When the emails for Eilean Rec arrive in my inbox, the Minor Threat classic “Out of Step” rings in my ears. Not for the Straight Edge mantra that dominates the classic slice of US HC, but the simple refrain of “I can’t keep up..” These are my thoughts on the regular submissions of this ridiculously prolific and regularly mind-blowing French label run by Mathias Van Eecloo (formerly recording as Monolyth & Cobalt). Two thirds into it’s 100 release existence, the quality hasn’t dipped and they keep putting out music by artists you have not heard of before as well as familiar artists and those in new collaborations and configurations.
This is an attempt to play catch up and get the 2017 releases up to date. The next part will cover the 2018 releases. As is the Eilean Rec way, these releases sold out on pre-order or very close after release date. As they have a 75% off discount for their full (at time of writing) 67 digital releases, what better time to investigate one of the most popular labels of recent times.
“Jacek Doroszenko is an audio-visual artist, treating sound phenomena as a legitimate material of visual art and highlighting listening as a practice. The artist engages with contemporary soundscape to select and rephrase the notion of noise as a redundant element. “
This album was recorded in 2016/17 at artist in residence programs in Norway and Greece utilising field recordings as a basis for the music which is all about the juxtaposition of various sounds.
The music rests in the Experimental/ Electroacoustic field in music with certain tracks such as “Vague Obtrusion” being a sound collage of textures, frequencies, sonic detritus and drones bringing to mind some of Anthony Patteras’ electronic works. The following track “Stream” feels like a more conventional piano and strings track that has a slight feeling of claustrophobia while the return to experimentalism returns with “Glue” and its metallic cyclic sounds. “Be Right Back” is a plaintive piece of solo piano that feels likes it has a haziness to it. “Alvik” has ominous drones and futuristic sounds which are bathed by waterside field recordings which give the piece a feeling of isolation and desolation.
“Achromatic Component” uses loops, field recordings, snatches of sounds and drones to construct a piece of decay that feels like several machines are breaking down and are in their final throes of life. The apocalypse is brought on by the end of the track with its warping noises. If ever a title accurately described a piece of music then it is “Dense” which appears to be cello or acoustic guitar dominated using the bow or plectrum to conjure up a variety of sounds and textures, utilizing speed and effects. Broken electronics, field recordings, piano, bells, random instruments and objects flesh out the sound. “Resochords” sounds like something by another artist and would fit in perfectly on the Vienna based former Ukraine label Kvitnu with it glitchy, warped and experimental electronics. For the reason that it is quite different to the previous material, this track doesn’t fit that well on the album.
If the darker, more experimental sounds are what you crave, then this could be for you.
For close to a decade and a half Belgium based musician has been recording under the Sonmi451 moniker with a variety of releases on labels such as Time Released Sound, U-cover and Slaapwel to name a few.
“His music is best described as a hybrid between subtle, shimmering electronica and delicate soundscapes. Every Sonmi451 track is a sort of mini universe where field revordibgs and lovingly crafted samples are combined with carefully chosen atmospheric ambiances. Sonmi451 likes to explore the inner aspects of sound and stillness, the cracks and loopholes that exist between sounds.“
The album was dedicated to the rivers an streams crossing the exquisite mountain landscapes of the Alps and Dolomites in the beautiful region of Southern Tirol. This explains the titles of the tracks referring to rivers.
“Adige” pairs aquatic bubbling sounds alongside electronics, ambience and acoustic instrumentation to give a feeling of floating and tranquility. The pace is laid back with enough going on to engage the listener. “Piave” is a combination of low drones that introduced a progressive piano melody that becomes the centerpiece of the track alongside chimes, electronics and soaring string drones to create quite a cinematic piece of light flowing wonder.
“Passiro” combines fragile sounds alongside glitches and humming tones to create an analogue warmth like feel to the track. The haziness that is constructed gives off a submerged, but distanced feel with a touch of fading memories as if the gentle fractured tones are like fragments of a person’s life. “Sarca” sees bouncing tones over flashes of sound, plucked instrument reminiscent of kalimba and occasional field recordings. It feels like an environmental recording that has been giving a slight sci-fi feel but with a traditional indigenous sound as well.
“Brenta” starts with sharp tones paired with looped melodic tones that anchor the piece and provide the high-end notes. Scattering and clanging percussive like field recordings and a mournful tone which takes over the sharp tones enter the sound scape alongside some cut up dialog and static like storm sounds. The melodic tones become the hero if the piece and give it a center for the other elements to flow around.
“Rienza” glitches, wobbly tones and melodic chimes lead through to an ambient soaked section with acoustic guitar that has a swirling feel to it. The sonic detritus, the way things cut in and out, as well as the general murkiness of the piece makes you feel in a tropical storm. The track is quite hypnotic with the guitar and the chimes acting as a counterpoint to the swirling loops, but also complimenting them as well.
“Gadera” the beginnings of oscillating tones, chimes, field recordings feel innocent enough at the beginning, but they then over a period of time rising and falling grow into something more. With additional field recordings and an increase in intensity, the music starts to threaten to become a full on cinematic piece. Just as you are expecting it to tip over into a big drone piece, elements subtly fade in and out of the sound scape keeping the material flowing.
“Avisio” long, deep, layered droning cello welcomes a haunting wind instrument, chimes, field recordings and a plucking sound. The music is maximal with the sound being full and expansive. The material balances equally the darker tones alongside the melodic element with each having their own style that works as well individually as it does together.
“Panta Rei” is an album that works well in that it is not musically pigeon holed. It has flashes of electronica, experimentalism, organic and electronic, cinematic and drifting. It shows Zwijzen as an artist that is musically imaginative and adept at construction of sounds.
As is the annual tradition of Eilean Rec, their Various Artist release contains new and exclusive tracks from the twenty-one artists released during 2017. The physical edition came in a metal box limited to 175 copies with sixteen tracks from the likes of 9t Antiope / Ben Rath / Bill Seaman / Cicely Irvine / Daniel WJ Mackenzie / Danny Clay / Francesco Giannico / Giulio Aldinucci / Jacek Doroszenko / Josco / Josh Mason / Jura Laiva / Monolyth & Cobalt / Monty Adkins / Nathan Mc Laughlin /Sonmi451 / Sound Meccano / Spheruleus / Stijn Hüwels / Tatsuro Kojima / Toàn
As this release includes artists that were originally featured on the label prior to the beginning of this blog, it gives me a chance to check out artists like 9T Antiope with their classical styled female vocals alongside experimental electronica sound collages with “Lemniscate”. Before this is tracks by Cicely Irvine and Ben Rath. Irvine’s “Intro” is a pump organ drone piece with whispering vocals, field recordings and sharp tones that gentle oscillates and serves as a good opening tack to the collection. Ben Rath’s “Ego Death” is a darker Sci Fi-ish take on granular drone with flickering tones appearing to come from a distant place. Stijn Hüwels and Danny Clay fuse fragile soundscapes with sine wave-like tones that flow in a wave-like fashion embedded with melodic chimes. Francesco Giannico and Giulio Aldinucci follow on from their stunning album with a static soaked buried drone piece “Pangea” that soars to great heights. Sonmi451’s “Maè” features piano loops alongside short flashes of sound, static and melodic, but haunting drones that delicately unfurl with a slight jazz feel to them.
Toàn’s cinematic “L’Érèbe” is a stunning piece that nicely follows Sonmi451. Mixing strings with warm ambience, Electroacoustic flourishes and a moody almost Jazz feel, clearly shows Toàn as an artist to watch. Sound Meccano|Jura Laiva take the moody ambient approach with “P.s.IX” with its oscillated tones, cascading static, melodic glitches, creaking wood and flashes of harp like ambience. The track is slow-moving, but over time reveals more and more.
Jacek Doroszenko’s “Ignorance” is similar to the final track of his album in the sense its more electronic than experimental, with synth lines bubbling in tandem alongside sounds like cymbals, harsh drones, piano and other percussive devices. The track is the story of two half’s and I would guess Doroszenko’s musical style – the experimental meets the electronic approaches.
Unlike their one track album, Josh Mason and Nathan McClaughlin create a single track “Lost Data” that pairs treated guitar with ambient and experimental touches that moves away from the freeform guitar tines to a more ominous territory with shuffling percussive sounds, swirling and scraping sounds to give a rustic feel to the track. Bill Seaman on his “(Re) Erasures and Displacements” takes his reconstructing to a slightly ominous at times, but in others, relaxed place. There are different textures from the industrial- esque pulses of sound to the piano tones to the buried feeling of the music. There is a certain melancholy to the piece, but it’s not the standard feel of melancholy.
Label Boss aka Monolyth & Cobalt weighs in with “Le Territoire” possibly sees the last of this project. The track utilizes field recordings to enhance the ominous feeling of unease that the music generates. It is cinematic, but at the same time due to its constant flowing parts, an ambient/drone piece.
Daniel W J Mackenzie formerly known as Ecka Liena creates a travelogue piece called “Untitled (28th 10th)” that changes from what feels like you are experiencing an environment at the start of the track to a more moodier piece in the second half brought about by the variety of strings, the buried minimalist piano and field recordings. Josco and Spheruleus fuse scanner recordings with thick, but sharp drones on “Passau” to create a wall of sound that with the recordings feels like an interrupted transmission during a storm.
Monty Adkins’s piano on “Entwined” is delicately fragile and fits well with the fractured glitchy tones and the icy tones with their wisps of ambience. You get the feeling of a desolate place that a wind storm is swirling around kicking up sand. Tatsuro Kojima ends the collection with “White or Grey” which has an element of light, sharp noise mixed in field recordings and a humming drone to create a piece that feels like a battle between nature and noise.
This is a nice sampler and one that perfectly shows the variation with the label’s catalog.