Constellation Tatsu Summer Batch : Liai / OCA / poemme / Mike Nigro & Andrew Osterhoudt.

Constellation Tatsu have recently unleashed their Summer batch of four cassettes, edging them closer to the 100th release which should be part of their next batch. The artists included in the latest round-up from this California-based predominantly cassette label are Liai, OCA, poemme and Mike Nigro & Andrew Osterhaldt and with the exception of poemme largely fit in the new age / ambient genres. As is come to be expected with Constellation Tatsu releases, the listener is in for a synth based journey.

Liai is the audio/visual project of Lo Bise, a Chicago-based experimental electronic musician and recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Working largely with digital platforms such as Ableton Live and Max MSP, they create pieces inspired by minimalist composition, techno and ambient.”

“Brunnen” bright pulsing synth tones of the vaguely new age variety kriss cross the soundscape with a slight shrill noise chiming in the background. Synth progressions that sound like water droplets add a prog feel to the track as the synth drones radiate out. There is a stillness to the piece that may or may not be influenced by the picturesque resort town in Switzerland of the same name. The tones are sharp and crystalline, with a nice rumbling bass underneath it which anchors it in a way that could quite possibly be overlooked as it is quite subtle in nature.

“Kyrie” vocal abstractions and electronic experimentation feature in this track which share haunting vocals and a series of pulses, flickers and glitches of electronics. As “Kyrie” is part of the Christian liturgy, its possible the vocals are inspired by this. The music has very strong electroacoustic traits with a free form structure and feels like its more about the construction of textures rather than a musical composition. In a way it reminds me of early Mego abstractions.

“O” has similar sound source inspiration as before, but has the structure that the previous track lacked. Beats and rhythms are created out of the various disparate sounds, with ambience and a mellow selection of tones providing the melodic edge. Pulses of sounds, glitches, haunting loops, bass rumbles and short percussion blasts make up some of the elements. As the track progresses, it furthers both these sides of its composition and manages to maintain a melodic kaleidoscope of sound where it could easily veer into the experimental side of things. Not bound by genre its the kind of track test you can listen to pick up its subtle nuances without being bogged down.

“Jules” a more frantic feeling is expressed in this piece. Short ripples of loops open up the track including bass, clicks, noises and harsh keys before the music goes into a darker air-less environment with tones that match. Elements remain like the clicks, but its the undulating tones that create the major part of the track while field recordings filter in and out. Washes of synth drones bring in some light to the track as it heads into its next movement of prog synth progressions that balance ambience with a chugging feel. These Synths lead into another movement where ambient synth drones permeate with a floating nature and are propelled by the chugging synths to extend higher into the sonic stratosphere.

“Cordial” the final track and the releases second epic after “Jules” takes all that has passed before it and throws it away. While instruments used in the recording are unlisted, it appears to be treated guitar or Synths that ripples in an off kilter fashion – like a sonic equivalent of throwing pebbles of various sizes creating different sized ripples. The music then totally changes as the drones that were laced under these ripples lead the listener into a darker territory of uneasy deep bass sounds which sound somewhat submerged. The sounds of this alien like place gently come to a more peaceful, if fractured territory as the drones become broken up while ambience seeps in leading the listener to a quiet ending.

Liai’s music is not easily categorized. Judging by the press release I was expecting a more Ambient or even beat led release. However, the music is definitely in the more experimental/prog/synth vein with each track having individual characteristics, but also sharing something of a common thread. For people who like Synth dominated music with a retro/futurist tinge.

“OCA is a collaborative project by producer and musician Yo van Lenz (Through My Speakers, Monkeytown Records) and artist Florian T M Zeisig (Important Records/Cassauna, No Disk) At the intersection of music being presented in a certain framework, questions regarding musical quality, intentionality, virtuosity and purpose arise. The work ‘Preset Music’ engages with questions regarding compositional intentions. Notes, chords – and often times improvised snippets of music – are exclusively serving the purpose of showcasing the instrument itself.
‘Preset Music’ aims to display the juxtaposition of intentionality and non-intentionality in music and composition. With the gesture of intentionally sampling and composing, using non- intentional musical material – in the sense of purposive presentation regarding the instrument – the seven compositions stand in direct contrast to the. presenters’ original intentions.

“HeavenCent” a hazy sound lightly covers looped synth progressions before static takes hold and waves of synth drones and field recordings of either a person saying “Say” or bizarrely the sound of a cow enters the track. An unhinged recording of a woman talking joins the music giving it a feature that makes the listener think to why it has been included and its purpose in the track. I am not to sure as it doesn’t change the direction of the piece and its inclusion comes across as a bit odd. That said it could be a direct example of what is stated in the bio about the juxtaposition of intentionality and non intentionally.

“Nylon” nice looping rhythms are joined by specters of electronics that flash across the rythms with a ghostly presence. Hypnotic in nature, the looped rhythms hold down a base for which the other fragmented elements of sound can then with affix to or swirl around. Towards the end mutated early Severed Heads like beats/loops crash through, changing the dynamics once more.

“Astro Pong” techno like looped synth tones bounce across while low-key ambient waves are buried below. Elements of ambience creep in having differing tones to those of the loops giving a different textural experience to the synths. The looped Synths twist and turn their way through the track and vary in sound, by not form as they become more and more hypnotic and minimal. Towards the end if the track they are submerged which is a nice way for the piece to end as it gives off the feeling of coming full circle and stooping just as you would imagine them to return to the sound of the beginning.

“MalibuNite” fast looped synth run through with an alarm like quality gradually fade while pulses of static and additional sets of synth elements come into vision. The pace of the track is frantic with each elements coming in sharing the stylistic sped up feeling. The music feels like it is interlaced, with regular elements, by also slightly off kilter. The music the duo create is inspired by repetition and loops, which is most obvious in a track like this.

“FallnAngel” an Asian feel to the shimmering electronics that sound almost like chimes having fingers run through them. A pulsing bass drone synth sounds similar to a squeezebox. The music feels like it is about layering different tones next to each other with differing styles to these tones. The sounds and rhythms are not totally uniform giving off a slightly off-putting feeling – like a boat buffeting in the sea. Improv piano stabs add to this disorienting feeling. The track maintains this state for the majority of the track before relaxing in the final three minutes to explore more of the individual sounds at a nice sedate pace.

“Harmo Rain” heavily distorted high drones sounding like a howling gale make way for a series of short darker sounds – a bit of a calm before the storm, before returning to the original motif. The way the duo introduce elements then pull them back only to tease with their return makes the piece work as it’s these ebbs and flows that are the central focus of the track.

“East Pond” moody swirling dark Synths with melodic light filled progressions running through the middle. The music is lugubrious with a different feeling to the others as the drones are allowed to stretch out, unfurl and reveal all their tonal qualities. Loops are important to OCA and this is noticeable on this track as it revisits the tracks building blocks repeatedly, unveiling a little bit more as the track progresses.

“Preset Music” would suit people who are interested in minimal loop based music.

“poemme is the ambient project of Angela Klimek, who first began creating music for fun in 2016 to supplement her husband’s sleep music radio station, Ambient Sleeping Pill. Since then, she hasn’t been able to stop recording tracks for sleep as well as brighter, more daytime-oriented drones from Cleveland, Ohio. Moments in Golden Light is a small collection of such daytime soundscapes, painting a forest scene during the magical hour after sunrise in which the earth is bathed in gold.”

“At the Gates of Dawn” straight away without building any tension Klimek goes straight for pure ambient drones and what a revelation it is. Traditionally this style of music takes its time to work up, slowly layering drones, creating textures and tones before arriving at a wall of sound. It’s quite refreshing to bang into that wall straight away and it sets us off on a journey. The music is full of breathy, airy drones, nature field recordings and what sounds like flute and piano interlaced in the music. Just a beautiful piece of music.

“Forest Hymn” long tendrilous drones build up in volume with a wavy, flickering feel. The music has a howling sort of quality like wind rushing, but the contrast is that it is rather peaceful, which makes a whole lot if sense in relation to her husbands ambient channel and label (Stereoscenic). There is no sense of rush to the music. While it is not static, it moves freely and at its own natural pace.

“Awning ~ Under the Willow Tree” utilizing field recordings which sound like anything from water droplets to frog croaks, rich breathy style drones form a bed of music which slightly obscures the field recordings. The pace is glacial with a floating sensation as the drones are long and linear. The music is easily meditative in nature as there are no elements that distract the listener, instead you can just sit or lie back and have the sounds just surround you and enhance relaxation.

“With the changing of the Leaves” while not dark in any meaning if the word, this track has a different feel to the others in both sound and construction. Static field recordings and some fragile melodic tones (which were also present in the previous track) are found here. The main difference is the construction were the music has minor periods of lulls before the next section rings out. It balances the melodic side with the slightly harsher side nicely and as the music ebbs and flows it follows the part of the press release which references the “magical hour after sunrise bathes the earth in gold”.

“A Small Procession” is the albums epic track at twice the length of the previous tracks. It’s a multi layered affair with a stormy howl like drone over the too which dominates, and a darker bassier drone underneath. I am not sure what the title is alluding to, but I just get the feeling of flight and looking down below from a great height. Flute or wind instrument adds to this aerial feeling, subtle electronic bass tones and a minimal percussive touch add another layer to the music. This is music of pure unadulterated drifting.

poemme was a new name to me, but this particular release is one that has caught my attention due to its purity and execution. Recommended if you love great ambient music.

“Latitudes is spiritual / new age-ish / floaty / cosmic – referencing the interlacing common threads of all things, while dancing inside the stirring / moving spaces between those threads. A sort of micro/macro/micro observation of energy and movement. It finishes with a celebration of the impermanent /permanent.
Mike runs Oxtail Recordings and performs in the group Aviary (who he is on tour with now) – he also has several releases under his own name. Andrew has previously released music under the name Channeling, and works at RVNG Intl.”

“In Between” straight off the artists intentions are revealed. Sounding like a mix of ambient features, new age sounds and a kitchen sink full of electronics. The sound is a fusion of elements with synth tones covering the new age styles, long mellow drones – the ambient influences and fractured electronics, the experimental nature of the artists. This approach doesn’t hold the track to any one specific genre, but probably leans towards experimental as this is the style that tends to dominate, away from its New Age/Ambient beginnings.

“Everything Interlaced” sees the duo stretching out on the fifteen and a half-minute opus. Beginning with a decidedly ambient beginning of flowing and layered synth sections, the music starts introducing other elements such as static and manipulated/ warped electronics to give it a bit of depth and vary the texture. The music makes up for in its name with a variety of sounds that feel like they are competing for attention. The new age approach is there, but as the track can be the opposite of the traditional nature of new age music with its insistent sounds, it cannot be described as such. Prog synth progressions take center space after the half way mark with oscillating progressions sounding like more than just a duo of musicians. Rippling Synths with adjoining rumbling bass lines take the track in a feverish direction that feels like impending doom. Over time the other elements depart leaving these rippling Synths to slowly subside.

“Energies Stir” sounding like the most conventional track so far on the album, the opening contains rhythmic tones and raster noton like bass lines and soft staticy pulses. What sounds like an electronic harp, but probably guitar leads us into a vaguely dreamy territory with fragments of backwards electronics that flitter about creating and uneasy edge to the music. The music changes tack to a vaguely ambient one, but one that feels like it’s the music is a distorted reconstruction of a time in place. This is seen with its off-kilter sounds.

“Temple” field recordings, drones, static and vaguely percussive sounds create a piece that while relaxing has an edge to it that I can’t exactly put my finger on it. It feels personal in nature, but also disjointed. Possibly this is due to the staticy noise which sound like mini distorted explosions of the field recordings which make it sound like it’s in a storm. The drones are medium length with a weighty feel and have a sound quality that is both melodic and alien like. The tracks ending flows nicely into…”Passing Through” which is the second epic. A series of long mournful drones are joined by beats that feel like the sound of helicopter rotors before take off. Synth tones form these beats and along with the layering drones take the track in a vaguely dance music style. The elements work nicely together taking their time to build up the incessant and hypnotic rhythms with more conventional beats coming through as well as a distorted edge. This track is quite a revelation as you would not pick it as being from the same artists as the previous four tracks. The music is consistent and motorik with its propulsion. The duo alternate the sounds as they weave amongst each other, knowing when to pull back and when to introduce different textures. The track takes its time to slowly unwind and is a nice variation to a track like “Everything Interlaced” which had a lot if sonic qualities.

The final track is the worth price of admission alone. If the duo could in any way be persuaded in a direction to pursue then the one they take on “Passing Through” would be my pick of style to further experiment with.

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