The regular dilemma is upon me once more – the review queue continues to grow at a greater rate of reviews posted. Unfortunately there is not enough time to cover everything in-depth, so this is another part in the series of round ups.
Alessio Premoli aka Chelidon Frame last appeared in these pages for his “Granularities Vol I and II” release. Back in May he released “Left Blank” on limited cassette and digital. “”Left Blank” is a ten-track album of electroacoustic music, in which sometimes the compositions lead to ambient music and soundscaping. For the first time in Chelidon Frame’s short history, there’s a physical format: a limited batch of 30 cassette tapes in two editions.”
The ten track release, which includes the four-part “Pluto’s Moons are in Absolute Chaos” was recorded from 2015 to 2018 and utilizes instruments/sound sources including the likes of Found Sounds, Field Recordings, Synths, Guitars.
The music on this release is more in the experimental / electroacoustic /drone sphere with a certain grittiness and darkness that permeates the tracks. Alien soundtracks meet ominous tones are the hallmarks of the previously mentioned quartet with “Part IV” taking the music in a rhythmical direction which is a pleasant surprise.
The track featured below includes dialogue, glitches, dark ambience and scattershot electronics.
Overall this is a journey into sonicly unsettling territory, possibly even a soundtrack to a fictitious film. If more experimental, darker tones are your cup of tea, then this release (which comes as a pay what you want download), may be for you.
Andrew Merchant aka Triangulum is Arizona based musician whose album “Sounds of Sanctuary”, his second, comes after “Light in Darkness” and appearing on “Ambient Online” volumes 8 and 9. Not to be confused with the Hip Hop or Black Metal artists of the same name, this Triangulum releases music that could be classified as pure ambience of the glacial variety.
Living up to the album’s title, “Sounds of Sanctuary” opens up with this layered, light filled “Retter” with waves of layered drones. “Sanctum” continues in this vein with what I call higher level drones, ones which appear to soar. Tracks like “Anda” come across as peaceful religious tinged works with an imaginary choir. “Pacea” sees the darkness, well a sort of darkness, enter into Merchant’s sonic pallet which is welcome, as it adds a bit of a different texture to the pieces that have come before it. The albums epic finale “Dudemus” see Merchant distill the tracks previous to it and expand on them, utilising space, build ups and subsidence throughout the piece.
On this release Merchant shows he is adept at glacial pace drone with long form segments. It would be interesting to see how is music would change with elements such as field recordings or additional instrumentation added to expand his soundscapes. If pure ambience, the type that can be meditative is for you, then a release like this is worth checking out.
Another release from the prolific Whitelabrecs label is Valotihkuu’s “Fragile Melodies”
“Valoltihkuu is Denis Davydov who is from the industrial Russian city of Cherepovets, with previous releases appearing on Russian independent labels such as Ветер в Ивах and Unline. Denis has been active since 2010 and has amassed a discography which also includes self released projects.
Denis tends to start his recording process by searching for interesting or unusual sounds whether this be background noise or the sounds of outdoors. He then marries these with musical instruments, tape and digital sampler experiments with plenty of resampling and layering as part of the process influenced by dreams, the natural world, stargazing and childhood memories.”
If an album’s title perfectly reflected the music it contains, it’s this one. “Quiet Mist” sets the tone with music reminding me visually of early morning with steam rising off a body of water. There is a fragility and stillness that permeates the piece. Nostalgia is infused in “Wind Chimes in June” with its static soaked clanging in chimes and wispy tones. Nostalgia also reigns in “Walking Through Dew Drops On The Lawn” with its warped and woozy sounds reminding me of old home movies that have been affected by environmental factors of the years. Guitar fits in nicely in the track.
“A Dream in Summer Night” is barely there translucent music with snatches of sound and wispy ambience interlocking with field recordings. This light, gentle music carries through to the perfectly titled “The Wind Through the Treetops” which sees Davydov expand on his sound pallet with field recordings, long glacial drones that sweep and soar ever so gently. The track shows Davydov’s ability to emerge from low-key minimalism into something more grander quite effortlessly.
“Dust” sounds like toy instruments or the sound of a musical jewelry box coated in static, while the albums closer “Nocturnal Flow” ends the album on a kaleidoscope of muted tones that remind me of people who make music for glasses and the swirling fluid rhythms they can conjure.
“Fragile Melodies” is a title that perfectly fits the music contained herein. The track that stands out the most is “The Wind Through the Treetops” which is perfect distillation of minimalism meets lush instrumentation. While the original disc sold out, it is still available as part of the second Whitelabrec’s box set.
“Daliah is a Nashville, TN based Californian named John Clubb whose output to date has consisted of a tape on Chilean label NO PROBLEMA as well as self releases work. He has been mixing and recording for around a decade and his current approach is based around simple melodies, recorded on the fly with a portable midi controller and laptop. He then goes through a layering process which enables him to escape from reality as he gets lost within the loops. “Holy Mountain” is a set of recordings which serve as sombre drones and/or sleepy lullabies. The curious approach to production blends live instrument recordings with an electronic sampling approach and includes tiny fragments of detail such as field recordings and the subtle sound of breathing.”
Following on in review and release order, is another gem from Whitelabrec’s who have an impressive track record of bringing newer names to my ears (much like their sister imprint Audio Gourmet also did/does). Daliah follows on nicely from Valotihkuu with his music sounding like mini sound worlds of pulses, flashes and glitches of sound that in ways remind me a little of Oval, in concept more than sound.
“Holy Mountain” sets the tone with field recordings and its fractured, hazy sound that feels like it’s randomly triggered to get the fluttering and stuttering sounds. “Grayscale” with its short cut up, dub like pulses of sound bring the Oval comparison in before the track goes through an abstraction of broken sounds and provides an early standout. “Baxter” feels like a track that has been recorded, cut up and then put through a copying process multiple times resulting in degradation and subtly changing structure.
“Jimothy Jones” brings a more submerged, claustrophobic sound largely lacking light, while “Withering Dithets” shares the darkness, but is more concerned about longer drones and morphing sounds than the abstraction of the previous piece. The drones still share the style of other tracks with construction being from small elements, but the effect is completely different. “Break” feels like submerged sounds are rippling, with the tones oscillating and move outwards from a single drop and as they ripple out a nice melody cascades across. It is a track that is deceptively simple, but ever so rewarding over extended listens.
“Call Home” the second half of the album’s darker, murkier tracks continues with this one which probably the most abstract with its ghostly tones and echoic qualities that possess a certain fragility. The minimalism of the piece also feels like a bit of improv has creeped in, in the sense that the tones feel random. “Soaked Poms” emerges slightly from the cloak that surrounds the middle of the album, but still sees a sense of disturbance to the material in the fractured sounds, as if a signal is breaking down during transmission, only letting partial sounds come through. Mid way a vague piano melody can be heard which adds an organic feel to the track and also to the album. “Last Breath” fuses melodies, field recordings, chime like tones to create possibly the most ambient like piece on the album. The music has a tendency to float in gentle undulating patterns making it a rather relaxing listen.
The penultimate track “Some Type of Goodbye” returns to the earlier like filled sound, still with elements flickering in and out, but with a melodic and innocent feel to it that also comes across as introspective and emotional. The final track “Reprisal” feels like the most dense track on the album, composed of multiple tiny fragments that interlock in the beginning of the track resulting in a kaleidoscope of sounds layered on top of each other before becoming reduced to a handful of sounds at the end.
Daliah produces an album that revels in abstraction, layering, tones, glitches and flicker. The music is never clear on its origin of source which allows an open-ended response to the music. My only criticism could be that at 11 tracks it might be too many and that a more concise track list may provide the album with a bit more of a sonic punch.
“Happy Birthday” is the debut album by Plïnkï Plønkï, a 50 piece brass ensemble from Iceland that doesn’t exist. They decided to create an album with songs to be stumbled upon on ones special day: they chose names from a) over the world, recorded the tracks at home with the help of donated samples from home movies and collections, lending a homely and intimate sense to the songs. This desire to make the tracks feel like a memory, for the listener to be engulfed by the sensation, made for a wonderful album released of course a grand birthday – the birthday of Iceland.”
With a name like Plïnkï Plønkï you could expect to hear a certain playful sound, but opener “幸せな誕生日ユカ” (“Happy Birthday Yuka”) with its simple addition of two main elements – piano and field recordings of rain, opens the album with a nice minimalistic and clean organic feel that despite the sound of the rain, has a certain coziness or warmth to it.
“Til Hamingju Með Afmælið Guðrún” (Congratulations with the birthday of Guðrún) sounds like banjo mixed with a variety of field recordings alongside a saw like instrument that gives the track a folky feel to it and not a feeling of a birthday song. The folky feel carries onto “Födelsedagen Emma” with acoustic guitar and possibly kalimba or celesta providing the main melodic accompaniment. A melodica (or similar instrument), musical saw and field recordings also add thier own colours to the piece..
“Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Liebe Marie”, the briefest track on the album feels very organic with the acoustic guitar, field recordings and chimes having a certain innocence and joy. “Happy Birthday Emma” a solo piano piece feels a little cold and melancholic. What appears to be musical saw glides in and around the piano, which has a lo-fi sound which lends it a certain intimacy. “Happy Birthday Adam” returns to the acoustic guitar and field recordings in a lo-fi minimalist settling. Unlike other tracks which have featured more of the environment, this track’s field recordings are of the joy of waiting for guests to arrive for a party. Violin adds a mournful swathe, maybe hinting at those who have passed and can no longer be there to celebrate?
“Joyeux Anniversaire Lea” has accordion sounds which feel as they have been sampled and isolated from a 78rpm record. Chimes add to the playfulness I mentioned I would have expected of the projects name at the start of the review. They are joined by acoustic guitar and brushed drums giving the track a folky feel. Field recordings of opening presents bring forth the joy of birthdays. “Happy Birthday James” nicely blends field recordings with light, delicate hope filled piano which with its rhythmical movements is quite entrancing. I wouldn’t personally associate a track like this with birthdays until the field recordings at the very end, but it is quite nice. “Födelsedagen Oscar” has the most obvious of field recordings in regards to them and musically reminds me of a Message to Bears track in the way it sounds folky, but also shares more influences than just a standard folk piece.
“Happy Birthday Jacob” is a stunning slice of minimal orchestral music with piano, cello and washes of cymbals creating an introspective, but also hope filled piece of music that is both cinematic and intimate. For some reason it reminds me of Lou Reed’s “A Perfect Day”, perhaps its a melody that inspires this thought. “Happy Birthday” brings the collection to a close and is predominantly a field recording influenced piece with what sounds like melodica intermittently entering and exiting, being used more as a drone soundscape than a musical one.
With a theme based around birthdays you could think that the music would be obvious in its intention. Sure, the field recordings act as a marker or an influence to the music. However, I get the impression throughout the album that maybe the music is the present for the person intended. As the tracks are musically and thematically different, they could represent the different personalities of those they are dedicated to. It is also probably best to listen to this album without the concept in mind as it opens up more when you try to not to put an expectation on it. Well worth the listen.