hills begins with an idm feel with scattered beats, Dubby keys, toy piano, oscillating electronics, snatches of dialogue and string drones. The track shows Bartels’ way to strip elements and then start building the track up once more. There is a gentle side to the track that inhabits the second half which if you were to compare to its source of inspiration, could be results of the fires being tamed as opposed to its slightly frantic opening.

“Offers of Peace” fuses granular sound alongside haunting monk like chanting sounds and stark unadorned piano. The piano is the focal point and manages to not fall into this track of being overly melancholic. There is an edge of dustiness to the piano and it is joined by snatches of sounds that flitter about for a brief section. The piano is lightly played and at a laid back pace. Towards the end it appears to be decaying with a change on tone and reveals the natural recordings sound of the instrument.

“Fourstonia” is like a piece of music has been taken through the washing machine, warped and all the sounds have run into each other. A bass drum beat keeps the pace while sounds that are largely indescribable with the exception of guitars, wash across in a techicolour fashion with the appearance of snatches of sound. Casio beats make a brief appearance before reverberating sounds that come across as icy loops that go  in and around the music are the focal point of the track .

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“Buren Storms” opens with a drone and some synth lines before the throbbing and undulating squeeze box style rhythm starts to emerge from underneath the synth lines and drones. It is in the background to begin with and as it starts to take center stage it is not initially overpowering with layers of an environmental squall quality joining it. As the track heads past the four-minute it starts to lessen in intensity with other elements such as cut up synth sections, icey drones and haunting vocal like melodies join the fray before the music takes a detour in the Caretaker direction before fading out. Without using obvious stylistic cues in the sense of field recordings of storms, you get the same feeling through the music as it goes through the various changes with its ebb and flows.

“Skylight” starts glacial drones, sonic detritus, field recordings of storms, twisting melodies with slight cascading dub techno feel. Piano brings in another layer of sweetness with minimal bass beats, whale song like sounds, home-made IDM style beats and a variety of electronic layers that fill up the sound, but don’t overpower it. There is quite a lot of territory covered on the track as it skirts various genres, but never settling on just one.

“Ennui” you could argue that this track is a pure drone one, but that would be short selling it. The track takes on different manipulated sounds to weave its way through with oscillating sounds, chimes, glitches, dark drones, backwards sounding pieces, intermittent noises all flowing in and around each other. The fluidity allows the track to constantly change tone and sound as lighter elements battle alongside the darker ones and also creates valley and troughs.

“Imagination” the third single from the album is inspired by innocence of youth and riding bikers in the city and exploring the woods with his best friend. The track in a way returns where the opener “Harvest” set the tone with the return of more guitar playing alongside fluid piano lines, arching drones, percussive devices which sound like a giant gong. The guitar playing is rather frantic scratchy plucking alongside gentle flowing piano keys which are at odds with the guitar. The percussive gong like instrument/sound sample ushers in more sound each time it enters the track bringing with a wave of sound. In regards to the innocence and exploration you can see that in music where the piano is the innocense part and the guitar is the exploration part.

Throughout the album Bartels uses different styles of music to keep the listener entertained. Is it Ambient? Electronica? Drone? Post Rock? Modern Classical? Experimental? Well, the answer is yes and no. The tracks can contain all or just some of these genres which allows the music to not be pigeonholed and rewards deeper repeated listening

Mixtaped Monk – Tales From A Distant Galaxy.

“Tales From A Distant Galaxy” is the fourth release from India’s Arka Sengupta. Following on from “Soundtrack to your own Fantasy” Sengupta, was influenced by a (imaginary) sci-fi story to construct his music. He is joined by the prolific Cousin Silas on the second last track.

“In A Galaxy Far Away” features some sort of string instrument, drones, backwards cut up sections that act like a percussive element and give it a constant a loop based feel. It feels more like a form of Asian classical music than standard ambient fare and straight away the quality of sound, mixing and mastering is already noticed.

“Quest For Nebula” the use of backward sounds return alongside a collection of oscillating drones and presumably sitar recordings which start to become looped alongside the trip hop like beat and baseline. The Sitar, if it is this instrument, has a percussive and hypnotic feel to it as the music circles around the listener. The beats change pace which allows the music to change into the next movement which at times includes faster played sitar.

“Dreams of Snow” waves of ambience and looped sections of strummed Sitar make up this track, which coming after the two openers, is lacking in some extra variety to it.

“Discovery Delight” beats brought on by swirling synths are joined by sections of similarly swirling affected sitar playing. This takes the first third of the track before the playing changes to a more urgent section before returning to the beginning motif which is in the space rock variety. Again the music returns the more urgent section before a section of keys/chimes adds a melodic section and the track returns to the beginning for one last time.

“Warped Reality” fuses guitar with horns, beats with all the sound sources as if they have been put through pedals of some sort. A clipped ambient sounding guitar section starts to dominate with swirling synths and the beats become more repetitive with a simple beat.

“Before Genesis” warping synths with clipped backwards sections reveal the first true sci-fi like ambient track. The music feels like it has a travelling, searching sound as if going out into space. There is a mixture of lighter ambient tones and those that are slightly darker, but nowhere near dark ambient in nature. While the majority appears to be built from synths there are snatches of guitar pieces woven in which adds an extra element to this largely fluid piece.

“Inside Insanity” with Cousin Silas is more of a prog rock meets ambient with muted beats, cosmic fiery synths and Silas’ guitar sound that is very ‘Fripp and Eno’-ish. The music soars over a humming bass line with beats that go slightly in and out of focus. The guitar lines are paired with acoustic lines and synths that seem to be heading in different (sonic) directions to those of the guitars.

“A New Dawn” similar to “Before Genesis” in its Ambient Sci Fi feel, the guitar is slightly more prominent way with delicate picking with an Asian feel (like the way the kalimba can sound). The ambiance is soaring with several layers of fractured sound. One layer gives a rhythm , while another has a more rippling effect to it.

There is musical diversity on show in this release and you can see that Sengupta has knowledge of how to construct the pieces, although a couple wander a bit here, but with further releases and more time spent on his music you can see him refining it more and it becoming more polished. In the meantime the releases will allow you to watch him develop more.

Endurance – Endurance.

One of the first artists to send their wares to this humble blog was Japan based Canadian Joshua Steffane aka Endurance. After the review appeared a handful of further cassette releases appeared on labels such as Onmyodo Cassette, ACR, Moss Archive and Metaphysical Circuits. He also has been involved with new Japanese label Muzan Editions.

This self titled cassette was self released and is based on a science fiction short story that Steffane was writing involving a stranded astronaut infected by a parasite that protected him from harm and prevented him from aging (see more information at his bandcamp page). The album was constructed with a variety of electronic tools and field recordings.

“Starsea” opens up the release with glacial ambience of the floating variety combined with static bursts. The swirling layers of ambience  give the feeling of being off the ground and being above the clouds.

“I No Longer Miss Home” long tendrils of drones spiral out with one sounding a bit cut up, another looped and a third being of the proggy synth variety. While the opener had a feeling of floating, these drones have a bit more of a discordant edge to them, especially the secondary drone that is slightly dominated by the proggy synth one. As the track progresses the drones alternate in focus, bringing out different qualities.  You get the feeling of isolation or abandonment through the singular nature of the music.
“Collapsing Giants” opening with distant screeching noises, a rumbling soundscape emerges which is oscillating as if it is almost stuck in a short position and is decaying. The decaying sounds increase with the screeching becoming a howl and industrial like field recordings add a sinister robotic edge.

“New Companions, Old Friends” what sounds like looped broken electronics or signals moves from right to left with a rumbling, but not oppressive sound. There is a feel of some sort of transmission , but also a feeling of the still and quiet after something has happened and a new dawn is beginning. It’s hard to pin down as it is slightly eerie, but also calm and unsettling.

“Goodbye Everything” is the first of two of the album’s epic tracks clocking in at just under twelve minutes. In that time it moves at a relatively slow pace, much like a mud slide that engulfs everything. Opening with what sounds like affected field recordings similar to natural electricity,  random melodic tones appear as the field recordings start to have a stormy quality.  The tones start to get heavier and darker, but also uniform. The speed of them is constant and slow, with the background stormy recordings containing the variety as opposed to the constant foreground drones. Coming up to the six-minute mark the melodic tones return accompanied by a harsher weather sound and a thicker bottom edge. For the remainder of the track the elements alternate in their intensity and the attention of the listener. With such a thick long track, it is almost like a wiping out of what has come before and a possible new start.

“Why Must I Endure?” Is a more purer ambient track than the one that preceded it. Lush ambience, in a way returning to the style of the opening track, alongside field recordings that give an environmental feel. Layers of synth start to envelope with one being a more constant drone, while the other having a cut up varying tone to it. With a title such as this it would be expected to be quite morose, but for me the meaning is obtained largely through the repetition as if the character is ruminating things over and over in their head. There is still enough of an edge that it is not all light and fluffy, but not claustrophobic either.

This album would be suited to listeners who like their music thematic or with a Sci-Fi edge.

 

 

New Release: Winterlight – The Longest Sleep Through The Darkest Days.

n5MD (the home of the likes of BVDUB, Arovane, Mark Harris and To Destroy a City) have announced their first release of 2018, Winterlight’s “The Longest Sleep Through The Darkest Days” which drops March 16. The album is the follow-up to 2011’s “Hope Dies Last” and after a period of hiatus punctuated by Soundcloud demos , false starts and live performances, Tim Ingham was joined by his daughter Isabel on bass.

The label has this to say about Winterlight “After absorbing post-punk and shoegaze in the 80s and 90s in his native Thames Valley England, Tim Ingham took time to let those influences soak in and it wasn’t until 2006 in an effort to recreate the lush and hazy sounds of his youth that Winterlight came to be. Quickly coming to the attention of other acts on the ambient/electronica scene, he remixed a number of his contemporaries, including n5MD’s own port-royal. Two singles, Mirror and Kissed, on UK label Years Without Art, demonstrated his ability to craft his own simple dream-pop melodies in the vein of contemporaries like Ulrich Schnauss and veterans like Robin Guthrie.

In regards to the album, which comes in transparent green or ultra clear with green splatter 180 gm vinyl, CD and download, n5MD state “The further emphasis on guitar-based compositions and the addition of Isabel, on bass has resulted in a sound that is more complex and varied but also at times more straightforwardly forthright. The trademark sweeping strings and soaring guitars are ever-present but, in a handful of the songs, more sparse instrumentation and straightforward rhythms create greater ambience and show that for Winterlight now, less can mean more.

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The label has released a teaser video as seen below and at only thirty-four seconds long, it does tease with what you may expect when the album drops. On February 23rd the first single “I Can’t Start Being Happy For Feeling Sad” will be released with two exclusive B-sides. If you pre-order the album now using the bandcamp link below, you get the track “Hinterland” now.