The thing about doing a blog is that you are inundated with a wealth of material to review. I get a decent amount and as this is something I pretty much do when I have spare time, the releases come in all the time a pile up. I try to vary the reviews so it is not just the usual artists and labels or only new releases being covered. I miss release dates sometimes, others I am early or, like some submissions, I get sent releases a while after release as the artist/label have come across the blog. These three releases came out either the end of 2017 or early this year and its their turn now.
Luca Bonadina is an Italian sound artist who records under the name The Illusion of Silence. His album “The White Summer”, the follow-up to 2016’s “Black Rainbow” was released late December, 2107 on Greek label Thirsty Leaves Music.
He states that he is “interested in creating compositions focused on dark and ethereal melodies, using a variety of instruments as piano, bowed psaltery, zither, percussions, music box machines, santoor, flutes,etc.), electronic sources and a string quartet. “The White Summer” “is a collection of 12 ambient/neoclassical instrumental compositions inspired by Nordic mythology, winter time and loss. All the songs have been composed and recorded through two winters with the violist Anna Dushkina”
The opener of the album, “Enigma Della Marea” sets the tone for this release. Fragile piano tones, musical jewelry box chimes, pulsing drones, electronics, and if I am not mistaken m’bira and Bowed Psaltery combine together to present a haunting collection of sounds that include elements of drone, electroacoustic and modern classical music. Lush repetitive piano steers the track in a flowing direction away from the free-flowing sound escape. Towards the end Dushkina’s voice comes in like a haunting drone element. There is a balance of moods and instrumentation that opens up the music and gives it many dimensions.
“Memories of the Wind” distant, reverberating and cold piano is joined by mournful strings that carry a certain amount of emotional weight to them. The pace is slow, but this allows for the music to flow nicely and accentuate the moods within. The way the viola is played, Dushkina is able to wring every bit of emotion out of it.
“A Mirror, An Ocean” silence surrounds the minimalist stabs of piano that ring out before fading. There is a certain amount of reverb which allows the chords to emphasis their tones. The starkness of piano is not over bearing, but a balance of light and dark tones.
“Fireflies” a single rippling piano key, melodica, bells and possibly m’bira bring back a similar compositional style to the albums opener. The music feels like a collection of sounds that inhabit their own space intertwined to create a thematic piece, rather than a piece of music that builds in an expected fashion. The music feels like a soundtrack-esque piece that defies genre classification.
“Frost” moody ambient tones that circulate, possibly from singing bowls such is their sound quality. Melodica adds a Western Soundtrack style touch and follows the style of the bowls, but with an edgier sound – almost reminiscent of cello. Light and dark variations of piano come in alternating with each other before coming closer to each other in duration while the bowls and melodica provide different layers of sound.
“The White Summer” the title track has eerie sci-fi sounding proggy synths that pulse about with a layer of distortion to a drone. Fragile piano keys fall in pattern similar to falling rain with attendant echoes. A collection of musical toys such as the jewelry box sounds add an innocent and also glitch like quality to the music. The track has a dream/nightmarish quality which is emphasized by the bass notes of the piano and the swirling sound escape of the background.
“Lights From A Northern Town” a vignette of a track that pairs piano progressions and bowed psaltery with viola to create a dark noir-ish environment that belies its short duration as it feels like a fully fleshed out and formed.
“Inner Hidden Fire” echoing murky piano that has all the more strident elements of it smoothed out, is paired with haunting horn like drones. Musically both elements feel like they are not restricted to structure and are quite loose in their playing. With a track with this type of name you might expect the music to be a bit more intense and dark, but that is not the case.
“One Endless Hour” shimmering sounds are joined by waves of drones and layers built out of what sounds like Synthesizer and Flute. While the parts that form the track may be minimal, the resulting music is far from that. It sounds like a classical orchestral dance piece, like it could ne used to score a ballet piece.
“The Room of Waves” from glitchy bells and toy instruments (or possibly glockenspiel) through to deep dark drones the outer musical limits are covered. Some whispered frantic vocals enter with other ominous sounds snaking in an out. The track is rather filmic in the way the music moves through peaks and troughs with a certain amount of intrigue involved. There is enough menace in the track to give a sense of uneasiness.
“The Dream of The Glass Garden” sounds like a gypsy jazz/folk tune with piano, viola, bells, vocals, etc … coming together to create a track that feels like it belongs in a smoke-filled room. The piano and viola follow each other musically at the beginning before splitting off to offer different sounds, with the viola taking on a more lyrical feel. The vocals haunt the track like ghostly apparitions as sounds jag around.
“Goodbye Winter” bird song and windswept drones open the track with minimal ominous piano and possibly singing bowls/vocals creating a feeling of howling drones that blow through. Glockenspiel adds an edge of innocence to that track that pairs nicely with the field recordings of bird song. While another short track, lasting under three minutes, the track is neither rushed nor lacking in imagination and variety.
I am not sure what sort of coverage this album has got. I see there are (at time of publication) seventeen copies remaining at the label and Luca himself has copies. This is a release that deserves to be heard by a lot if people. Doing this blog you occasionally get to hear albums that can tend to be repetitive or with a limited sound pallet. This is not the case here. The music is engaging, unrushed, full but not claustrophobic and just plain interesting to listen to. For fans of music that is more than just one genre. Recommended.
Hypnodial is the ambient project name of Spanish musician Ilia Rodríguez. After years spent in a variety of countries and a history in Rock and Metal bands (Indesinence, Binah and Pantheist) and a past interest in Acid House, Chill Out music, etc… “Aether Alcoves” is his debut electronic release.
“Aether Alcoves was produced during the winter of 2017 using a combination of software synthesis,sampling, traditional instrumentation and personally sourced field recordings, topped off with a subtle, dynamic mix that sidesteps any loudness wars and focuses on the overall sound currents. The album flows as an hour-long piece divided into twelve vignettes, each telling its own quiet story and imprinting its images on the listener’s mind. Some spring from a distant memory, others focus on more concrete situations and stimuli, manipulating certain elements to create a dreamlike vibe, and all take the early hours as a springboard to the listener’s own sojourn.”
“Trapagaran” opens the hour-long flowing album with field recordings and mixing up layers of synth ambience alongside stabs of harsh synth noises. As the track progresses the ambient elements become more pronounced creating a floating , while the synth stabs increase on pace and vary in sound quality. Towards the end of the track a moody drone that sounds like a storm (reminiscent of the brief opening section) takes over.
“Old Café” has oscillating synth with scattering electronics and minimal beats and bass line. Guitar elements and more percussion come in as the electronic textures of the track switch to more ominous wasps of electronic noise. There is a feeling of Rodríguez’s Tangerine Dream inspiration in the track.
“Fruella II A.M.” street sounds with an electronic sound that sounds likes a car alarm going and synth progressions that have a hint of menace of them. A coldish drone joins in intermittently with minimal metal percussion. As the track progresses it veers into dark wave cum Kraftwerk territories and for some reason I am left with a very vague, mind you, feeling of Iggy Pop’s “Endless Sea” the track ends where it began with more street sounds. A nice variation that mines retro futurist synth styles, but with a timeless edge.
“Star Ceiling ’91” shaker like percussion and winding synth sections with bass lines and short guitar strikes gives this track a feel that would equally at home on a Boards of Canada release, the Stranger Things soundtrack or vapourwave one. There is a strong retro feel from every instrument included, especially synth and drums. A nice track that is always building and morphing.
“Dreamachine” industrial sounds lead into bass drum beats with phasing synths and a rolling bassline. While nothing is musically harsh, there is an ominous edge to the track. Searing guitar cuts through as the synths and bass keep up the rhythm of the track. Synth sputters and shrill sounds flutter in and out. It’s like darkwave, meets groggy synth with 70’s ambient guitar lines.
“Paperhouse” begins with a dusty run in groove, walls of ambient synths, guitar and pulsing intermittent bass line. After an alternating section of ambient synths that takes up the bulk of the middle of track, it then returns back to the initial motif briefly before going into an icy synth section. At times you expect a beat to come in and propel the track, but Hypnoidal resists doing, what to me would the obvious option.
The ambience towards the end of “Paperhouse” leads in to “Amaranthine” with field recordings of rain alongside long moody synth, snatches of dialogue, minimal beats and piano. You get the feeling that Vangelis’ “Blade Runner” inspired this track with its cloak of darkness, horrible weather and synths that sound like they are bathed in haze. The track moved at a slow pace with a relaxed feel, just moving through the sections without a need to overdo it.
“Samphire” waves of synth that move with ebbs and flows, circling around and building textures, creating a certain exploratory mood of an unknown territory. Additional noises come in to accentuate this exploration, such as tiny fragments of guitar, darker crunchier synth noises, crickets towards the end and pieces of dialogue.
“Lagomorph” walls of degraded noisy synth are paired with ambient drones and a stop/start beat that keeps an irregular feel to the music which contrasts to the consistent synth progressions. The synths are quite dominant with their sounds cutting through, though as the track progresses the beats become more focused leading the track onto the next section where the synths sound like winding down machines, before roaring back to life once more in the final two minutes. This is quite possibly the most melodic track on the album.
“Delta View” is a bit like Ambient building blocks. Waves upon waves of drones line up with the next one coming just as the previous one is subsiding. There are subtle changes in texture and sound that could go unnoticed as the track builds up with some additional sounds flickering in and out. At times a ghostly feel descends on the drones and at others additional electronics add another melody or influence the next lot of drones.
“Blue Lava Sky” warping synth, minimal beats, fuzzed out noises and what sounds like chiming guitar lines create this track which seems a little less focused than others. Percussive elements that sound like musical sticks provide another rhythm while the drones cascade, but the track doesn’t really go anywhere.
“Sundown High” great big dense swathes of synths pulse away before turning in an almost religious direction. There feels like a chant going on, but as it is so dense it is mainly noticeable at the beginning. Electronics stop and start and a ghostly ambience finishes off the track.
For an album to sustain listeners attention for one hour can be a bit of a challenge. For the most part Rodríguez is able to do this, but there are occasional bits where a shorter duration may work to his benefit. Baring in mind that this is a debut release you can see that there is something to work with. “Aether Alcoves” comes in a limited edition of sixty pro – duplicated Cd’s with three panel ecopak sleeves on the Somniscope label and/or pay what you want download
DunJIN is a UK Ambient/Drone artist and his album “The Conqueror Worm” released on EnoughRecords netlabel, is his debut. In the 4 months since it’s release, it has been downloaded over 1800 times through the Free Music Archive.
“I would describe the album as being based around psychedelic drones and quite dark in places (if you know the Edgar Allan Poe poem it is based on you’ll know it’s some pretty dark/heavy subject matter), yet bright in others.”
“Ligeia Writes…” a moody but not completely dark ambient piece that has swirling sounds combined with what sounds like hand played wooden percussion. There is an unsettling mood created by the way sounds drift in and then retreat and how then they are built upon. The track doesn’t get claustrophobic, but it does fill up with layers of different sounds that share a similar theme.
“The Tragedy “Man”” pulsing, rumbling industrial style electronics with an accompanying drove are replaced by a different type of drone and a selection of low-level electronics that flutter in and out creating feeling of things breaking down. A ghostly presence surrounds the music with haunted throat singing like feel as the electronics sound like corrupt circuits. There is nothing in your face about the music, but it is so understated that it requires you’d attention to pick up the elements.
“A Blood-Red Thing That Writhes” clanging sounds form loops while a long regular noisy drone holds shape. A collection of vocal like drones waft in before tribal percussion that sounds like rolling thunder announces its presence. Distorted layers of bass guitar of the SunnO))) variety are joined the shuffling sounds. For the first time on the album the music has gone form the background to be more in the listeners face. A pulsing helicopter like sound comes across the bass drone which could be another layer of percussion. After this the track does a full 360° turn and becomes this Doom metal /drone track with a section, presumably form the poem that includes the tracks title being spoken. Quite a varying journey has been taken.
“An Angel Throng” a collections of howling noisy drones break through and sound like a howling landscape. Plucked sounds, bells, drones fill the air making the listener try to interpret the direction the music will head. The artist himself used the term Psychedelic Drone to give a description of his music and this could be a partial descriptor as Industrial Dark Ambient could also be used.
“The Conqueror Worm” the title track starts with a rumbling bass line drone before dub like reverberating percussion alongside clanging noises leads into a larger drone section. Building up repetitive rhythms allows for a base for other elements to cover in and out of the track such as metallic drone that arc across and cello drones. The narration of the poem comes back in the final two minutes of the track which adds to the uncomfortable feeling of the music.
“Ligeia Expires…” drones that accompany a stormy sound scape that includes rattling sounds, low-level screeching drones, shuffling sounds and horn like noises. You get the feeling of a desolate environment covered in fog that is filled with a sense of dread. It ties a nice full circle to the opener with the use of similar elements, but with a subtler sound than before.
Musically I didn’t anticipate the changes contained in this release. The veering into Doom like territory was a nice surprise. The music has a tribal feel to it. The obvious direction would to remain in the Dark Ambient sphere, but dunJIN seems like he’s taken, like Hypnodial reviewed above him, his musical listening or playing history to add his own touches to his debut release. For those who like their music a little darker.