The two albums that wrap up part three of the 21st of September releases come from the Canadian label Polar Seas Recordings. Polar Seas Recordings is run by Brad Deschamps who is part of North Atlantic Drift (with Mike Abercrombie) and who also records under the name Anthéne and also under the name Bradley Sean Alexander. The inaugural release was the debut release from North Atlantic Drift back in 2012 which set both the duo and the label on a course. Since then names like Celer, Hakobune, David Newlyn and Andrew Tasselmyer have appeared alongside newer names in the catalog. The releases from Mathieu Lamontagne “Obsolescence Programmée” (limited to 50 CD-r’s/Digital) and Mikael Lind “Strings and Clusters” (limited to 100 CD-r’s/digital) are their final releases for 2018.
Mathieu Lamontagne is a Canadian electronic/ambient artist who also records under the pseudonym Arbee and has previously released on labels such as Twice Removed Editions, Unknown Tone and Audio Gourmet to name but a few. “Obsolescence Programmée” is a trip through the more experimental side of Ambient music.
The label has this to say: “Planned Obsolescence. Creating with the intent of falling apart. Six pieces by Mathieu Lamontagne reflecting on our need to consume, and environmental irresponsibility. Deep ambience surrounded by electronic textures and artefacts popping up amidst a peaceful reprieve.“
“Obsolescence” the opener is brief with a sudden ending. Musically it combines melodic electronic tone with long flowing air-filled drones that wrap around and circulate amongst the tones. A slightly darker underbelly drone fills the middle ground and anchors the drone somewhat. The sounds are somewhat submerged (which seems to be ‘a thing’ these days), which I can’t help but think lends an environmental feel to the track which is alluded to in the press release.
“Au Bas Mot” aka “At the bottom of the word” is where the more experimental stylings start to sneak their way in. From the backwards sounds, the eerie tones and dubby electronics, a distant and cavernous sound that ripples outwards as if echoing around. Science fiction elements come to mind as if crash landing on an alien planet in the wet season. Chimes flicker about as do electronics, the sound of forced air, while drones cascade across like rimshots. Constructed with loops and an emphasis of revisiting, the track has constant themes and sounds that are gently rearranged for variation.
“À l’heure” aka “On Time” shares a similar sound pallet as its predecessor with the distance and depth of sound noticeable. In the foreground there are fractured electrical tones and glitches, while the background is the domain of drones. As the track moves on this separation is lost and the track becomes fuller. The way the track is constructed makes it not obvious for loops or repetition to be easily noticeable, but familiar motifs come round and around. The drones in particular have haunting/choral qualities, with the electronics having glassy tones.
“Pour une fois” aka “For Once” field recordings open the piece to give it a naturalist sound before beds of mournful drones and slightly harsh drones engulf the track with just cut up loop sections of field recordings remaining. The drones feel as if they are somewhat free form as if like the direction and force of wind indicates the way a flag flaps in a breeze, so too are the drones affected by something. As the track progresses the field recordings take centre stage and then submit to experimental electronics which have dub like feel in their sound and also their cut up/echoing qualities.
“Il est lourd” aka “He’s Heavy” brings us into the darker, completely submerged territory where you feel like you are in a darkened, wet tunnel with like light and constant water dropping sounds. This claustrophobic environment seeing glitchy, dubby slices of electronics and a drone that is melody and increasingly growing and soaring. As the track moves on it becomes increasingly thick with sound as elements from different sources converge around the same time to take it in an almost noise like feel. There is a let up in the storm of sound briefly as pulses of magnetic electronics bounce around as drones swirl before being sucked in and them looped around.
“Rigole” aka “Laugh” distant horns signal their alarm while misty drones with an air of menace hover around. A desolate environment is felt sonically with long sharp drones reaching out and finding no resistance to their forms. Buried within are field recordings and very subtle electronic loops, but for the whole this is a pure drone track. One that is consistent in keeping its focus and length and also with what I call a big picture sound – a piece of music that builds on its elements, adds variation within its course, but resists many ebbs and flows to be rather linear.
I am not sure I can sense the feelings of consumption and environmental irresponsibility listed in the press release for “Obsolescence Programmée”. For me its a drone release that is very much in the darker sphere with a feeling of degradation and claustrophobia running throughout its six tracks. If the more experimental and darker hued ambience and drones are your style, then this release may be just what you are looking for.
“Strings and Clusters” is the new album from Iceland based Swedish composer Mikael Lind, who has previously appeared on labels such as Morr Music and Time Released Sound. The album features additional production and creative mixing by Alex Somers who has appeared with his partner Jonsi (Sigur Ros) and was part of the Illuminine album “#2 Reworks” on Dauw earlier in the year.
“Strings and Clusters was initially composed in Nodal, where you can very easily write polyrhythmic music. I wrote lots of phrases for violin, viola, and cello, and had them recorded in such a way that they became building blocks for something larger. The next step was to put these phrases together in an interesting or pleasing way, and I worked intensely for a couple of months trying to find which phrases suited best in their naked form, and which I should transform through sound design techniques. 80% of what you hear on the album are from these original string recordings, but there’s always a dialogue going on between the ambient string clusters and the naked strings”
The first thing you notice when the album starts is the pacing, composition and mood creation which is evident throughout the album.
“Shapeshifting Clouds” starts off the album in a tentative fashion as it slowly reveals its characteristics. It all starts off with granular ripples and backwards swirls of sound meeting strong icy drones that overpower everything before retreating to wipe the slate clean with a collection of new sound sources. Mixing up small snatches of electronics and a collection of independent soaring strings alongside a distorted soundscape, the track seems to be going through a gestation period where it is working out what sort of piece it is. Orchestral in nature, but with experimental, ambient and electronica touches towards the end of the track its true nature is revealed – one that balances the ambient styles and modern classical styles nicely. The track also adds an element of intrigue for what you will possibly hear over the remaining six tracks.
“Frozen Waves” sharp melodic tones, flashes of glitch and deep mournful strings start off an emotive piece that is predominantly string based with subtle electronic touches. For a piece that is largely a collage of sorts, it flows smoothly with only the electronics sounding as if they are random in nature. As it moves on the track becomes more minimal in nature, stripped back and focusing on the tones that it opened with.
“Aural Disintegration” furthers Lind’s placement of strings and electronics, but focuses on the strings with impressive results. The music feels like it is flowing gently, being pushed and pulled as it changes shape with the drones being cut up. Midway through the track is reduced leaving less elements to the bring it back. Electronics buried deep in the mix assist with the strings in elevating it once more and bringing it back from the abyss. With a title like “Aural Degradation” you get the feeling that the track will completely break down, but that thankfully is not the case as the track is more about reduction and shifting sounds.
“Spontaneous Patterning” sounding like a pure classical piece with deeply bowed cello, it evolves with additional strings and is bathed in pure ambience with a distant rumble buried low in the mix. It still retains the cut up and reformatted composition style, but sounds closer to a more traditional string piece than one with a healthy dose of experimentalism. The tones are pure and are balanced between the darker bassier ones and the richer lighter ones. As the track ventures through different territory it has a cinematic feel to it, but one that is open-ended and for the discretion of the listener to decipher.
“How Things Disperse And Combine” the layering and positioning of various string pieces is more noticeable on this track, as well as the electronic involvement in it. It feels as if there are separate string sections with one conductor that is putting them slightly out of time with each other to give this fractured, disjointed, but dense track. As the press notes mention dialog between naked strings and ambient string clusters, you feel this more on this track than others. The composition is shown through the music with the way the strings interact and the electronic ways that the track disintegrates and rebuilds.
“Disordered Mechanism” ascendant strings straddle the fence of Ambience and Modern Classical with the most obvious electronic features of the album making the presence known. The electronics, like their counterparts throughout the album, have a dark rumbling quality to them, but are also free form in their part in the composition as they follow rhythms, then sound independent of the other elements. They also share qualities with the cello and the source of them could be this heavily processed and distorted instrument. The latter section of the track is reclaimed by Modern Classical styles of gently layered string pieces with natural sounding ambience.
“Beauty Through Repetition” sounding ominous, like a boat that is about it sink, cello wails mournfully with the deep tones being particularly effective. A collection of strings support the cello, as do chopped up sounds. While not sharing the same tone, they have the same mood, possibly even exultant in their sounds. The music starts to slowly shatter and disintegrate leaving only cello to continue with its repetitive style through its degrading sounds. The final minute of the piece sees the music retreat to the outer limits of hearing before finally disappearing.
What you will find with this album is gently paced release where ambience and modern classical can be fused together with an experimental take on the music, and at other times allowed to explore their own skins. A note should be made of the mixing and mastering by Paul Evans and Paul Corley respectively for how rich and vibrant the record is. The tones of the strings are so crystal clear, that when you lie back with headphones on and at a decent loud volume you feel in the room with the instruments surrounding you. If you are looking for a more traditional modern classical release, this may not be for you. However if you are looking for a release that is about exploring musical genres, instrumentation and techniques to re-think what a modern classical release is, then this will suit you perfectly.