Various – We Stayed The Path That Fell To Shadow / Gavin Miller – Meander Scars.

Lost Tribe Sound, after a relaxed entrance to 2018 with releases from Luton and From The Mouth Of The Sun, have returned to the epic subscription model that was such an integral part to their 2017 crusade. Few labels take on such challenges in epic scale and intent, and Lost Tribe Sound with their attention to detail, exquisite music, complete packaging and fostering of an artistic roster, are to be commended for their efforts, for they successfully pull off what other labels wouldn’t dare try.

With their latest subscription series they have assembled a roster that includes: Gavin Miller, Skyphone, The Phonometrician, Spheruleus, Various Artists (including Luton, Alder & Ash and collaborations from the likes of The Green Kingdom, From The Mouth Of The Sun, Kj and others) and the ever-present William Ryan Fritch.

A precursor to the series and fund-raiser (with profits going to over half a dozen different charities), is this eleven track album on deluxe CD and digital.

The compilation is comprised of eleven exclusive songs from a variety of artists both new and old to the label. It serves as perfect representation of what Lost Tribe Sound has strived to bring forth over the years with its rustic, brooding mix of classical, folk and otherwise indescribable sound. The album includes collaborations by From the Mouth of the Sun & Seabuckthorn, Manyfingers & William Ryan Fritch, Kiln & Mute Forest, kj & The Green Kingdom, William Ryan Fritch & Alder & Ash, along with exclusive solo endeavors from The Phonometrician, Luton, Spheruleus, Alder & Ash, Gavin Miller and William Ryan Fritch.”

The above description of Lost Tribe Sound’s oeuvre is perfect in its way that it captures both the tangible and intangible aspects of the sounds you hear contained in their releases. When you start this compilation with “All is Surprising to the Forgetful” collaboration between Alder & Ash and William Ryan Fritch you are transported to a celluloid world that sets the tone for the music to follow. Textures, tones, small pockets of sound that you have to search out for, flood the listeners ears. Time is taken to explore the fabric of the sound which in parts is rather still, at others bordering on feverish, but consistently beguiling. The Phonometrician is a new name and I had to check whether, like the opener, this was a collaboration, such is the fullness of sound. Consisting largely of acoustic guitar, Carlos Morales aka The Phonometrician’s track The Fall of Cormoran” creates a piece that is shrouded in a mysterious, swirling fog of sound with a minimal tribal percussion, string stabs and a glacial ambience that could be a lesser artists complete track. You can see why Morales’ music was picked up by LTS as it fits their ethos so well with its “brooding” and slightly dark qualities resonating off nicely. Luton bring a shimmering meets Modern Classical feel to their track “Step Into The Void” that with its tumbling keys and raw piano sounds that lean towards the experimental direction of these two Italian artists. As the track progresses there is a sense of reduction and of falling apart,  as the tracks prime elements dissipate over time before being covered in a shroud of static.

“I Could Live Here” Spheruleus reveals a side to Harry Towells work that I am not sure I have heard before and will have to re-visit the works of his I have. Towell has a background in more dance/electronic forms of music, but this feels like a jazz influence is somewhere at the periphery alongside loops of broken  beats (in a way like chains being dragged), shimmering ambience, upright bass and flickering electronics. Crystalline sounds radiate out while all manner of home style percussion , snatches of trumpet and strings or chime like sounds, create a ghostly electroacoustic track. Gavin Miller takes the listener on a different journey to that of his “Meander Scars” album. The acoustic guitar is present, but the feature of the track is the soundscape over which the guitar is overlayed. With dronal qualities the sounds move from contemplative to brooding with each unfurl. Miller then adds the guitar and further fractured cascading sounds to fill out the piece in sections, which builds the track and heightens the emotive quality of its parts, before pulling back gently to leave just the guitar work.

Manyfingers and William Ryan Fritch’s “A Threadbare Web” is like a fusion of an early 20th century 78rpm meets a shambolic folk/jazz troupe down a back alleyway on their night off from the circus. In a way unsettling, but captivating,the music takes the listener to a different world with its twists, turns and warped sounds. Alder & Ash brings forth a melancholic piece of weeping cello “Lest The Fever Take Them” that is augmented by strums and plucking of the instrument which gives it a feeling of a boat being buffered by the seas as the plucking and strumming moves from ear to ear and up and down the instrument. kj and The Green Kingdom and their collaboration “Bridges” is a trip into micro sound ambient. Sounds flicker, float with a sound that feels like a tape has been used multiple times and fragments of pre-recorded music ghosts in. There is delicateness to the music that along with its laid back feel, gives off a calmness without being overly sweet.

Kiln and Mute Forest with their “Bones ov Chorus” create a track that feels organically glitchy,  if there is such a thing. Acoustic based with a definite electronic core to it, the music delicately balances the two styles nicely, never once leaning more to one style. A crisp sound is noticed as field recordings are interlaced between guitar parts, fractured beats, ambience and looping electronics. It has an ever evolving moving sound which feels circular. From The Mouth Of The Sun and Seabuckthorn’s “Lesser Still” (as heard below) slowly evolves out of stormy near silence before spindly drones, acoustic guitar and banjo begin interacting. The music is contemplative enough, but when a swell of strings joins in, the music becomes very inward looking. You can see why FTMOTS have done some soundtrack work. It is definitely an avenue for them to explore as they craft such cinematic large-scale works which considering the distance between the duo, is quite breathtaking. Andy Cartwright aka Seabuckthorn’s guitar fits nicely within their sound world.

It’s fitting that William Ryan Fritch brings the compilation to completion considering how integral to the label he is and how integral to him the label is. His track “Burrow” which has hints of melancholy to it and has a deliberate almost like funeral pace. There are hints to alt country with twangy guitar, but as usual with Fritch pieces it is the sum of the parts rather than the individual sounds that make the track. Electronics add an interestingly layer as the works I have previously heard from him come from more organic instrumentation. The track, with its pace and consistent sound sources is meditative and relaxes the listener, invoking a peaceful feeling as the music and the way it floats becomes a soundtrack to inward and reflective thought.

“We Stayed The Path That Fell To Shadows” is successful because of the quality of each of the tracks. LTS finds artists that share a vision of sound and who are successful either as solo artists or as collaborators in continuing the ethos of the label. Where other labels rosters or catalog might have a variety of disparate and different sounds, LTS have consistently added artists that compliment the other artists that they have previously released. That is not say that the artists on the label sound the same. Each has their own individual approach and sound, but the standout feature is the quality of the music. When you listen to a release on this label you know that you are in for a treat of music of the highest order. This compilation, new subscription series and added artists look to be spreading more great music into the new year.

Gavin Miller recently came to my attention through two stunning releases that came out around the same time. There is this double album, “Meander Scars” and the “Shimmer” album that arrived one month earlier on the Sound in Silence label. Both works are the type of releases that make you sit up and take notice. On these albums Miller utilizes Guitar as his predominant instrument, but its the additional instrumentation that are important in directing the sonic directions of each of the albums. Each are particularly breath-taking for different reasons. “Meander Scars” for me is a perfect fit for the Lost Tribe Sound label. The music of the album has an earthy, organic, yet experimental feel, with a vision that is more than just singular and a depth and beauty that Lost Tribe Sound have become noted for.

“Meander Scars are geological features formed by the remnants of winding or meandering water channels. They are caused by the varying velocities of current within the river channel. Due to higher velocity current on the outer banks of the river through the bend, more erosion occurs causing the characteristic steep outer slopes. While his name may not be instantly recognizable to some, Gavin has been creating music for nearly a decade as of one half of the sublime electronic ambient duo Worriedaboutsatan, and has a few solo releases under his belt. “Meander Scars” Gavin’s new double albums very much a departure from his previous output. While the use of acoustics has always resided in the backdrop on many of his solo and group efforts, its plain to hear that with “Meander Scars” these natural elements have risen to the top”

The album is divided into two halves with the first half “Upper Course I to IV” featuring Lost Tribe Sound alumni and the collaborators secret weapon, Aaron Martin. The second half “Lower Course I to IV” is Miller’s original solo recordings. The collaboration was the result of Lost Tribe Sound thinking that the originals could use some extra instrumentation. As you will read further down, by doing this was a bit of a revelation for all involved. The noticeable feature of Miller’s music is the time, space and breadth for the compositions to reveal themselves. The album is like a coin. Each side, be it the collaborative version with Martin or the solo Miller originals, both give a different take on the music.

The tracks are constructed using guitar loops, Synths and a collection of additional weather affected sounds. The tracks that feature Martin add an almost ghostly spectre to the tracks and it is particularly interesting to isolate the same part in each version to access just what the difference is. Miller’s originals have near silent parts which  require headphone listening to hear the micro sounds between notes and the distant rumble that the tracks are embedded with, while Martin’s additions add to the tracks and offer a new experience.

You could line up each track for comparison, but I will focus on the track (s) “Upper Course III/ Lower Course III” which is a particular favorite and one that is hard to choose a favorite version of. The version with Martin is fuller with his cello finding ways to weave itself within Miller’s delightfully innocent, distant and memory – like music, which with its shimmering quality, that if it were changed into a visual representation would be a black and white film of a flag blowing in the breeze. Miller’s version feels slightly stripped back, but it becomes noticeable with that extra space in the track, opens up the music somewhat more to reveal different textures.

Initially when listening to this album, I was occupied while it played, I felt that there were two distinct sides to it. One side was full of instrumentation and one was stripped back and minimal. This is still true to an extent, but the interesting thing is when you start comparing the two versions of each of the four pieces, you detect the subtle changes between the tracks and how the collaborations change the feel of the music and it opens up your particular appreciation for each piece. As label boss Ryan Keane mentioned : “it was undeniable that Aaron’s arrangements had created deep new conduits for the ears to follow. Yet, it wasn’t until this moment that we fully appreciated the beauty of the original works. Torn by which versions to present as the final album, we realized why not present them both.” 

A very wise decision if you ask me. “Meander Scars” is available on deluxe Double CD and Digital.

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