Back when I started this blog the music I reviewed was from a handful of purchases which then led to a small trickle of submissions which has now become a steady flow of music heading my way. I try to balance the reviews out with lesser known stuff alongside better known labels, stuff that has been in the queue for a while alongside the soon to be released music. This overview (featuring a selection of each respective albums tracks) combines a bunch of these types of submissions and they all happen to be part of the Preserved Sound catalog.
Now, for those that may not be familiar with this formerly Polish, now UK-based label I just have this to say – dive right in. Preserved Sound have a very organic feel about them in the handmade packaging which keeps the same aesthetic from when they started (the only difference being the changed of burnt CD-r’s to pressed cd’s). They consistently release music that is always of great sound quality, that is of various genres and they foster a roster that is not really seen on other labels. While others have come and gone before and since their inception, Preserved Sound continues to move forward consistently putting out great releases while still maintaining their ethos.
Max Ananyev’s “The Way to the Ocean” was ironically the first thing the label sent and was released back in September of 2017. The label describe it as “a collection of simple and sincere pieces for Classical Guitar and Mandolin.” Inspired by trips to the Atlantic Ocean Ananyev states “I wanted to create a very pure classical guitar sound with a wide spectral range and low-level of white noise.” “The Way to the Ocean” is his second release for Preserved Sound following on from “Communication” (November, 2016).
“Spring” opens with fast spindly picking before settling in for a moody section and double layering which has a slightly darkish and introspective feel, before operatic vocals (from Maria Shulyakovskaya) weave in and out in a haunting fashion as the guitar playing returns to its almost frenetic and hypnotic pace.
“Fickleness of Water” the opening of the song could arguably be described as an Ambient track such are the sustaining sounds that are created by the acoustic guitar. The track has a light filled summery feel that is almost percussive in a way. Kalimba joins the guitar, the body of the guitar is gently struck before fast picked sections mirror waves of the ocean as they continually ripple out.
“9” is an instant standout with its multilayering of guitar sections and mandolin and kalimba. It has a folktronica feel and is rich with depth as the various layers and elements build to form this propulsive but highly melodic piece that, I hope I am not insulting Ananyev, could easily be heard on an advertisement. There is a loop like feel to the piece and it is more a maximalist track than previously heard on the album.
“Secret and Melancholy” sounds like a classic classical guitar track with a slight synth ambiance running through it. The music possesses a post rock quality to it for a brief section before returning the classical side, although there is a slight reprise to the post rock section in the track’s final thirty seconds.
“White Night” opens with delicate at times minimalist plucking, before the track varies in tone and intensity mixing up gentle sections with more fluid faster paced sections. I can’t personally detect a narrative to this particular track that feels unrestrained as the music moves through a variety of terrains.
“Ocean Coast” ends the album once more creating melodic and spindly textures as the guitar chords feel circular in the way that the seem to circle around in a whirlpool fashion. There are reflective touches and movements where the tempos change and introspective feelings emerge. The voice of Maria Shulyakovskaya returns this time multitracked from a brief section and in a way brings the album full circle. The remainder of the track contains a section of layered guitar that has a feeling of expressiveness and unwinding as it unfurls.
I have to admit not listening to a lot of acoustic guitar in my past and with classical guitar I am definitely out of my depth when it comes to experience and knowledge of this form of music. However, I can appreciate the music on this album, which for some reason feels to me like it’s a soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon in spring where you’re sitting comfortably with a book and a good coffee and enjoying this music which matches the temperature.
Hayden Berry aka Visionary Hours and Preserved Sound boss describes this, his fourth album (with all appearing on Preserved Sound and one on Hibernate) as a collection of blind collaborations. Artists who contributed to this album include fellow Preserved Sound luminaries such as 3+, Western Skies Motel, Adrian Lane, Trigg & Gusset as well as other artists such as Bruno Sanfilippo, Isnaj Dui and others.
According to Berry “I wanted to collaborate with different artists, but still keep control over the pieces. In some cases, I sent the same acoustic guitar piece out to more than one artist, with the idea that two artists would unwittingly collaborate with each other on that particular piece – a blind collaboration, if you like.”
“Rippling River Drifts Blue and Green” is a collaboration with Bruno Sanfilippo which opens with field recordings of lapping water which is joined by Sanfilippo’s piano minimalist slightly plaintive piano playing which is delicate, but with enough intent. The piano is then replaced by Berry’s acoustic playing of the same chords joined by warm drones and reverberating layers of the guitar. The change in instruments changes the feel of the piece despite the same use of chords. There is more a feeling of hope in the guitar with its lighter tones. I feel that there is a third collaborator, but I would be guessing to come up with their name based on my interpretation of the musical component added.
“Empty Hills Just After Rain” opens with acoustic guitar that is building up in tempo wish is joined by cellist Adrianna Maria Kafel giving the track a darker bass tone, while a soaring section of drones presumably on guitar from Unconditional Arms as well Adrian Label on violin (all these are purely my guesstimations rather than knowing for sure). The addition of these instruments fleshes out the track and makes it feel longer than it is. Also I get a yearning for a vocal and am somehow reminded of Chantal Acda’s music.
“Flowering and Falling” field recordings of insects chirping open the track with acoustic guitar slowly creeping into focus which is joined by the scraping sounds of guitar strings which is presumably care of Western Skies Motel and possibly Isnaj Dui on Bass Flute . The bass flute adds a melodic breathy tone, while Western Skies Motel’s collaboration is complimentary to the field recordings. Berry’s guitar has a bright feel with a pleasant loop to it giving it an almost pastoral feel to the track.
“Where the Wind Sharpens the Goodbye” feels like Berry is collaborating with himself as well as others. I say this because the primary input of his has been the acoustic guitar, but in this occasion he also contributes Clarinet alongside Trigg & Gusset’s Saxophone and Fender Rhodes. This track comes across as an introspective and moody one which is probably the result of the Fender Rhodes which is accentuates by both the mournful bassy qualities of both the wind instruments.
“Against the After Glowing Sky” is a guitar collaboration between Berry and Unconditional Arms which goes through several sections of change from its initial bit of the hypnotic finger picking acoustic guitar and post rock styling of the electric guitar to similarly picked electric guitar and then soaring ambient guitar lines. The track then turns into full band mode which is initiated by full ambiance of both guitar sections. The use of bass and cymbals really drive the track making it similar in sound to Do Make Say Think.
“Hills Empty, No Ons to Be Seen” begins with shimmering reverb laden guitar that is joined by a similar sounding instrument in The Sly and The Unseen’s harmonium plus another instrument I can’t get my head around what it is based on the notes supplied, but most probably Adrian Lane on zither. The guitar and the zither work well together while the harmonium gives the track the drone element which, thankfully isn’t overpowering and is makes it more complimentary rather than as a focal instrument.
When sending sections of recordings for artists to collaborate with it can be hit or miss depending on the way that those collaborators respond to the material sent. Thankfully, I am happy to report that these particular collaborations have worked a treat. The feeling is that in some cases they have followed the initial source piece and others they have responded. Both these methods have worked well and the results speak for themselves. The vinyl version of the album (limited to 99 copies) has sold out, but I recommend getting hold of the CD version (an edition of 150 copies). You wont be disappointed.
US artist Aaron Martin is the master collaborator working alongside names such as Machinefabriek, Dag Rosenqvist, Orla Wren and Christoph Berg to name a few. He has appeared on labels such as Dronarivm, Eilean Rec, Type, Preservation and others. “A Room Now Empty ” is his first full solo release since 2014’s “Comet’s Coma” and features Martin on cello, Electric Guitar, Roll up piano, concertina, Ukulele, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Lap Steel and Singing bowl.
According to Martin “A Room Now Empty is similar to the concept of “Day Has Ended” where Christoph Berg and I created music to encompass the passing of a day, but stretched out for the padding of a lifetime or at least a portion of a lifetime”.
The album opens with “Anticipation of Loss” which starts with a low metallic spindly drone that is snaking its way upwards with other drones joining in such as a distorted drone and a lower drone. Cello slowly unwinds with long strokes of the bow bringing its deep, rich, but melancholic tone and providing the center point to the track which the drones start positioning themselves around to occupy various territories and create an almost claustrophobic soundscape. The tones never get to point of being too loud or overpowering, but do have a feeling of and mournfulness about them.
“Form Hanging in Air” the sound of the cello is one of those instruments that lies in the melancholic feeling human emotions. Such is the timbre and the way it is used it is hard to associate it with a different feeling or emotion. On this particular track the cello occupies the territory mentioned, but with the layering of the pieces it gives depth and a very personal emotion. You get the feeling of loss or regret, but with the melodic touch, hope. There is another sound buried low in the mix would could be the banjo, but it appears manipulated.
“First time Underwater” begins with a sharp drone, field recordings, acoustic guitar, bass and cello to create a pastoral track that has multiple layers, but is grounds by the bass and acoustic guitar. The music is at odds with the delicateness of the acoustic guitar meeting the squall of the field recordings and the tightly bowed cello which are like a storm around the acoustic guitar. A brief track that you could enjoy at least double its length.
“Memories are drifting Bells” pairs the cello pieces that are weighed down with heavy anguish. This particular track is dripping with emotion and feeling that changes mid track with reverberating guitar tones, cello and haunted crooning. It’s almost the soundtrack to a funeral procession. Gone is the heaviness to reveal a lighter, but still mournful territory, as if the grieving process has not entirely finished, but it the coming terms with is happening.
“Depth of a Glance” features lap steel picking with swirling singing bowls underneath it and hummed vocals. There is an isolated feel due to recording style where the tone of the lap steel is a bit muted. Scorching layers of cello and possibly concertina fill the sound by cascading across. More sections of cello entwine with one holding the melody and this other holding the bottom end with other guitar elements of the twangy variety entering the picture giving the tracks a whole together different feeling.
“Movement Passing” brings the banjo to the fore alongside cello and has a very Americana drone feel. The loop like picking contrasts with the bowing of the cello, but while having different tempos they work together in creating mood that is cautiously optimistic.
There is a feeling of mournfulness which is hard to escape with an instrument such as the cello. That said it doesn’t mean the album is one singular color. The use of the other instruments and the layering reveals depths to the piece and unveils more and more with each listen. The original release sold out in a short period of time, but the label are putting out an additional fifty copies and if you are lucky you may be able to grab one.
Benjamin Louis Brody is a US composer presenting his first album on Preserved Sound called “Far Away Music” which is released on February 26. He also records/recorded under the name Flow State and has worked with the likes of Philip Glass, Tom Waits and NYC ‘s The Chelsea Symphony to name a few.
According to the artist “When I started this project, I asked myself whether I could give my music depth perception, similar to a painting or a drawing – the classic illusion of train track perspective that gives a painting a certain sense of distance. With “Far Away Music” I set out to do that with sound. The music and sounds you hear could only have been created through computer technology. By manipulating the speed and texture it’s allowed me to change the perspective of the original content. “Far Away Music” represents how I experience my work in a more personal way – it’s vast and subconscious.”
The album comprises of four long tracks ranging in length from eight and a half minutes up to fourteen and a half minutes and involves musicians on Violin and Double Bass.
“Far away I” opens quickly like an on coming storm with a full warped sound that is composed of drones and snatches of sound that loop in and out quickly while other elements are like rolling and undulating. There is an oscillating feel like the sounds are in vibration such is the shortness of the sections and they are fused to create a kaleidoscope of sound that has many layers. There is an overall murkiness to the piece which gives you the feeling of being submerged or like waves of sound are much like those at a beach. It is like the music is somewhat wrapped underneath and attempting to get out. The drones have an orchestral feel, some are dense while others are smaller and fleeting. One thing about the track that remains is its center of gravity. It never loses that center, it is always there as the track moves. Towards the end the track returns full circle, before slowly and gently fading to silence.
“Floating into Infinity” follows with another full, deep soundscape, this one feeling like an alien landscape. Long rumbling drones are laid out in movements with elements of decay, but also have a feel of something grander with a church organ feel to some of the drones. There is a strong feeling of isolation in the beginning of the track which is interrupted by a series of fractured synth sections like a concertina of sound that is broken up onto micro sections and then stitched together. The sections scatter about from left to right disrupting your hearing, but giving the feeling of a fuller soundscape.
“Together” slowly unfurling looping drones that are light in sound and structure with a haunting flute or saxophone sound having a breathy sound. Field recordings add a grittiness that is the counterpoint to the drones which by now are getting darker and fuller in their texture. The violin contribution is not that obvious as it is used in conjunction with others to create the drones. There is also quite a sci if like synth feel to the track which makes it different to the preceding two tracks.
“Far Away II” pulsing dub like synths that sound like breaks in transmission and fragments of varieties of looped sounds put together. Some sounds feel like they are backwards or maybe it is just the phasing. There appears to be three distinct sections, a long metallic drone that cuts across all the sound and circling left and right, the pulsing cut up sections and the backwards sounding piece. Unlike “Fade Away I” the center of the track is not present as the sounds cut in and out with the briefest bits of near silence as the music starts to become more subdued and lower in intensity. The notes indicate that the track features double bass, but this is hard to detect. There is a rumble to the piece that could be from modified double bass, but I am not sure about this. Like the original track the track after several minutes of more subdued movements fades to silence.
Benjamin Louis Brody has created an album that fits in line with the likes of William Basinski and artists that utilize re-imaging or re-working of previous material. It would be interesting to know which previous works were used and how the manipulation changed the textures of the pieces.