For this round-up we are bookended by two noisier releases with synth drone, classical and improv guitar ambience in the middle. Venturing from Poland to Chile to Spain to England, finally ending up in Australia.
“Bartosz Szturgiewicz has started creating music late 2009 as Wounds, exploring the drone textures and loop-based structures with his debut album “Winter Ambient Works” which was released the following year on Warsaw-based Assonance Records, a record that attempted to merge the harsh reality of the season with more metaphysical, sombre layers. The same year saw the release of “Winter Ambient Remix” in which other artists would tackle the original work to create new, original works.
2014 saw the name change for the musical output to Wound which was dictated by taking a more personal approach to the music.
“Bright and Cold” a collection of howling damp sounds swirl around in drone formation with field recordings adding to the soundscape. Ghostly sounds similar in texture to long form string drones wind their way around highlighting the initial sounds and moving further into the snow-covered abyss. In an email the artist whose make is Bartosz Szturgiewicz states that he “collected found or discarded sounds to create a collage of dreamy trash.” I can assure the listener that this doesn’t sound like dreamy trash, more like a semi isolated place that is ravaged in the bleakest weather, such are the almost abrasive colorless tones (and I mean that in a positive sense). As the track progresses it gets bleaker and bleaker with it becoming closer to the Dark Ambient / Noise spectrum with the gritty sounds getting darker and devoid of melody.
“Oblivious To The Passing Hours And Days” opens with distant footsteps, field recordings that sound like trains pulling to a stop that are manipulated. A vibrating sound underlays pulsing sounds similar to rushes of air, before vibrating drones swell and start to dominate proceedings with other noisy drones and electronics crashing through. Vague melodic touches, if you can call them melodic burst through, sounding like a siren. The music is quite bleak, but with a varied texture and progressions that allow it tone in constant movement. Some tracks of this ilk can be rather one-dimensional, but Szturgiewicz keeps the track engaging with an ever evolving passage into darker territory.
For fans of the dark stuff.
“Estructuras de aire, colonias de soplo” which translates to “Structures of Air, Colonies of Waft” was released by Chilean label Ce chemin est le bon in April of this year, with a CD edition on Necio Records in May.
“Estructuras de aire, colonias de soplo” is Ihä’s first album recorded only with keyboards, marking a decided step into the fields of ambient music and a new sonic language which retains the melancholic spirit and the sonic emotivity so characteristic of Ihä’s oeuvre.”
“La única fuente de lo sagrado” (aka “The Only Sourced Of The Sacred”) signals the change in the traditionally guitarists work. Layers of long synth progressions wrap around each other inhabiting separate sound levels, it coming together and creating a looping track of synth ambience. The music is consistent in its shape and sound with slight additional flourishes such as reverberating sounds that add to its floating quality. A nice start to the release.
“43 puestas de sol” (aka “43 Sunsets”) replaces the drones for the most part in the opener with synth progressions under which ambient drones full up the track with soft beds of sound. The music is slow-paced with a bit of a obscurring of some of the sounds requiring closer listening to discern them. The notes state the instruments used are keyboards and effects, but there is a feeling of electric guitar in there – possibly just a section of keyboards. This track is a bit more free form than the opener and for that, doesn’t engage as much.
“El sueño de la razón produce monstrous” (aka “The Dream Of Reason Produces Monstrous”) has wall of synth that come in pulses of sound. The track’s sound is a bit muddy which lessens the effect that the Synths could have, with the pulses have less definition which holds them back from having a more pronounced effect on the track.
“Arde como una vela en el sufrimiento” (aka “It burns Luke a candle in Suffering”) it wouldn’t be an Ihä release without an epic track. This one clocks on at just shy of 18 minutes and sits in a similar territory to that of the opener with its long form oscillating drones. As with the previous release “Esperanza”, minimalism is a strong part of Ihä’s music. This time the progressions are subtle and sometimes imperceptible.
This is a collection of tracks recorded in 2017 with the opener dating back to 2010. The opener has the cleaner clearer sound which enhances the track. The remaining tracks could benefit from this clarity to further reveal what is happening.
Maria Cascales Alimbou
“Light-house is the debut EP by Barcelona-based pianist and composer Marta Cascales Alimbau. She found the inspiration to release this EP in Sausalito (California), onboard of the old houseboat Vallejo during her stay at Varda Artists Residency. In those picturesque surroundings, she composed the piano piece Tide-Lighthouse, and decided to go back to her recent pieces and bring them to light under the title Light-house. The result is six pieces for piano, violin and cello, where you can hear the influences of composers such as Bach, Debussy and Arvo Pärt, as well as all the imaginary around the ocean, the fog and the tide from Sausalito.“
“Pärt” the cello and violin of Irene Labrador and Mireia Villa respectively open the release with a strong classical flavor of emotive strings that are controlled and not overdone. The tones from the two instruments are gentle and soothing with a touch of quiet introspection – a feeling probably enhanced more by the cello than the violin. Surprisingly the piano is absent from the piece, but this acts as a nice gateway to the rest of the release.
“House” gentle piano with a lightly cloaked tone and nice rich sound that utilises the reverberation of the instrument to highlight the mood of the piece. The relaxed pace of the music gives you the feeling of the artist sitting down and just mindfully playing with each note having a specific intention.
“Pleut” translates to rains and you get that feeling from the music as its change in speed and fusing of piano and strings gives off the feeling if a sudden downpour. The piano’s tone has totally changed with a strong Jazz feel which is noticeable right from the tracks opening.
“Tide” opening with field recordings of a water scene, the piano has changed from the previous Jazz feel to a richer tone with a central feel of emotion in its strident playing. The string section bows mournfully with slow sweeping drones. A piano stab signals a short period of near silence before single keys are punctuated, slowly building a tension which re-introduces the strings, while the piano picks up its speed once more to convey the emotions which I feel are directly influenced by her residency. The track is the perfect length at close to five minutes which allows for it to go through several movements and build the tension in each one.
“Bachiana” takes the listener deep into the classical genre possibly hinting at Bach and Baroque music. The music (for an untrained person like myself) sounds like off kilter chord progressions with a, for want of better words, forwards-backwards feel. The strings compliment the piano, but unlike the piano piece, they feel more free-flowing and fluid.
“Arvo” very subtle field recordings (possibly natural piano recordings) and minimal piano bring this Ep to the end with thought out introspective playing. You get the feeling that Cascales is conveying her emotions through her playing. The track itself is not very long, so it doesnt get elaborated on (which for me leaves it hanging in the air), but for the almost two and a half minutes you feel her come close to unveiling her soul.
“Light-House” which came out on Peru’s Piano and Coffee Records, was released on CD-R/Cassette/Digital with only a few of the physical copies remaining. A nice addition to the piano underground.
Slow Clinic is UK-based James Armstrong who also runs the Rusted Tone Recordings label (James Osland, Spheruleus). He has himself released on labels such as Elm Recordings, ARCHIVES, Audio Gourmet and others. The label described his method of composition as “building layers of guitar swells pushed through an endless feedback delay pedal and then into a large reverb pedal. He will then usually improvise loops until something develops, incorporating unconventional techniques along the way such as using violin bows, hand percussion and found objects as a way of conjuring unusual sounds and textures.”
“Discarded Things Once Lost (Pt.1)” opens with the sound of an amp, the scratching of strings or the body of the guitar, possibly even the connection from guitar to amp, before sweeping drones and guitar improvising appears. A spindly feel comes from string manipulations, before field recordings, other drones and undulating sounds enter. There is a feeling of breaking down as elements drop out and crunchy sounds of things being shuffled about (shakers, rattles, etc..) starts to take more attention from the guitar loops. Pulsing, warping sounds lead away from the guitar dominance of the opening, bringing forth a purer drone track. Warping fractured ripples of sound lead back to manipulated backwards and forwards guitar parts alongside the previously present crunchy sounds. The final section of the track is when it heads into mostly experimental and improv territory and brings in a variety of differing textural sounds and tones. The absence of the previous guitar sounds is noted, despite fragments of the instrument still popping up the is part of the track.
“Discarded Things Once Lost (Pt.2)” feels from the outset a more guitar orientated piece in that the extraneous elements aren’t there. The guitar builds up alongside drones and a small section of some sort of manipulated sound that has a scraping quality. This track has more of a driving hypnotic quality than the previous one with an airy twang to the guitar pieces and with a feeling of a warm feedback coming through. As the track progresses elements drop out leaving the drones, warm feedback and the previously mentioned crawling sounds, while a throb starts to join I working in tandem with the drones.
The music starts to reverb giving it a flicker quality over which a collection of sounds coalesce varying the feel of the piece. Sounds scatter and crawl, shriek and drone, twist and turn. A drone section roughly half way through the track sees field recordings rear their head taking the music in a different journey before swells of guitars start to ring out. Towards the end drone reclaims its territory with effects laden guitar sections wafting about over the granular sounds of before. The drones have a relaxing almost tranquil feel to them that gently bring the piece to its close.
These tracks were improvised for a dance piece for a production of the university of Northampton. I am not sure what came first, if one influenced the other or it was the result of a collaboration. As the older I get the less musically adventurous I find myself and I need more things in a piece and for more of a structure to generally hold my interest. However, if explorations in sound, texture and style is what you like in music, this could be for you.
Subespai is a Sydney, Australia based artist formerly from Barcelona. This particular release came out on highly limited edition cassette by Chemical Imbalance. “Walking the line between ambient, noise and drone music, Subespai paints experimental soundscapes by mixing acoustic and electronic audio sources with effect pedals, field recordings and other gadgets. Ranging from peaceful to dark and troubled, but always intense, the resulting pieces work as soundtracks for contemplative movie scenes yet to be written; blending in with the environment, daring the listener to embark on a journey of introspection, where repetition hides messages and meanings.”
“Overtime” static pulses of breaking down rumbling electronics are joined by pulsing electronics that add a melodic touch to this piece of abstract electronics. Sounds swell and retreat ever so minutely before an additional semi melodic tone enters the fray. For this piece Edo seems content in creating a piece consisting of textural components than focusing on a prescribed musical genre.
“Screenlight” pulses of harsher static than its counterpart with some sections broken up and looped, meets darker gong like drones which are buried in the background. An additional piece of static this time with a constant flow becomes the third element slotting in between the first two before the three parts of this track subtle change their positioning to highlight and reveal more of their sounds. As the track progresses additional elements are brought in consistent with what has come before and complimenting those initial sounds.
Subespai has created an experimental noisy release that utilises drone techniques without sounding anything like a traditional drone release.