It would be fair to say I am drowning in sound. Not a bad thing, but a constant struggle to get the queue down. An easy option would be to draw a line and focus on just the new stuff, but that would ignore some fine music out there. This a collection of releases from the first half of the year, at least one has sold out physically from the label, but this is music that should be heard.
Adrian Dziewanski is a Canadian artist who records under his own name utilizing field recordings, found sound and treated instruments. For his Riverkeeper project he uses crude analog systems and magnetic tape to create slightly harsh sonic soundscapes.
“The music that makes up Desire Paths of the Sun & Moon arose from humble beginnings. Every sound heard came from inside a backlog of dated and poorly recorded analog tape experiments and ambient “jam” sessions. This backlog was mined for what little salvage able material was available,then minimally tweaked and recontextualized for the album. This is the sound of strugThe.The music is filled with petrified drones and crumbling string and piano vibrations, as if these sounds are purposefully moving toward nonexistence. Within this sad unraveling one might find a moment or two of beauty in which to linger.”
“I” a growing oscillating drone builds from silence. The sound is somewhat dark and cloaked. This drone is paired with a slightly harsh metallic sounding drone that graduates out across and occupies a similar sphere as the other drone. Musically minimal, the piece is slow burning and hypnotic. The oscillating drone continually changes its shape which changes the texture of the piece. In a way it has a pulsing sound.
“II” remains in the darker territory. This time the drone sounds like a distant horn that is sending out a signal. Covering this drone is electronics that sound like broken Morse code communications which add to the horn sounds. The music is buried deep beneath with all light squeezed out of it and it has a mournful quality.
“III” you could claim this to be a glitch piece, but for me it is more experimental than that. It sounds like shifting sounds as its broken into different sound blocks which go back to previous sections in loop like fashion. The actual sound blocks contain rumbles, scraping sounds, static and dust soaked ambience. You could state it as a darker cousin to some of the early Oval works as it shares a similar structural DNA. As the track progresses the gaps in between the blocks get bigger and the track starts to deteriorate more and more.
“IV” has a ghostly presence which sounds like guitar pieces that are modified alongside a breathy, fractured sounds that continue the detritus themes that have featured on other tracks. Backwards snatches of sound start to creep their way in before becoming the focal point of the track. In the final minute of the track, muted, but soaring choral drone section weave their way in briefly challenging for dominance.
“V” is the most ‘musical’ of albums track, sounding like a long-lost dust-covered modern classical piece. Bringing to mind the works of The Caretaker and like-minded artists who like to use memory as a central theme to their works. Repetition is a central ingredient in the piece, but it’s never boring as is quite a relaxing and reflective piece.
I haven’t heard Dziewanski’s other work, but for the Riverkeeper project the music is consistent in its sound and style. There is little variation between tracks, which is not a complaint, but rather an observation in how Dziewanski focuses on the core of the pieces. For fans of minimal cloak soaked music.
Valerio Orlandini is an Italian Sound Designer and Musician who has been active since 2005 with the ambient project Symbiosis. Recently his work covered a variety of genres such as Dark Ambient, Electroacoustic, Modern Classical and Field Recordings.
“7 Pieces is a journey across different worlds, collecting tracks recorded at different times and for different. The trait d’union lies in the will to fail in diverse ways, on the quest for a meeting point among many backgrounds: electroacoustic and concrete music, dark ambient, improvisation, industrial, classical music and field recordings. The tracklist does not follow a chronological order, but rather a shift from the abstract and ethereal atmospheres of the first compositions towards the more concrete style of the last ones.”
“Echoes” opens with an ominous bassy piano lines with an already dark mood descending. An electronic re-working of the opening piano is layered on top before industrial like sounds clang across. Deep dark swirling and cascading tones bring forth an uneasy feel, like in a cinematic sense of walking around a demented circus. An eerie vocal hangs around like a spectre under which electroacoustic and industrial sounds build up an unsettling ever-changing soundscape. Organic instruments like guitar break up the sound somewhat and add a human edge, but that said there is still a general unsettling feel to the music. Synths and the scattershot electronics bring the track to the end with a richer grand synth style being present.
“Getsemani” distant rumbles and noises are joined by a percussive piano and a buzzing and chopping collection of electronics. The descent into the dark side of humanity explored in the opener continues with this piece. Your senses are heightened anticipating next where Orlandini will take you, but you it’s not going to be somewhere tranquil. The piano is particularly important at creating suspense and breaking up the sounds. You could classify the music as post apocalyptic as it is definitely about exploring the darker side of things post a traumatic event. Filed recording of flowing water give off the impression of being in a dark dank underground tunnel. The piece later goes on to change its skin once more with ornate orchestral sounds bringing forth the modern or neo-classical influence in Orlandini’s work.
“Ordalia” off kilter piano rhythms welcome what sounds like treated guitar and a shril l screeching drone. A dark noise with a shuffle attached to it starts up a short-lived looped section before water sounds are the only sound you hear. It sounds if someone is struggling somewhat. A melodica sound plays a plaintive melody before a section of chimes and found sounds enter and we have totally moved away from the rhythms briefly established earlier. Snatches of a voice are heard as it travels across the soundscape. I hazard a guess that this piece may be inspired by the 1979 novel “L’ordalia” by Italo Algihiero Chuisano which revolves around people being judged in the middle ages by being made to do unpleasant or dangerous activities to assert their innocence.
“In Inverno” maybe it’s the sound of the drones or some of the sounds buried deep down that are mostly indistinguishable, but I feel a sense of movement or journey within this piece. There are no obvious field recording cues, but certain sounds, or my interpretation of them are leading me in this direction. No real rhythms are heard, more collage than musical, it sets about furthering the uneasy feeling that Orlandini has enshrined the album in. Sharp howling ghostly voices are cast over industrial bangs and muted thuds, creating a very bleak and sterile environment.
“Una Giornata” the closest we have seen Orlandini shed light on the album, although that is a far distance from others perceptions of light filled music. Gritty granular cracks and other sounds create a gritty sound pallette where some nice light and lush drones can ring out. The music then changes to having a more claustrophobic feel with drones still remaining, but the light sucked out of them and the music definitely being lowercase. As the track progresses it becomes more minimal, abstract and as Orlandini states in his notes more concrete.
“Io i Coperchi” Musique concrete is very much alive in this piece with its use of experimental techniques, sounds and non traditional instrumentation. All the early claustrophobia, descent into darker territories has disappeared. Not to say that this is a step into the light, quite the contrary, but the heaviness of the thematic material has gone to be replaced by a deeply unsettling work that feels and sounds like approaching insanity.
“Noia” military style percussion and horns are a revelation. Sounding like demented doom jazz meets breakbeat with a purely experimental vein running through it, this piece stands out for the pure individual journey that you could not have predicted via the previous tracks. It still maintains Orlandini’s touch of being anything less than conventional by featuring a speech throughout it that in a way sounds like a call to war. Deeply unsettling.
Orlandini has created a release that while may have been recorded at different times contains a very strong theme throughout it. It is definitely not for easy listening. If you like soundtracks to nightmares, this will be for you.
Gianluca Piacenza is an Italian Sound Designer, Composer and Pianist. “The Road To Home” is his debut full length album.
“Gianluca Piacenza is an italian composer, pianist and sound designer. After 2 year of private piano lessons when he was 6 years old, he began studying music at his hometown conservatory graduating with full marks in Classical Piano and Composition. Today he works as music producer at Red Couch Studio, an inspirational space in which analog and digital equipment, acoustic and electronic instruments are equally important to develop a unique sonic signature.
“Dark Light” this track has a muted tone to it. The sound is quiet and reflective and gives the impression that it was recorded and played at low volume (according to notes on his website the album was recorded at night by himself). The music has a carried sound with hints of richness peaking through controlled playing. The tempo of the piece as well as the sound gives it a narrative feel. The recording is one of natural piano with all the movements and creeks includes which gives it an authentic, not sterile sound. At nine minutes it moves through many movements with a cinematic touch throughout.
“Momentum” is the flipside to the opener being only 59 seconds in length. Sounding distant and full of reverberation, this vignette in a way acts like an intro for the next track which shares a similar piano sound.
“A Unified Voice” there is a hope filled and romantic feeling to this pieces opener. The piano sounds positively and expressively optimistic with the playng being light and playful. You get the feeling that Piacenza was in good spirits in the composition and recording of this particular piece. My only quibble would be that on this piece is that the natural recording of the piano tends to overshadow the actual sounds the piano creates.
“Angels” is the only track features extra orchestration – in this case a string quartet, which helps to elevate the music. Not being overly jubilant, nor melancholic, the music is inward looking and feels personal. The pace is relaxed, but not slow. The strings compliment the piano and also add an extra dimension to the music which allows it to soar.
“Shades of my Life” is the epic piece of the album at around twelve and a half minutes in length. The tone is less muted than other pieces, but this almost muddiness is what draws the listener in. The piece, indeed the whole album would have a different feel to it entirely if the recording technique was different and the tone of the piano was, say vibrant or stark. Piacenza takes the listener on a sonic journey through twists and turns, sometimes returning to familiar territory, before escorting us elsewhere.
“I will never Forget” music from a misty past. All the creaks and noises of the piano on this occasion accentuates the feel of the piece. Musically sounding like a memory, the tone is coated in fog, but a bright and melodic sound can be heard underneath, which carries the mood of the piece. According to his website the origin of these pieces was improvisations and you can somewhat feel it in this track.
“Conversations with Myself” if piano is an introspective instrument, a track titled such as this is self explanatory. If Piacenza is indeed talking to himself, you feel it us with a heavy heart or the thought is “It’s not your fault”. The music returns from its journeys to a familiar style which exudes the introspection of the title. The music occasionally flourishes in a hopeful way, but its this inwardness that is most noted.
“Childlike Innocence” feeling like a progression of the previous track, “Childlike Innocence” has hopeful motifs that bring in light and a playful feeling. The pace is maintained and forever moving in a positive direction. You get the feeling of Piacenza at his upright Petrof full of confidence with a certain glee in his playing.
“Far Away” the improvised feeling returns. This piece is quite minimal in its playing with silence between notes being utilized. The sparse feeling is new territory for the album, it’s almost as if something has gone on a long winding journey and the place and the silences accentuating a random and distant trip.
“Unsaid Truth” the epic of the album uses the bass notes to create a more ambient effect than a traditional modern classical feel. The track opens with alternating notes before building on them. There is a slight rollicking feeling to the music. With this piece you get the feeling that the prime goal is to create tension in the music and then explore it. Cinematic in ways, Piacenza is in no rush to push the music on instead he lets each note unfurl until it is time to start propelling and embellishing the track. Towards end he returns to a more controlled and gentle playing.
“Midnight Walk” was released on Soundcloud earlier in the year for piano day and included on Nils Frahm’s Official Piano Day playlist. The keys have an echoing quality that makes the sounds ripple out with a muted ambience. The music because of the nature of the recording process has this feeling of being held in close and somewhat smothered. Such a felling lends an intimacy to the music and also a bit of a mystique. A nice way to end the album.
Piacenza proudly states on his website that “I love imperfections, you will not find here the sterile and lifeless piano sound of so many modern digital recordings, but a world full of sounds and noises, wood and mechanical interactions, pedal creaks and fingers tapping keys, breathes, slightyly detunes notes, all captured on pristine analogue gear, printed to tape and then converted to digital as the last step.”
This is apparent throughout the album and lends it its own particular character and feel. Piacenza is part of these artists that want to bring back what I guess could be perceived as real piano music. If this sounds right for, then you will enjoy “The Road to Home”.
The album can be purchased here.
James Osland, a British Audio Visual artist runs Elm Records and has released on such labels as Flaming Pines, Shimmering Moods and Audio Gourmet to name a few.
“”Gone for A While” is album built around built around a core made from field , taken from South East Asia and Europe. These were then processed using various computer software programs and a small amount of instrumentation was added throughout the album. The album was written after James had returned back to his home town after several years living abroad. He was suddenly confronted with lots of old memories that he had pushed in the back of his mind. Having lost his father not long before leaving the UK and having watched his grandfather suffer through dementia for the past seven years , he began to reflect heavily on themes of memory, loss and decay. The concept of the album seeks to explore the processes our minds go through whilst dealing with loss.”
“Once, Long Ago, When I Was Still Young” straight away we are brought into a vivid soundscape of people talking and motorcycle noises before being drifted away by large sonorous drones that rise with a swell. Tiny fragments of detritus, storm like field recordings (possibly waves crashing on the shore) add to the swell of sound creating a feeling of an impending storm which could be physical or mental. A screeching noise like drone sweeps over obliterating the storm and changes the more organic feeling the majority of the track displayed.
“High Mountains, Deep Oceans” billowing low form drones come in waves of slow-moving sound. Field recordings and melodic bouncing tones join in the tones changing the color and intensity of the piece before it changes dramatically. The next section involves harsher drones, seagull squawks and a screeching noise that rings across with an incessant din. The final movement within the track fuses an ambient sound pallet with a mournful drone, the type that may be generated by cello.
“Like Fog From The Sea, That Blackness Wends Its Way Into Your Heart” fittingly the drones here are thick and dark, the water sound field recordings have an ominous feel when mixes with the drones. Fractured glitchy electronics scatter about before organic tones and bird song give an almost pure feeling to the track. This lasts briefly before dark drones take over once more with an additional chugging sound attached to them.
“Even The Weary Living Become A Happy Dream When I’m With You” swirling wooden laden field recordings of water and rich rising drones grow, ever inching towards total sound saturation. They howl like a harsh wind before losing some of their intensity. The drones are multi layered and twist and weave flowing over each other creating this ever fluid movement. As the intensity subsides, a slightly sharper and melodic tone emerges with a pulsing static sound that cascades across, bringing with it new rich drones – or a clearer version of those that made up the harsh storm.
“In Traveling, A Companion, In Life Compassion” recordings of an Asian travel and people conversing obscures drones which are subtle enough to be ignored. Once the field recordings fade away, the drones become more noticeable and fractured chimes and a manipulated wooden sounding instrument join them. There a strong Asian feel to the track with the wooden sounding instrument tipping more in this direction (as well as the opening field recordings).
“Just Feel Me, Dear Human” a pulsing like storm rhythm that has the intensity of someone bashing and playing a bass drum leads through to a collection of layered dronescapes. The dronescapes share the similar linear feel, but the timbre, depth and intensity are all individual. A journey into peaks and troughs brings us through to a section augmented by field recordings and both a shrill and haunting sound gaining our attention. It would be interesting to see a visual accompaniment for this track.
“I Called Her Seagull” a windswept stormy drone that sounds affected by weather vibrates across and is intersected by two drones with a howling intensity that match the temperate of the storm. If this is a track inspired by bird life (as in the title), you get the soaring feeling without the obvious field recordings of birds.
“Heavier Boots” possibly the noisiest opening of the drone tracks on the album, the track returns the similar travelscape of the opening track with pristine field recordings. After both the noisy soundscape and the field recordings have disappeared, we are treated to a lush mix of electronics, floating ambience and low-key field recordings which are a welcome relief to the tracks opening and are relaxing way to end the album. More of this style is readily welcomed.
I would suggest that Osland is a more experimental Ambient composer who likes to layer, weave and juxtapose sound. The tracks that balance these elements as well as field recordings (like “Heavier Boots”) are, for me, the more successful pieces on the album.
James A McDermid is an English Ambient artist who has appeared on Polar Sees Recordings, Cathedral Transmission and 1834. This is possibly his most personal album.
“This album is dedicated to my sister, Harriet, who died in August 2016. Throughout the 2 years she was ill – leading up to her death – I had started writing music as a way to privately articulate what I was feeling. After she’d passed away, there was the question around what to do with the many tracks I had written; they had, in all honesty, been written for her. For me to perhaps leave them sitting on a hard-drive seemed a disappointing end to what amounted to, in my mind, a tribute to her. About 6 months later, I was fortunate enough to be offered a 25 track album release (titled Ghost Folk) though Canadian label, Polar Seas Recordings, in April 2017.
Her death is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me; once the original shock dissipated, a wall of grief fell on me and, as a result, I found it an almost impossible task seeing my world in quite the same way as I once had. The wear and tear of life became suffocating, so I continued with the idea of channeling what I was feeling, into music; however, coming to terms with Harriet’s death, rather than her illness, started to cloud and confuse what I was doing.
“The Vagabond” is a short and sweet opener utilizing various chimes and a slightly cold drone which comes in waves. The chimes resonate out and cast light against the drones. You get the feeling that this is a bit of letting go, as if it is environmental and the chimes are making the music by a breeze rushing through them.
“All the Shutters Are Closed” a slow building series of drones and field recording build up enveloping the listener in a storm of sound. Buried deep other drones start to become noticeable with their darker textures. They start to force their way through and are able to shine, They are deep and low drones with tendrilous sound that have a somewhat melancholic edge to them. As the track continuous the drones become more pronounced taking centre stage and proceed to wring out as much emotion as they can. A howling drone takes in the background coating the track and adding another layer before eventually taking over the track towards the end.
“I Put A Letter In My Pocket” the types of drones contained herein are ones that I always associate with being airborne and flying over everything, looking down and surveying the territory. They have that floating feeling, as well as one that has fluctuating synth generated sounds. Having the slightly experimental flourishes of the fluctationg drones give the music an extra layer of freedom, as if something is being blown away and taken by the wind.
“I’ll Take One Who Loves Me” a lo-fi opening with static/distortion and a rollicking somewhat free form acoustic guitar which is a change of flavour to the music. Music that is of a lo-fi nature for me has a more intimate nature than that of something highly produced it. It also has a sense of immediacy. In the back ground the faintest of shape shifting drones can be heard and they have sounds that compliment to the tones generated by the guitar. The drones pulse, chop and resonate as their presence becomes more defined, switching with guitar as being the tracks focal point. The guitar finishes off the track with a nice repeating section at the end.
“Bunny” Harsh storm, Field Recordings and Ghostly apparitions give this the feeling commonly associated with Ambient music that is centred around memory and how it informs our lives. What this all means is possibly only known by the artist himself.
“Within Reach” the music isn’t crystal clear, but it feels like dawn is upon us and the day is just starting with all possibilities available. Shimmering sounds radiate over a collection of drones, fractured sounds and possibly a voice buried deep within. The music is constant in the way it flows with a relaxing feel present and only briefly extends outwards. The ending of the track is the converse to the opening where it feels like things are coming down.
“Worse Than The Last Look” distorted and wind-swept sounds battle it out to be heard. The piece feels a bit more experimental than the others as a lot of the elements are buried and you can hear melodies deep within, that if not for the distorted approach to the track could totally change the effect of the music.
“If You Concede” from silence acoustic guitar, quiet voices and drones appear. The repetitive nature of the voice whispering the title forms part of the music which is loop based with acoustic parts also repeating. The music is joined by a collection of rumbling, dark distorted drones which are threatening to overflow and drone out the voice and acoustic guitar. Hypnotic in nature the track feels like a bit of tug of war between the two elements, resulting in the darker side winning, but with the clarity of the voice and guitar still being heard. Sonicly a rich track, it is more than just two sound types with a lot of layering and textures involved in creating such a heavy sound.
“Eastern Block” A relaxing warped drone track with backwards loops and icy tones that cut across. Chimes are featured, but have a very cold sound to the track, which sounds like it’s being played backwards and consists of a series of short drones. As the piece builds, the more layers are added and more complex it gets. Vocal elements add a melodic touch to it, which steers it away from being too cold.
“Last Year” Completely manipulated sounds that sound positively Sci-Fi based warp and pulse in this short-lived interlude which seems quite different from the rest of the album. I am not sure of its position on the album.
“I Saw Red, And Through The Red, Nothing” rumbling, cloaked drones that sound like they are broken up and not linear from the basis of the track. Minimal in nature, the movements are not deep troughs and high valleys, rather more entrenched in frequency and slight variations. They are layers to the piece with the top layer being more haunting, as well as a slightly ominous one that is best heard in the last thirty seconds of the track as the other elements make way.
“Faraway Too Close” field recordings of rain feel like they are washing away something. McDermid is adept at slowly drawing out the depths in the pieces and this is best displayed in this track. A horn like drone forms a rhythm while a whispered indecipherable voice repeats something that feels over and over. Melodic drones billowing in the wind add a feeling of hopefulness to the music. The contrast between the penultimate and final tracks are outstanding and show the many dimensions to McDermid’s work.
You get the feeling of McDermid’s sisters passing in the music. The album is quite moody, at times dark and at other times shrouded and buried. It’s not totally in despair, but you get the feeling that the artist is coming through the other side, such is the balance of light and dark that is either included in the same track or on different tracks. If you like music that plays with colour and shade, “Tonal Glints” may be for you.