September 21 (plus or minus a day) brought varied releases from both the artists featured in this post as well as others who will feature in following posts. From the electronic meets piano soundscapes of Bruno Sanfilippo, to the darkened rumble of kj, the futurist ambience of Mathieu Lamontagne, the orchestral works of Mikael Lund and finally experimental dronage of M.Cadoo & P. Stephan. What it shows is that there is a diverse selection of music being released on a regular basis. We kick off with Bruno Sanfilippo and kj’s sonically different albums.

“InTRO” is a re-issue (and revision) of Sanfilippo’s 2006 acclaimed album, analog remastered by Ian Hawgood with redesigned art featuring the original photographs by Helyn Davenport. Sanfilippo is no stranger to this blogs short life and is once of the most varied and adept performers/composers under the umbrella that is Modern Classical, for which he is arguably best known. Sanfilippo has brought a reissue of his 2006 release alongside 2 compositions from the same year “InTROpolar” and “InTROsense”.

“In his nine compositions of imaginary ‘InTROspective’ Sanfilippo explores the interest in the unfettered possibilities of dreams. It;s impact is strongly imaginative and cinematic, featuring nice piano interludes, great synthesizer pads, field recordings, soft soaring sound textures and transparent soundscapes.”

“InTROworld” gives an aural queue with the word “world”in the title. While not sounding exactly like Muslimgauze, I can hear cues that lead me in that sort of direction. Percussive loops that maintain throughout the track are important in creating this mood and feeling. While I am unaware of the instrumentation included in the track, but the use of saxophone gives it a middle eastern feel. Hypnotic in nature the track marries beats with fluid soundscapes that make the track float along easily in its nine plus minute length.

“InTROmental” is a trip through varied textures and sound sources, predominantly beat less with an emphasis on layering. To call it drone would be cutting it short, but it shares similar characteristics as well as following on in the dare I say it “World Music” style of the opening, with a certain otherworldliness involved as well in the synth oscillations.

“InTROsacro” again the title hints at the possible feel of the music, with sacro meaning to combine form. The track is a swirling, cavernous one where you journey into an echoic environment with a slight hint of darkness that is lurking around corners. This track feels to be about creating a section of moods through various movements contained in it. Parts of field recordings seep through sounding like someone speaking in tongues, waves of Synths give icy feelings, but also allude to the sound of a choir. You feel like you have been taken on a science fiction journey through an almost un-inhabited territory with dank marshes, steam, mist and little light.

“InTROpiano” brings in ambient soaked piano that matches the slow pace of the drones that envelop it. Sanfilippo utilizes the instrument in a way instead of it being the focal point, it becomes part of the building blocks of the overall sound. The piano manages to steer clear of identifiable themes such as melancholy or despair, joy or frivolity. Rather, it feels self reflecting with the minimal passages fitting right in with the gently swirling soundscapes that open up individual listeners perception to the music.

“InTROvoices” has a glacial pace ambient mixed in with field recordings of bird song, that sounds all together like a choral piece. An impending storm has an orchestral feel where the crashing thunder sounds like classical drums being beaten. The music is like an ever flowing stream, curiously winding around areas with the field recordings and storm sounds returning from time to time. Musically the track sets you in a meditative mood with its tranquility setting you at ease.

“InTROvisions” taking in a richer tone than the last track “InTROvisions” sounds like it is melding orchestral traditions in a drone piece. The instruments themselves are indistinguishable with all rough edges smoothed out to create this sound that flows as if it is being taken by the breeze. There is a crystalline feeling to the track that threatens to shatter.

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“InTROpassion” following on from “InTROpiano” we see Sanfilippo behind the keys, once more utilizing the instrument, but this time it has a more central focus to the track and draws in other instruments such as strings, brass, chimes and electronics. Leaning on a romantic feel, the track also has an ethereal feel to it which is demonstrated by subtle techniques such as backwards sounds, ambience and chimes.

“InTROpolar” while not on the original album, this track fits in nicely as it shares the similar DNA that make up the other tracks. Haunting sounds, field recordings, loops, strings and electronics come together to create a track that is a fusion of darker and lighter elements, but still has a flowing nature to it.

“InTROsense” you get the feeling that Sanfilippo has commandeered a church organ and recorded this piece in a church. The sound is full of an array of melodic and slightly glassy tones, voices career around the track like ghostly apparitions. The pace is lugubrious with a feeling of this is possibly a funeral piece for the passing of someone.

I am more used to hearing Sanfilippo behind his beloved piano, but comparisons can be drawn from this album through to 2018’s “Unity” in style and composition. It is interesting in going back into an artists catalog to explore and hear how they have developed. These earlier releases (“InTRO” was his ninth of his approximately twenty-five albums) are more than just parts of a discography, they are road marks on a journey of building knowledge, skill and technique. Go back,  listen to this album and see where the journey has taken him.

“Ex” is kj’s (Kj Rothweiler) third album following his release on Lost Tribe Sound from 2017, “Swells”. Described as “a wandering into the dark side of nostalgia – labyrinthian refrains evoke the mind’s tendency to reach for the past”, this eight track album (which features Aaron Martin on the final track) is a journey through sound, ever so slightly taking us into the shadows.

“Maze” is a track that confounds the rest of the album. Usually the opening track can, like in other art such as literature or film set out a general roadmap of where the journey will take you. This short track which creeps in at just under a minute has sounds that bounce off each other in glitch style without being glitchy. In the background there is cavernous sounds like distant bass drums being thumped and echoing off. A melodic ambient core runs through the center of the piece and the rippling sections give it a nice IDM feel. It would be nice to hear this fully developed and expanded and is it has the hallmarks to be a particularly interesting track.

“Caro” gives us a broody track that pairs piano, electronics and what sounds like double bass. Working in a repetitive structure the track expands on this by adding delicate crystalline shimmering piano flourishes that when combined with the other components give the track a real noir feel. The way the instruments are layered gives this orchestral meets almost electronica feel. The electronica feel I mention is not strong, but it feels like its lurking just out of attention. There is a strong cinematic feel to the piece with its revisiting of motifs and instrumentation alongside its careful pacing which emphasizes this style.

“Ex” is a swirling almost claustrophobic piece that sounds submerged as the instrumentation is ever-moving and rolling and folding upon itself. Snatches of backwards sound enter the fray and bring a somewhat murky clarity and elevate the piece in intensity and fervor. You cam almost make out melodic themes that are entrenched within the music as twists and turns. With the end in sight suddenly the sound almost drops out to low-level drones that sound tranquil and maybe its tinnitus, but this gives me the sound of slightly disrupted silence as well.

“Sile” while no instrumentation is listed for the compositions music sounds like a fusion of electronics and strings that are manipulated to create these tensile drones that at times are strong and forceful and at others, brittle and gentle. While staying predominantly in darker territory, there is a definite grading of texture and light that filters through as the drones combine & separate, and enter and retreat.

“Thursday” the labrynthian sound mentioned in the press release is demonstrated in this track, which sounds like the music has been cocooned. Again, cinematic in nature, through the murkiness you can detect this soaring music mixes in with detritus, darker drones and shards of noisier sounds. It leaves you on the precipice waiting for the seal to break and just flood out. The music feels like it has been recorded by a full orchestra and then just enveloped on sound. I personally would have liked to hear at the end just the roar of the music as it escapes its confines.

“Room” you get the feeling that the music you are hearing is a reimagining of another piece. The drones contained feel as if they have been reversed and warping which changes characteristics such as tone and length and affects the feeling that is gleaned from them. A wistful tone is embedded between the flashes of drones which them leads through to a wind soaked section where if you were visualising the perfect environment the music, it would be a clouded overcast day seen through black and white. Entering the second half of the piece more orchestral like progressions appear that bring forth a calming sound to the piece, which still features the cut up technique.

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“You” sonically this track stands out instantly. The similar tone and sound design of the previous tracks is evident, it’s the instrumentation that makes it stand out. Sounding like guitar and another instrument that I cannot be clear on (could be piano or even a mallet driven instrument) which has a melodic, but glassy sound, the two main instruments mirror each others style with a slightly offkilter arrangement making them fall in between each other in the placement of notes. There is a hope in the fractured and mirroring notes that rings out in loop like form, echoing and existing in a similar way to how drones exist.

“Foxes (feat. Aaron Martin)” following on nicely from the tracks before it, this with possibly the exception of “Maze” feels like a distillation of all that has gone before it, with the addition of Aaron Martin on cello. The submerged tones are present covering up melodic lines that occur in loop form under a bed of rumbling detritus which is joined by Martin’s slow drawn out cello. I find Martin works exceptionally well when in collaboration with other artists (just look to his work alongside Machinefabriek and as part of the duo of From The Mouth Of The Sun with Dag Rosenqvist for proof). For this track he ironically adds in the light aspect with his cello work that can traditionally take music into deeper, darker territory. The cello has a lyrical feel that slowly unwinds and as you concentrate more on it, it becomes more expressive as the track continues and adds a varying element to the loops underneath it.

Rothweiler clearly enjoys the submerged soundscape that doesn’t reveal all its textures and characteristics on first pass. The music needs to be listened and re-listened to pick up the nuances contained within. At times you feel like you are stumbling around in the dark with little or no light to lead you through, but with the textures you can sense shape and form that help guide you on your journey. For those who like darker tones and music that requires unwrapping.

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