In Brief: A look back Pt. 1.

I get a lot of submissions for this blog. Some are for existing releases and others are forthcoming. Trying to get the balance in order of reviewing them becomes tricky. These releases are ones that came out late last year that (mostly) have been received this year.The idea is to cover them before they are too old and get left behind newer releases . Here is the first part of A look back.

“Improcreations” consists of four improvisations by our electric guitar quartet, recorded live in studio, all tracks at first take (except for track one,, that was post processed). This album is only distributed in digital format by Tratore”.

“O.U.T.A.i.Po.A” sounds like the musicians for the most part are using their instruments more as sound elements than their traditional uses. The strings are scratched, rubbed plucked and generally treated creating a scattershot sound of various textures including almost classical sounding section,before heading into a wall of sound feedback drone that is thick and violent in sound.

“0002” a similar beginning to the previous track with various experiments and progressions along the necks resulting in different sounds. At times it can venture into conventional sounds, but for the most part is free form and a random collection of sounds that can be percussive, rubbing sounding and unclassifiable.

“Trvdici0nvl” more conventional rhythms mark out this track from the previous two. The sound is rather prog based with the guitars all sounding different, but having a nice tone. The musicians presumably take keys from each other in the way they interact which is noticeable in the change in tempo and feel of the track. There is also an almost post punk feel with the fast short snippets of guitar.

“Terremoto” at close to twenty-two minutes long, this track is about space, minimalism and experimentalism. It comes across as very electroacoustic sounding and for the first half quiet. Half way through the sounds start tumbling out and around, bumping into each other. Some are percussive, other are fast paced, while some sound anything but guitars.

If at times minimalist and at other maximalist improv is your thing you may like this.

Neraterræ is the Italian musician Alessio Antoni. His Neraterræ project is a Drone/ Dark Ambient one and released the debut release “The NHART Demo(n)s”. This release was a collection of early tracks and reworks recorded in 2009 under the former name NHART.

The album opens with “Ø” which combines dark drones with electronics and slashes of sound that cascade from ear to ear and act as a obscuring element to the loop forms underneath, they almost push the track into full-blown power electronics area.”Core” continues with the noisy unsettling electronics that feel suited to a horror film. There is a storm like feel, but without the traditional obvious field recording elements.

“End” grows from silence with looped electronics and warped speech, layered sounds and different textures and pulses. This track lies in the more Power Electronics/Death Industrial field and utilizes loops to build up its various sections. “The Gift of Blindness” is an uncomfortable listen with its metal bashing, harsh electronics and sounds which help to create a very claustrophobic track that doesn’t relent or hold back from its intent.

“Radicon / An B-Rath [Rework]” sounds like a machine breaking down in reverse. Metal shards fly, sounds swirl and the machine itself falls down repeatedly, before finally stopping. “Rainroom [Rework]” sounds symphonic with its synth chords that are paired with two rhythmic loops and what appears to be strings (synthetic or not) and drones, possibly from a saxophone. As this album is a collection of various demos, you can note the stylistic change from previous tracks and see that the artist has flexibility in their music. “Eternal Travel [Rework]” sounds like a post industrial sci-if cinematic piece with long synth drones of prog like feel that are traversed by skating sounds and a bass drone underneath (again I am feeling saxophone for some reason). There is a tension in the track that allows it to unfurl and reveal other elements. “Deeper Down” takes us down into bassy underwater deaths with bubbling sounds, rumbling bass and the darker spectrum of glitchy electronics. As it short it feels more like an intro than as a track itself. “Memory Lapse [Rework]” brings the album to the end and takes us back to the territory it began (and around 70% of the album) with the harsher electronics, but balancing it by not letting it tip into power electronics territory and keeping it in the futurist sci-if dark ambient that has been, mostly the core of the album.

If you didn’t know the origins of the tracks you would think of the album as having different stylistic choices. But, by knowing the story about it you can approach it like a show reel. For me the tracks like “Eternal Travel [Rework]” work better for me, just because the power electronics style is something I haven’t listened to in over 20 years and it’s not really my thing. Worth checking out.

Free release via bandcamp.

Andrew James Johnson is a UK composer from Birmingham whose is inspired by both the classics (Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin) and contemporary sounds. He has a BA in Composition from the London College of music and describes his compositional style as “a combination of rich harmonic language with expansive pianistic techniques revealing the influence of the romantic era composers that so inspired him in his youth.” His debut album “Winters Heart” came out late November, 2017.

“Echoes of Love” welcomes the album with delicate playing that befits his Romantic influence. He ably mixes up controlled sections with fluid ones, maintaining pace before the piece takes off around the two-minute mark and increases the pace and the complexity of playing, showcasing how adept at the instrument he is. “Beyond” sounds like a piece that could accompany a dance recital. The music is flowing, expressive and upbeat with a regular tone and rhythm that enhances the melody and maintains the feel of the piece.

“Elysian Dreams” has a different tone to the opener and feels grander, with a retro feel to it, with a filmic hint to it. You visually see a country side with long grass swaying in the breeze and long shots of a car driving on a single road. As the piece continues the pace, intensity and urgency pushes the track close to the edge and the feeling is clear to the listener. “Winter’s Heart” features the Chamber Ensemble of London and is a grand, at times delicate piece. The music has a confidence to it where Johnson effortlessly floats over the keys. The Chamber Ensemble of London with their sweeping and soaring strings elevate the track to great heights that it deserves. The music becomes widescreen in its approach where it fills the sound with an intensity befitting a full orchestra. For a stripped back version, which is piano only and comes across with a different feel, you can compare it with the final track on the album.

“Ka Nalu” has a darker tone than previous tracks that feels rich in sound with a nice timbre. The music as mentioned previously has a pop song feel, but one that is a hybrid with modern classical. The track traverses peaks and valleys with intensity and tone changing to compliment these sections. The child name of Kanalu means happy, strong and graceful, which is the feeling that you get from this track. “Taylor’s Theme” is an emotional piece with the additional cello of Henry Mann adding to the feel. The cello, an instrument that can be quite harsh when it is used in drone settings, but in this track the rougher edges don’t appear, being more romantic with a melancholic edge. The piano and cello come together in sections, but also explore their own territories. “A Great Expectation” feels like a classical piece, but one that has a pop song feel to it. The music is light and bright and the composition feels like it could be paired with a fine female vocalist to give it a different feel. “Moonlight Shadows” feels like an introspective and personal piece. The music combines light and darkness, gentle and fast paced, understated and intense. There is a feeling of emotions being let out as the music moves from its minimalist movements into its intense ones before retreating back (while bringing a slight intensity back with it).

“Touch of Her” feels deeply personal. Minimalistic flowing gentle playing results in melodic sounds, but with an introspective feel as if a memory rather than a present situation. The playing becomes more playful with emotion coming out, giving the feeling of fondness. The track increases with feeling and insistence, turning from the earlier introspection to a more strident and urgent playing. Somehow it still feels like the “Her” of the title is in the past, with the emotions maybe being conflicted and a slight sense of loss for the person or the time felt.

“Out of Solitude” strips the music back in intensity of playing and the sound of the piano. Beginning with a gentle section, a more moodier piece evolves with emphasis on more strident playing, before returning to the gentle introspection of the beginning. As this piece concludes the moodier section returns briefly before gently coming to an end.”A Distant Time” feels like it was performed in a lightly illuminated room after a period of thought. There is a slight chill in the air and you get the feeling of the percussive playing, which gets sharper as the track proceeds, is getting something out of the system. There is a change on the second half of the track that feels that while something can’t be resolved, it has been accepted.

For those that like fine piano albums that can cover territory Johnson’s album would be right up your alley.

You can buy it here.

Masaya Ozaki is a composer and multi-instrumentalist born in Niigata, Japan, and currently based in Brooklyn, New York. His work centres around the ideas of space, transience, the subtleties of small moments, the sensitivity of the ephemera, the
possibility of sound in an exceedingly materialistic world. He finds inspiration in nature, the minute and elusive details of human interaction, and art. Kaito Nakahori is a Tokyo-born contemporary classical composer with a bachelor’s from Toho College of Music and masters from San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has been residing in New York since 2014. His music aims to authentically and elegantly blend traditional Japanese with Western elements, creating such pieces as koto and chamber ensembles, or
hichiriki and string quartets.

“Aperture” is a swell of environmental sounds with water featuring alongside a dark squall of stormy conditions as water crashes in layers. The sound is intense without being loud and conjures up a beach in winter with wind blowing and waves crashing.

“Float” a dark drone and a slightly screeching noise are paired before random piano tones, rustling metallic sounds, sharp electrical tones, broken transmissions, nautical sounds like rope being stretched, rimshot drums and eerie tones coming together to create an unsettling environment. The pace is slow, without an obvious narrative, more like Ozaki and Natahori are interested in creating a mood.

“Rituals” sounds like a broken down transmission. Backwards loops which sound like a record-breaking down, static, electrical noises, scrapes, chimes and a variety of sonic detritus are the building blocks of the piece, placing it firmly in the electroacoustic /experimental realm.

“Unfold” a ghostly swirling vocal like sound scape shifts into howling storm territory. The wind is blowing creating squall and melodies. Haunting scream like sounds battle rumbling noises that ebb and flow. The music feels like it’s a sound recording from an abandoned sanitarium. There is both a distant and very much present feel to the track.

“Entropy” rhythmic slashes of noise that change in texture ever so slightly with a droning ambience underneath it. The sounds degrade and break apart sounding like extreme run offs at the end of a record. The drones underneath, which have a ghostly dark ambient presence take over track towards the end as the slashes of sound disappear and the track oscillates between drones and more noisy static that appears at the end of the slashes. Vibrating drones lead the to track to the finish.

“Circular” the duo are joined by Molly Germer on violin on this track that is minimalist in nature with a lot of space for percussive elements to cascade around, ambient drones to flesh out, but not fill up the sound, piano snatches, a string instrument that is plucked, while furious Violin careers around. While the previous track held form, this is a throw back to the more improv style of proceeding tracks.

“Horizon” a harmonium like drone vibrates with small frequency changes, while a squall drone joins only to be drowned out by layers of circular noises that roll around and distort the sound. There is a depth of sound which is fully explored by these distorted sections that share the same intensity and urgency. As the track passes into the final two minutes a feverish intensity takes hold and the noises get more and more distorted and violent. This violence is abated at the end where a distorted dust loop section brings the track to the end.

“Singular” a distant wind-blown squall is joined by feverish sound similar to pencil being rubbed on paper while taught strings are scraped, thumping sounds, metallic clanging and scraping sounds all come together to give a weather worn soundtrack. While most elements appear random in their placement, the wind squall drone is the only constant element that travels across the track. Musically it sounds like being in the hull of a boat that is being bashes about by the sea.

Personally as I get older my preference in music relies more on elements that I can hold onto, be it loops, rhythms, repetitive motifs, or just consistent drones. The standout tracks for me on this record are when these elements have appeared. If you like music that is more sound art than genre based, then this might be right for you. That said, you have to admire Iikki and the way their releases have all sounded differently so far.

Huey Walker is a pseudonym of Martin Hiller who also runs the Rakkoon Recordings label putting out small run releases of beautifully designed releases. The tracks contained on “Dreamsleeves” were recorded between 2012 and 2014 and the titles themselves are taken from poems by Frank O’Hara. According to the label. The tracks “meander through fields of glitchy leftfield-electronics and blissful airy ambient explorations. A narrative impression fuses these three tracks into a journey of gradual breachings and excavations of schemes and themes.

“Puddles Watching Leaves Swim” is an almost 30 minute opus of electronics, field recordings, glitches, ambient tones and electronic sputtering. There are loops of melodys buried under layers of gentle ambiance embedded with glitches. Sounds float along with thick ambience with a slight grittiness to them. The elements drop in and out and the texture changes with intensity rising and the wall of sound getting thicker. The music has consistent pace and also variety of composition that makes it unfurl rather effortlessly. Field recordings and electronics take over from time and the track changes its feel slightly returning back to the intro. At the midway point it changes dramatically with glitches and manipulated electronics being the sole sound sources and drones not being heard. The electronics feel like they ate breaking down and loops and melodies are degrading. The final nine minutes of the track vary from an almost Dark Ambient section to broken electronics to more melodic ambience and electronics.

“Reflected Dreams Of Blue Travels” opens up with water based field recordings and static haze. Loops interlock and melodies start to reveal themselves with harsh drones slowly coming out and submerging the majority of the sounds. The pace is lugubrious with electronics shooting off (similar in nature to the previous track). The drones get darker and more electronically altered before approaching noise like intensity that ebbs just at the end of the track.

“Alterable Noons of Loitering” the second longest track at over twenty-one minutes in length takes a more experimental touch with staticy darker sounds and grittier loops. Drones break through, but its the sonic detritus which is the focal point as well as the field recordings. Acoustic Guitar comes in later on with an improv feel as well as a harmonica which is manipulated. The track alternates through all these elements into sections and gets weird when warped vocals enter the field.

“Thy Easiness” is a series of releases of photographs and music in a picture frame. ‘Thy Easiness’ is an audiovisual concept liasing imagery with sound in the terms of aleatoricism, association and apperception. ‘Thy Easiness’ feels with the aspects and experiencrs of mood, resonance and tonality, graininess and blurring, colors and correlations , membranes and remembrances. “”Thy Easiness” grew out of a fragment of music recorded in 2008. Tapeloops recorded and slightly live processed on 2013.”

“My Heart is in my Pocket” opens with backwards loops of a vocal sample before spluttering electronics of a similar nature join in. The music is quite muffled and has a ghostly disjointed feel and with its relative minimalism, it feels more like a facsimile than a full-blown piece.

There are times on the these , especially on the “Dreamsleeves” release that could be really nice drone pieces before the electronics and other elements enter the sound scapes. It is the artist after all that decides the musical journey and where they will take the listener, but you can help feeling what it be like to have the track lengths reduced and be more drone orientated, because when they do, its great stuff.

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