One of the struggles of doing a blog is attempting to try to cover as much as possible. Sometimes it’s easier to whittle down submissions that don’t really fit the confines or parameters that I have set up, another thing is to place emphasis on those that have more of a financial implication attached to them (ie: physical release), while others will sell out before you have a chance to get ’round to reviewing them. Eilean Rec fall into the final category. Such is the demand for their releases and their limited edition nature (all these releases where between 130 and 200 copies), they sell out rather quickly (usually before release date). Here is a brief overview of the releases I missed out on covering before. While sold out directly from the label, you can always try Stashed Goods or the arists themselves.
“Xu is the solo project from Nicola Fornasari an italian musician and composer born in 1977. He’s also part of the following bands: La Petite Vague, Xu(e), Twyxu, Zero Wait enSemble. He presents today his fifth album under the moniker Xu, and for the second time on Eilean Rec. His works have been released on Audio Gourmet, Cathedral Transmissions, Eilean, Flaming Pines, Many Feet Under, Twice Removed and more.”
Xu’s release “Whisper My World” is at the more experimental range of releases on Eilean. Joined by fellow sound artist Darren Harper on both the title track and the final track “Transient”, Fornasari utilises a variety of instruments such as singing bowls, toy casio’s, field recordings, effects pedals and others to create music that flickers, glitches, covers up and uncovers beauty, shifting at a glacial pace with an attention to revealing a clear sound design. The more experimental side comes across in tracks like “Intersection” while the likes of “Old People and Young Children” and “Whisper My World” are highlights. Fornasari is an artist to keep an eye and ear on if you haven’t in the past. You can still get copies from Nicola himself.
“Ben McElroy is an ambient/drone/folk music maker living in Nottingham, U.K. Ben’s sound is typically based around acoustic instruments such as guitar, strings and voice with a little additional computer based processing and his work is influenced by artists as diverse as Pauline Oliveros, Sharron Kraus and Ralph Vaughn Williams. Since 2016 he has recorded two full length Lp’s, on Whitelabrecs and Unknown Tone. He presents on Eilean Rec. his third one.”
I have to admit to being thrown by this release. Opening with “The Sailor and the Albatross” I was expecting a drone release. This changed with the very next track “Henry and Clara” which I would describe as Medieval Fold/Drone. This mixture of styles flows through the album. The dronier moments I can appreciate (the deep drone you can see influenced by Oliveros), but the folk ones are just not to my taste unfortunately. However, this does show Eilean stepping out and opening up the styles of music that their catalog encompasses. You can still get copies from Ben himself.
“South Londoner Bill Bawden has been releasing delicate ambient music since 2005 under various guises, most notably albums and EPs on Serein, 12Rec, Resting Bell, Audio Gourmet and Rural Colours under the name Herzog. In the other side, since 2015, he records under the moniker The Prairie Lines, and presents his second complete LP : Today Leap And Stop Time.”
The Prairie Lines made it on to my “Best of 2017” list and I am mentally, if not physically kicking myself for not checking this out further. Occupying a similar delightful soundscape as the Xu release, Bawden creates music that will make you want to shut the door to the outside world and just let wash over you. Micro glitches, static wash over hazy tremolo guitar in loop forms to create music that for you to drift of too. There are hints of nostalgia, melancholia and mindfulness permeating through the tracks. Textures change throughout, with some having a more light filled sound and others buried in static, but all are imbued with a relaxing pace for the listener to absorb it all. Copies are still available from Bill himself. Recommended.
“The music of Egor Klochikhin is inspired by the place where he grew up and now lives – Berdsk, in Siberia, or more specifically by his surrounding nature – the Siberian forest-steppe. He works with some various instruments as acoustic guitar, piano, metallophone, whistle, melodica, mandolin and percussion, as well with field recordings recorded and looped into some dreamy, lo-fi and out-of-time sound collages.
Since 2013 he has recorded two solo albums (a self-released + on Klammklang Tapes), and a bunch of tracks for some compilations, split and collaborations, and present on Eilean Rec. his third solo album: mæta.”
Klochikhin creates music that feels like it’s from the past, transmitted via warped tapes and listened to on broken machinery. Loops warble and warp, swoon and sway, varying from innocent toy instrument sounding pieces through to more orchestral drone works. While there are moments of experimentalism with the warping of the sounds, there is also great beauty that is woven through. While a track like “s04e08” manages to balance these elements, with some of the others it would be nice to be able to just focus a little bit more on the beauty that lies beneath.
“Lake Mary is Chaz Prymek, a US fingerstyle guitarist, soundscape artist and composer who dwells in the lakes and rivers of the Rocky Mountains. Drawing inspiration from the environment around him and the places in between life and death. He comes back on eilean rec. for the second time, 3 years after, at the same month, for the same color, for the same season.”
With the likes of Seabuckthorn you can see acoustic guitar playing has crept in more recently to the Ambient underground. The form can sound folky or alt country and while performed on guitar it can also have that loop form that more electronic styles demonstrate. While the opener “Goya” has vocals alongside guitar and “Junlessa” pairs Field Recordings with acoustic guitar, the album is largely a solo guitar work I have to admit that this is not really up my alley, but if you like earthy, honest music then it might be for you.
“Hannah Zhalih Mickunas is an artist living in Portand, Oregon USA.
Inrushes is a compilation of improvisational works she recorded and produced between 2013-2017.”
Zalih marks quite a detour of sorts for the label. If I am not mistaken the first singer/songwriter album on the label. The album contains Nineteen tracks of guitar and voice, some mixed with found sound/ field recordings. Following on from the Lake Mary release this makes sense and changes the direction of the label quite noticeably. This is a raw honesty to the recordings, no extraneous sounds or treatments are obvious. What is obvious is the quality of Zhalih’s voice which tends to be the prime instrument of the album. I have admitted my aversion to vocalists in the past, but singers such as Zhalih slowly melt my ice-cold heart and open up my ears. Some of the last few copies are available via Zhalih herself.
“3 years after the first Dialog Tapes project, in which artists from both labels were linked to each other in order to make a collaborative track, Eilean Rec. & Dauw label come back with the second volume. In its essence, Dialog Tapes is an ambitious attempt to connect a musical field through its own creative forces. It’s about connectivity and making new unexpected musical ties between individual actors.”
The final result is presented as ‘Dialog Tapes II’ and offers 2 exciting albums including the following artists: Autistici, Benoît Pioulard, Dudal, Emmanuel Witzthum, Humble Bee, Josh Mason, Machinefabriek, Monolyth & Cobalt, Offthesky, Ojerum, Olan Mill, Omar El Abd (Omrr), R Bennny, Steve Pacheco, Stijn Hüwels, Toàn, Yadayn .”
Eilean rec and Dauw are kindred spirits, both have a fervent supporter base and both sell out their releases rather quickly. Following a successful pairing the labels brought out another compilation spread over the two labels pairing up each labels lineup of artists to collaborate. Much link the way the labels are intertwined, the tracks on this album mine some of the best known names in the current ambient underground to present some of the finest and most fragile sounds of the year. Of particular interest is the track “Laaps” that pairs both label bosses Dudal (Dauw) and Monolyth & Cobalt (Eilean Rec) together.
“Leigh Toro has been producing music for the past twenty years as both Flotel and more recently as one half of Bamboo Stilts with Orla Wren. He returns to Eilean for a second time with ’The Eternal Navigation’ an album that took shape in an attic studio looming high above the River Derwent. The initial inspiration for the album began with a series of field recordings made on trips to Lindisfarne and other sites along the Northumberland coastline during the Perseid Meteor Showers of 2016. “
“The Eternal Navigation” is a bit of an epic album with tracks ranging from just over four minutes through to fourteen and a half minutes long. For me it’s an album of tones. You feel like Toro is on a journey to investigate sounds, tones, frequencies and how they can work and interact together. Crystalline and glistening, cold and natural, mixed in with field recordings, this is a textural ambient release with deep experimental and electroacoustic leanings. Largely electronic in nature, acoustic guitar comes through in “The Owl in Daylight” which gives it a slight pastoral feel. The fourteen minute finale “Bridges Burn Best at Night” is a times an ominous listen and as close to a pure drone track that you will find on the album. You can get this directly from Leigh.
“Since 2016, dramavinile (Vincenzo Nava) attempts to match and combine lo-fi, electroacoustic, field recordings and abstract ambient. His fourth release since 2016, “Silfra”, is the name of a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park. The rift was formed in 1789 by the earthquakes accompanying the divergent movement of the two tectonic plates. The water is filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years before reaching the spring that feeds into Silfra. The water is therefore extremely pure by the time it reaches the north end of Thingvellir lake and it allows for underwater visibility of over 100 meters in Silfra. The glacial meltwater remains very cold in Silfra, but as fresh water is constantly filling the fissure, the water never freezes and remains 2°C – 4°C year round. Silfra is said to have the clearest water in the world.”
Nava, the boss of the manyfeetunder/concrete label describes his music as “attempts to match and combine lo-fi//electroacoustic//field recordings//melodramatic abstract ambient”. His works on this release titled “Silfa I” to “Silfa X” definitely fit within this mission statement. There are electroacoustic moments which have ambient styles embedded within, alongside woven Field Recordings. For me it’s very much an experimental release, one in which the artist is mixing up sounds, juxtaposition elements and not making it too obvious for the listener. If you are lucky you may be able to get the final copy via Vincenzo himself.
“Cyril Secq learnt guitar lonely, attracted by the “noise/experimental” range of use, then he went to other instruments (piano, harmonium, rhodes, analog synthetiser, sound objects). He started the Astrïd band in 1997, with Yvan Ros. From the begining of the 2000’s, he started to produce and record albums and has played with different artists (Mathias Delplanque, Floating roots orchestra, Charles-Eric Charrier «oldman», That Summer, Sylvain Chauveau, Thousand and Bramier, Orla Wren).
Sylvain Chauveau, member of ensemble 0 and Arca, has made solo records on labels such as FatCat, Sub Rosa, Type, Les Disques du Soleil et de l’Acier, Brocoli, Flau, Nature Bliss, Creative Sources: minimal, quiet compositions for acoustic instruments, electronics, and voice. He performs worldwide and creates sound installations for exhibitions. He also makes soundtracks for feature films and dance shows.”
Cyril Secq has appeared on these pages before with the Astrid and Rachel Grimes album which also made last years “Best of” list, while Sylvain Chuveau was recent;y featured because of his ensemble 0 release on flau. Together they have collaborated before and while I haven’t heard their previous work,I have a feeling it might not be as stark and minimal as this. I get the feeling that this would be best listening to in the early hours of the morning when everything is still. If you were searching for music that is very expressive, you would not essentially find it here. The pieces show restraint and space (between sections and notes). The titles largely are numerical with the exception being the brief and vocalised opener “The River Flow” and the cover of the Eurythmics’ “Don’t Ask Me Why” which leaves the interpretation of each track to the listener. If you liked the release from Lake Mary and wished for it to be more stripped back, minimal and experiment, then this release is for you.
“A Home For Ghosts is the collaboration between Neil Carter (Carter) and James Edward Armstrong (Slow Clinic). ” The duo combine percussive and abstract textures with unconventional guitar playing techniques, prepared instrumentation and drones to achieve a vast and expansive soundscape.” “… Of A Star, Never Setting” is their third release. “
I am aware of Armstrong’s Slow Clinic, however Carter and indeed A Home For Ghosts are both new names for me. This four track album would be a double LP if it were on vinyl with all bar one track over sixteen minutes plus. On the opener “Graviloquence” the duo slowly build up a piece of electroacoustic inspired ambient experimentalism full of a variety of sound sources, creating an eerie soundscape along the way full of texture and shapes before heading into noisey drone soundscapes.”For Thirteen Years” is a darkish ambient track that feels cinematic in a Sci-fi way, as if exploring alien territories. Like the opener, it builds the intensity and intrigue throughout. “Somewhere Else (Interlude) is a jostling fast paced ambient/drone/field recording track that brings some light in through its hazy tones. After the brief spot of light, “A Record of Oneself” brings back the darker, rumbling droning tones which are rather linear until just after the half way point where they peak before remaining to be a sort of kaleidoscopic sound. While a release such as The Prairie Lines was of the melodic and clear nature, this release is definitely more in the darker, murkier vein.
“The final release to close 2018. All the music artists involved this year.
26 music artists / 17 tracks / 73.30 min of sounds. A Home For Ghosts (James Edward Armstrong + Neil Carter), Amuleto (Francesco Dillon + Riccardo Dillon Wanke),
Aries Mond,Benjamin Finger, Ben Mc Elroy, Cyril Secq + Sylvain Chauveau, Dramavinile, Emmanuel Witzthum, Foresteppe, Hannah Zhalih Mickunas, Ian Hawgood ,Lake Mary, Leigh Toro, Ljerke (Kleefstra Brothers, Hilde Marie Holsen, Sytze Pruiksma, Alexander Rishaug, Michael Francis Duch), Srúti (Omrr + Pie Are Squared),The Prairie Lines and Xu.”
The perfect overview and way to sample the wares of the label is this compilation. Covering a track from each of their seventeen artists for 2018 (all with exclusive new tracks) and including twenty-six artists it opens with the offkilter drones meets electronics of Amuleto, travels through Ben McElroy’s almost Dirty Three ish Orchestral/Folk/Dronisms, through to haze soaked wind-blown melodies of The Prairie Lines and Xu and also the layered ethereal vocals from Zhalih. Each year Eilean Rec has put out a compilation that nicely and concisely capture what they are about and where they have been for the last year. Each of them are a good entry point to the label and mark as sign posts the journey they and their artists have ventured on over the years.