The Greece based label Sound in Silence has had a consistently good year. These four releases represent just under half their 10 releases of 2018, with the most recent ones (Eternell, Sinerider, Styrofoam, Umber and The Gentlemen Losers) to follow in a later review. With a schedule that includes the likes of Wil Bolton, r. beny, Caught in the Wake Forever, Endless Melancholy and others, the future keeps looking good for this label (but how about an Absent Without Leave release?).
“Collected Fictions is made up of eight new tracks, with a total duration of something more than 32 minutes. Minimal piano chords, haunting melodic guitars, hazy synths, lo-fi drum patterns, rusted electronics and field recording tapes, all gracefully blending into a superb mixture of soothing ambient and slow-moving electronica. Beautifully mastered by George Mastrokostas (aka Absent Without Leave), Collected Fictions is a sublime album, highly recommended for devotees of The Gentleman Losers, Benoît Pioulard and Wil Bolton.”
David Newlyn should familiar to most with a catalog that has labels like Hibernate, Tokyo Droning, Mobeer, Cotton Goods, Time Released Sound attached to it.
After an interestingly warped, battered and perfectly named “Introduction (Broken Cassette Mix)” of distorted piano recording that sounds like an old 78 just dredged from a creek, “Ghost-Out” brings forth minimal percussion meets electronica meets post rock feel. The track has a relaxed, somewhat meandering laid back vibe. “Hymn to Bleachgreen” is a totally different track, being fully immersive, swirling drone. The atmosphere is full of jostling sounds and various drones coming together. Possibly an homage to a train station in Northern Ireland, the track is full, but not claustrophobic.”Travelling for a Living” is a proggy synth dominated, drone influenced piece where sounds are bent around corners and warped. Just when you think it might remain this style, minimal lo-fi skittering beats give it a focus and tie it all together. Around the half way mark it has a post punk meets synth feel, like early New Order. “Ashes” returns us to similar territory of the opener with static soaked solo modern piano which with its use of space and silence is minimal, spare with a helping of melancholy.
“Going Back” is a sound pallet of various sound sources and styles. From field recordings to ambient/drone, jazz like piano to guitar noodling. The drone that runs through it seems to be the connecting thread and with a title such as “Going Back” and the field recording, you feel that there is something personal woven into the piece. “Close Again” could have been written and recorded at the same time as “Ghost-Out” as they seem to be close relatives. Definitely more in the electronica vein with the rolling and spluttering percussion being prominent. Several drones battle over each other, but when the piano comes in the percussion stops and the track changes shape somewhat. It would be nice to hear a bit more piano and percussion as the final thirty seconds or so pairs them and they work nicely together. “About Tomorrow (Live at the Piano Shop)’ ends the album like it started on a short note. The track pairs looped crystalline piano sections with looped dialog recordings. There is a fragile and clean feel that would be nice to see it expanded on with beats as an accompaniment.
I feel that with a title such as “Collected Fictions” what you are getting are different slices of life. Much like an author who writes short stories that have different subjects, narratives and feelings, so does this album. If you are expecting a specific style you wont get that, but you will get a collection of different textures, techniques and brief detours down different paths.
“Gray Acres is the new musical project of twin brothers Andrew and Michael Tasselmyer, based in Philadelphia, USA. Tasselmyer brothers are also known as core members of Hotel Neon and The Sound Of Rescue, having released many albums with both projects, either self-released or on labels such as Home Normal and Fluid Audio. Seeking beauty and stillness, the project was born from a weekend of brainstorming in fall 2017.
The self-titled debut album of Gray Acres consists of seven wonderful tracks, containing many of the ambient elements of their Hotel Neon sound but with a sometimes softer and even more dreamy feel. Utilizing multiple layered emotional textures of immersive drones, walls of effected guitar swells, subtle piano and field recordings, Gray Acres create an impressive album that captivates the listener with its beautifully evocative soundscapes. The album was mastered by Ian Hawgood, giving more range and depth to its sounds.”
Hotel Neon have made a name for themselves over the last couple of years. Touring and regular releases have allowed them to hone their sound and their musical relationship. It feels somewhat redundant breaking down each track as the pieces work together as a whole, rather than as a collection of tracks. The duo have this gliding glacial like ambient style down pat where guitars, electronics, field recordings and snatches of various instrumentation filter into their music. They like to use time, space and pacing to let the elements draw out all their qualities, wether it be drones, the rolling storms and waves crashing on a beach. “Sightlines” mixes light drones with a tapestry of static and ever-moving sounds, “Return to Self” is deeply environmental in its soundscape, “The Maps They Held” sees grand sweeping drone reach its peak with a swirling undertone over which harp like drones flap in the breeze. “Vestiges of Form” nicely combines Dark Ambience and Glacial Ambient moving like tectonic plates of sound over each other.
“Rituals of Belief” center point is a swirling cacophony of sound with a core which moves around as drones rise and fall. “Portal” brings us slightly back from the darkness we have been experiencing over the last few tracks with hints of melody in the layered drones. They nicely combine long form drones alongside smaller oscillation ones and wrap them up in a looping, but subtle static. “A Beauty Not Theirs”feels like a track that is encompassed by layers that are slowly being peeled back revealing fragments of sound, differing textures and tones. There is something organic about it, but also something foreign.
“Gray Acres” is the kind of album for drifting. You will not be experiences vast peaks and troughs, but you will not also experience constants. It’s an album that will take you on a meditative journey, even if sometimes it may lead you to darker places.
“Ben Rath is an ambient multi-instrumentalist based in Manchester, UK, who has been putting out sublime releases on labels such as Eilean Rec., Unknown Tone Records, Cathedral Transmissions, Triple Moon Records and others. He has also put out two releases, an EP and an album, with his acoustic lo-fi side-project Slow Heart Music and an EP with his electronic side-project Astral Harmonies.
Anything Is Possible is a brilliant collection of eight new tracks, with a total duration of about 45 minutes. Using a lush sound palette with layers of grainy, drenched in reverb, synths, whistling drones, distorted warm guitars and loops of hypnotic samples, Rath creates an intimate album, full of shimmering ambient textures and wistful soundscapes, with an orchestral feel to it. Carefully mastered by George Mastrokostas (aka Absent Without Leave), Anything Is Possible is a wonderful album, highly recommended for devotees of Fennesz, Eluvium, Benoît Pioulard and Tim Hecker.”
Ben Rath’s work has appeared on the likes of Triple Moon, Cathedral Transmissions, Eilean Rec and Unknown Tone. “Anything is Possible” follows on from his previous Sound in Silence release “Forgiveness” (2016).
“It was Always Inside”- wiry wavy drones open the track into a swell of melodic, yet slightly noisy dronescapes that remind me somewhat of Alan Lamb’s recordings of electrical wires and how the sounds of the environment affect them. “Flow of Creation” keeps the wiry vibe, but smoothes out some of the edges and makes it feel like the swell of an orchestra in full fluid movement. At times it shimmers and at others ventures into retro synth stylings. “Innate Value” as soon as the track begins you know you’re in for a treat. Melodic tones bounce and hang, while guitar and the sounds of strings ripple outwards. As the track approaches the two and a half-minute mark it starts to become overwhelmed by a swell of vibrating static sounding noise that leads the track through a section that sounds like an infinity loop of broken machinery that keeps replaying the same part over, before fading away. “All Part of One” with its submerged church organ like sound buried under noise sounds like a memory or a collection of memories related to people passing away. There is a feel of the celebration of a person’s life through the organ sounds, but with the noise, it gives the feeling of time, distance and memories starting to deteriorate. As the track goes on the track breaks down further as if indicating more time has passed.
“Sacred” and the track coming after it “Joy” feel like some light has entered the scene with rippling melodic tones moving from side to side around a melodic drone that runs through the centre. Not too dissimilar from the church organ feel of the previous track, there is reflection present within the music, before it ventures through murky territory once more. It feels like “Sacred” and “All Part of One” are related. “Joy” has bright flickering and bouncing tones that move in progressions, soaring synth based ambience. It is the type of piece that you could see being played with entirely different instrumentation like acoustic guitar, but would still have a similar sort of feel to it. “Give Up Trying” feels like those bright tones that have been heard in the previous two tracks have been swallowed up in a maelstrom of sound that is full and fleshed out. Distortion reigns supreme covering the tones and subverting their original form. Glimpses of orchestral styles can be heard as the music, despite being noisy, has a cinematic edge to it that is about building up constant tension. “Anything is Possible” starts with oscillating, shimmering tones that slowly build in intensity and form, flickering and forever moving, never standing still. As the album has progressed, so to has the leaning towards the darker, noisier and visceral side of Ambient/Drone. With this track Rath gathers up the styles he has used thus far and moulds them into a single track and then puts his foot on the jugular as he keeps feeding the beast with wave after wave of static, noise and drones. You get a sense that it all has been leading up this, that he has been working incrementally to this end product.
For fans of the more intense variations with the Ambient/Drone landscape.
“Seen And Unseen is an enchanting album of seven new tracks, with a total duration of something more than 40 minutes. Cottone skillfully blends together soothing electric guitar swells, lush textures of warm synth pads, rich harmonic drones and subtle glitches with acoustic elements of delicate piano, ringing acoustic guitar arpeggios, relaxed kalimba melodies and lightly strummed ukulele chords, resulting in one of his finest works to date . Expertly mastered by George Mastrokostas (aka Absent Without Leave), Seen And Unseen is an evocative album of introspective ambient bliss which appeals to all fans of artists like Ryuchi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, The Boats, Helios and Federico Durand.“
If ever there is an artist who is consistent in their quality of output, then that artist is Michael Cottone aka The Green Kingdom. Cottone has seen (mostly sold out) releases on labels such as Home Assembly Music, SEM label, Tench and Dronarivm. Like the “Ephemera” release on Rusted Tone Recordings that followed “Seen and Unseen”, this release is also sold out any the label, but available via the artist. Actually, a good idea would be for a compilation of some of his sold out work as a sampler.
The album starts out gently with lush electronics, piano, kalimba and acoustic guitar. with “Kodama”. This perfect marriage of acoustic and electronic elements blends together nicely with each inhabiting their own environment, but also working well together. With Cottone you are always transported through to a different place and this is no exception to the rule. “Illuminations (dub)” shows off the subtlety in the music with its light static hum, guitar drones and almost percussive touches. There is a richness to all the main sounds like the guitars and drone that label boss Mastrokostas has brought out in the mastering process.The music is relaxed, but not languid, just lightly wrapping around the listener. “Woolen Sky” with its Kalimba tones, drones, guitars, possibly ukulele and drones is a fully realised piece that is ever-moving, but also stationery at the same time. Motifs keep repeating as the texture of the piece changes as the track progresses. There is a bit more insistence in this track than the previous ones, as if the mood of the piece is dictating a sense of urgency.
The relaxed, if slightly dark opening of “Cloud Wanderings” belies the journey you are about to take on in the next seven plus minutes. Slowing unfolding drones, some metallic in nature lead on to Post Rock styled guitar which is minimal and thoughtful. Approaching the two and a half-minute mark the music starts to evolve into something that can only be described as cinematic and jaw dropping. the music soars and swoons, building up but never going over the top. Piano adds just another layer of beauty as it shimmers over the guitars and drones and keeps the musical ascension going. After the large-scale piece before “Dorado” brings the listener back to a calm, meditative territory. A drone buzzes through reminiscent of one of his label mates in Aaron Martin, while kalimba adds melodies for the drones to offer counterpoint too. “Dorado” is the name of a constellation and along with titles such as “Woolen Sky” and “Cloud Wanderings” you get the feeling that lying on your back and staring at the sky has inspired this album, which in turn results in a great soundtrack to such an activity. “Breathing Sea” sounds very low-key, but not gentle by any means. there is a dark-ish drone, static, muted tones that merge together to create a soundscape that feels gentle and introspective. Acoustic guitar provides a focal point that brings the music up with it like a magnet attracting metal that surrounds it. Cottone has been making music for long enough now that he knows the subtleties and nuances that help elevate pieces and how to construct for maximum emotion and impact.
“Sleeping Forrest” fittingly brings the album to a close. Opening with layered linear drones that move like rays of sun, there is an opening calm to the track, like that of a new day. As the sun starts to rise so does the elements within with orchestral like drones, warped guitar snatches, synth pads. It’s when the piano enters the fray that you feel like the forest has woken up. field recordings of flowing water, possibly a light shower enter as the elements that were slowly building up independently of each other, join together to create quite a breath-taking piece of music.
In the press release label boss Mastrokostas mentioned about this being one of Cottone’s finest works to date. This was not an idle statement, if anything it is a slight understatement, as this could be his finest work. Twelve years into his career Cottone has reached a level few can reach and many could be envious of. Totally Recommended.