Joel Tammik is an Estonian artist who started playing bass in school bands before moving into electronic fields, initially with local jungle duo LU:K before starting a project with one of them under the name Myrakaru which resulted in an album and 7″ single. After parting due to musical differences, Tammik ventured in a solo guise and started releasing music on labels such as U-Cover, his own Våli imprint and …TXT. “Imaginary Rivers”, available on CD/Digital is released on December 12.
“…TXT fans will recognise Joel Tammik from his contributions on the Nagual series boxed sets. Now this stalwart of the Estonian underground electronic scene lets open the flood gates with “Imaginary Rivers” as his first full length release on the label… and with it, Joel takes us on a deep analogue inner journey that drifts and meanders along the waterways of the mind.“
The music of “Imaginary Rivers” is like a musical drift. The tracks contained feature rich swathes of Synths, electronic squelches, minimal percussion and dubby bass lines. The opener “Ashtrahal” feels quite free form in its composition and the way that it changes through out. There are consistent motifs like the bass lines and the squelchy electronics, but the track goes through several movements, or reductions, where elements come and go. The main instrumentation seems to juxtapose each other with the Synths being ambient/drone like in their length and the squelchy and dubby sounds being more truncated. The sound is also full with flickering percussion that sounds like water splashing, as well as cymbals and low-level flashing electronics. “Yleus” fits in a IDM meets Prog Synth framework. The track slowly unfolds with instrumentation being patiently layered in. Like the opener there is a contrasting sound pallet, but for the most part the track is light filled. Loops are evident in the composition process as if Tammik is piecing together parts of sounds to form a musical fabric. The bass line almost hints at propulsing the track forward, but for now, Tammik shows restraint.
“Satuve” moves more from the cerebral side of things to a beat orientated sound. Tammik still utilizes Synths that verge on sci-fi proggy sounds, with clear crystalline tones layering on top of each other. Motorik beats and micro dubby bass lines form the underbelly upon which the textural synths build upon. As the track progresses in the intensity in the music slightly increases with a sonic richness before gently ebbing away. “Sunh” the beat direction that Tammik started off with “Satuve” continues on with “Sunh”. The track feels like it nicely fuses the two main sound influences – from the proggy Synth and the dubby elements that tend to nicely fill out the space in the tracks. The percussion is not overly intrusive, but it helps in giving the track a foundation and also a bit of a focal point. The track also highlights Tammik’s layering of a variety of Synth styles. “Neutuva” opens with minimal beats and cascading rhythms before being joined by noise and scattering Synth sounds. Sounding suitably retro and early ’80s influenced, the track is the most pounding so far. Dark Synth drones bring some menace to the track and changes the texture of the piece. The track feels like it has a goth or dark electronic influence.
“Verth” continues the change in mood and atmosphere that has been observed over the last couple of tracks. The structure of the track is more akin to the earlier tracks with its somewhat free form meets loop approach, with sounds seemingly cascading off each other creating a kaleidoscope of sound. The tone is dark and the sound cavernous as if echoing of walls. “Srauru” after a tentative opening picks up speed with the various percussion carrying the track, while the layered Synths splutter, swirl and spread outwards. The track eventually settles into a relaxing, chilled, bordering on groove paced piece of music.
“Nuari” brings forth a piece that balances loops, ambience and ventures into near cinematic territories. Sounding like a current soundtrack of an old film, Tammik seeks to take the music further than before. Elements are progressively introduced building up the track and contributing to the overall filmic nature of the piece. The music is full, but never claustrophobic and balances the layers, from the rumbling looping and pulsing bass through to the orchestral like Synth drones and pulsing waves of Synths.
On his Facebook page Tammik describes this album as an Ambient album. While it definitely has an ambient thread that unites it all together, it is not till the final track “Ithea” that the ambience is at the heart of a track. Metallic minimal breakbeat percussion is buried deep down, clipped Synth, dark robotic bass lines are added gradually changing the texture away from ambience through to an experimental electronic section before bringing the ambience back once more.
The music contained on “Imaginary Rivers” for me leans towards an experimental electronic style. Loops and layering are integral as well as the Synth work. The music seems to straddle styles and ideas. When percussion is involved it doesn’t steer the music in a more IDM vein, rather like the synths, it becomes an element or a motif within the tracks which is used as a building block of sound. Looking back to earlier in this review I mentioned the term drift. The music is the type that because it’s not being pushed into a specific style or feel, it has this propensity to move in its own special way. As Tammik had been releasing music under his own name since 2004 you get the feeling that music contained within “Imaginary Rivers” coalesces his influences which results in the sound of the pieces.
au Voyage also sometimes known as Invitation au Voyage have appeared previously on the …txt label before on the “Nagual”, “Nagual 2″,”Nagual 3” and “Nagual 4” Memory Stick compilations and one release on the Irish label Bakroom label. “Craosa” is their first full length album consisting of 30 tracks ranging from fifty-five seconds in length through to six and half minutes long that come from the first three “Nagual” releases.
“au Voyage mixes a blend of bespoke analogue and digital technologies in order to abstract a sound world that is inspired by the landscape. This is realised in the artist’s first CD release for TXT Recordings in the form of ‘Craosa’: a subtle collection of snapshots, vignettes and voyages.“
It’s hard to delve into 30 separate tracks to review, but I will isolate a handful. The thing that comes to mind with such short pieces is their ability to be used as part of a soundtrack. Their vignette quality lends to moods being conjured by the listener. The album is essentially divided into thirds with 10 tracks from each compilation.
Off the first ten tracks the opener “Ambion” forges a path too lead the listener down. Space age lush ambient that floats and gently twists, nicely balancing between icy cold and melodic. It’s the perfect track to open up the release to as it hints at a journey to follow, but also eases the listener in. “Median” has a hint of otherworldliness with its darker tones, throat singing like drones and the way the music seems to hang and slightly fall rather just drone outwards. “Copeic” demonstrates the soundtrack-esque qualities mentioned before. You feel the music is a twisting, moving live organism that is traveling away from a source. The kind out piece that would be perfect in a documentary about planets and far distant galaxies. “Serasus” combines a hazy dust soaked ambience with delightful melodic tones that carry a sense of something new or reborn. Interacting with both these elements are long drones which complement them nicely. The way it starts and finishes gives it a feeling of an excerpt of a bigger piece.
“Tetratrope” ventures more into electronic forms than ambient, like it is at that intersection where ambient and electronic pieces sometimes bisect each other. Built using four different motifs from Ambience, Synth stabs, crystalline keys and a glassy sounding section, it never strays from its early intention of balancing those sounds. “Parthian” if distant ambient music is a thing, then this a fine example. Having a gentle glacial like pace (and cold tones), the music feel like it’s from a distant and relatively flat place. You get a sense of complete isolation. “Ionium” is only just over a minute in length, but its length belies the promise it has if it was extended 4 or 5 times its length. It balances out the melodic drones nicely with dark pulses breaking through which change the texture of the piece and give it a slight moodiness. “Morus” balances the glacial coldness of “Parthian” with the dark pulses of “Ionium”, this time extending them. Slipping in between these is a melodic section that still retains a coldness, but hints at light coming through. Almost an opus at three minutes and eleven seconds, it shows nicely what au Voyage can do with more time.
“Maclura” takes the music in the darkest direction on the album with shuddering dark electronics that pulse with a sense of menace. Never going over the top, but still emphasizing a darker feel than the other tracks on the release. “Castilla” has dialogue of a warped variety mixes in within its ambient/electronica framework. Again, a short piece it hints at being from a bigger piece and adds a bit of mystery overall as to what the artist is trying to express or convey. “Flavescens” is the longest track on the album clocking at just over six and a half minutes. With this time available au Voyage takes a relaxed approach. The journey takes the listener to light, floating atmospheres where the drones, despite being slightly dark in tone, are light in weight and air-filled. Basically I would call this pure or classic ambience in the way in which it unfolds within such a minimalist framework. It is a perfect example of the enjoyment you can get from something relaxing and meditative.
At thirty tracks in total there is a lot to get out from this release. Some tracks are teasingly short, but at an average of just under two and a half minutes long, most tracks appeal will to the ambient listener. The album, released on November 14 is available on CD and Digital.
Wil Bolton is a regular in my collection. Through releases on labels such as Home Normal, Sound in Silence, Rural Colours, Eilean Rec and Dauw to name a few, as well as collaborations in The Ashes of Piemonte, Ashlar, Le Moors and others, he has been consistent in his quality of music. His most recent album “Viridian Loops”, released but …TXT came out on CD/digital on November 14.
“While no stranger to the label as one half of Orphic Signals and Ashes of Piemonte with Lee Norris, ‘Viridian Loops’ sees Wil Bolton release his first solo album for …TXT
As the nights darken and the winter chill starts to creep in… Let this album transport you to the exotic island of Sri Lanka, where Wil’s field recordings of his time spent there intertwine with the analogue warmth of looping synths and enigmatic, dreamy melodies.“
“Dawn Sequence” straight away the sounds of Sri Lanka fill the air to be wrapped around by a selection of tones that either oscillate outwards in a near looped glitch like fashion, while others drone out like a harmonium. The hustle and bustle of the street recordings are somewhat mirrored by the tones, but the tones have a melodic heart to them which opposes the harsher transport sounds. The tones sound like they are spreading out in different directions, warping this way and that. With the beginning of the track they ease into the piece, but by the second half they become more intense, almost like they are growing as the track evolves.
“Canopy” I would describe this as a pure drone track, one that uses elongated motifs that move through out the piece creating a dense piece of ambience. The drones are complimented by a selection of field recordings (transport sounds and insects) and progressive Synths that sound in a way similar to wind chimes, in the way that they run. One can only imagine the environment in which the field recordings were captured and their relationship to the music and its title. I would hazard a guess that the environment was over cast, humid with the prospect of rain, as I get these feelings with this dense, thick piece.
“Woven Geometry” the epic track on the album is one that nicely pairs field recordings of insect and animal sounds with a variety of Synths passages. Much like the title, the elements are woven together and are balanced equally 50/50. The track follows in the darker sounds of the previous track, but also mixes it up with the vast amount of layering within it. Synths tones bubble and static horn like sounds float above a soundscape which is consistently moving and changing its texture.
“Returning Darkness” the drones this time have a rusted metallic edge as they cut across in linear fashion. Synths oscillate and bubble underneath with field recordings being layered under the them. Sonically the harshest of the tracks thus far, it still fits in with the established template of the album. There is a distinct weight to the piece that is probably due to its thick sound pallet and the way that it is evolving with the synths both adding a noisey edge, but also a hit of melody.
“Vale” On this track Bolton sounds like he has donned his cape and gone all synth wizardly. The music seems to combine proggy/ Sci-fi elements with open experimentation, natural ambience and oscillating keys. It feels like the equivalent of things like equipment dying with sputtering and random tones that have started to fade out from the tracks beginning.
“Viridian Loops” Viridian is a blue-ish Green-ish color which has me intrigued in relation to the music and the field recordings. Not knowing a lot about Sri Lanka I hazard a guess it could be a reference to the environment, in particular the tea that Sri Lanka is so famous for. This could be explained by the image of the cover photo and the colour scheme of the art. This particular track sees Bolton return to the more ambient feel that he exhibited in “Woven Geometry” capturing the same influence of synth tones and field recordings. The Synths come in two distinct styles – long graceful ambient and a shimmering, looping wavy synth. Both work well together to create quite a relaxing track and one that is enhanced by the bird song of the field recordings. It is a nice way to end the album on a relaxing track.
I have to admit the use of synths in a way threw me slightly, but when you listen to this album and the preceding two, it makes sense as all three releases share similar qualities. The sound of this (and all three releases in fact) are rich and vibrant, with the field recordings being particularly crisp and make you feel part of the environment.