The Catch Up: A Veil in Water / Kirill Mazhai / A Spot On The Hill / Simon Mcorry / Ashlar.

I take submissions seriously. When people send me their music, it is more than just songs. It’s a culmination of their time, effort, trials, mistakes and successes. The amount sent means that things have a tendency of slipping through. Here is another brief look back to those that have been patiently sitting in the queue.

“The second album by the Norwegian music act A Veil Of Water, following his debut album from 2013 ‘Reminder’, which was also released on Hidden Vibes. Self-taught in piano, drums, guitar, and bass, Rune Trelvik has drawn inspiration from a wide array of musical styles utilizing essences rather than direct influences by the bands and genres he appreciates. Experimental in nature, A Veil Of Water has been mostly associated with post-rock and neoclassical styles, yet remains faithful to its reoccurring melancholic theme. In short, A Veil Of Water tries to capture fleeting sensations, momentary glimpses, and feelings of longing, producing a musical representation of his internal world.”

Rune Trelvik is a man mountain. Impressively bearded and covered in tattoos, he looks more at home in Game of Thrones than behind a piano. But, looks can easily deceive as behind the viking exterior Trelvik can unleash moments of sheer beauty behind his chosen instrument. Following on from his previous album “Reminder” (also for the Ukrainian label Hidden Vibes) “Late Night Loneliness” is a gentle paced piano and drone album that lives up to its title. Time , pacing and space are given to the tracks to best convey their moods. “Everything Ends” sets the scene with its slow melancholic pacing before “Frailty” blends drone and other sounds to create a bed for the piano to lay upon.”If I’m not Perfect By Tomorrow” sees Trelvik expand on his instrumentation with guitar entering the picture with a raw post rock feel. The subdued, internalized sound of before is swapped for a more euphoric take on music. “Covet” follows on with this new direction with buried vocals and layered guitars and string instruments. Musically I find it more on the indie/post rock borderline.

“To Fade With The Morning Sun” sees Trelvik’s music at its most fragile with delicate, muted tones mixing with orchestral like string drones to fully capture an innocent mood. With “Above Oceans” starts of in a similar style as “To Fade..” but half way into the track after a brief moment of silence the intensity and pace of the piece picks up and the track emerges with drums and guitar with an earthy post rock sound.

Much like the way the album opened with “Everything Ends”, the finale “In Safe Arms” is a thought out piece of solo piano. While the opener was very introspective and melancholic, there is a new-found confidence that starts to peak above the music with its confidence being shown in the weight of the playing. Albums by artists that are predominantly pianists usually can either be solo piano, piano with electronics or piano with drones. Having that Post Rock almost singer songwriter indie feel gives Trelvik a bit of an edge and breaks up the album somewhat.

“This album was made between August 2015 and March 2017, which was in some way a transition period for me. Some life stages ended, some relationships failed, some changes happened. All the tracks on the album are dedicated to several places from those times, that meant or still mean something very special to me. A house by the lake, an apartment on the first floor, a park in the middle of the city – the places that stuck with me for a long time and don’t let go.

It’s a tribute to those times, but also some kind of closure. The album was mostly a reminder to myself that when you feel attached to something in one way or another, you need to keep going, to move forward, that you really don’t belong anywhere. It was a reminder that it’s never too late to move on.”

Kirill Mazhai is a Minsk, Belarus based artist whose work has appeared on the likes of Fluid Audio, Shalash and Shimmering Moods Records (which put out this album). “You Don’t Belong” is a pure ambient release of the lowercase glacial style, comprising seven tracks all named after location co-ordinates. The tracks feel like they are all inter connected and part of a bigger picture. They are constructed by lush, melodic (if not buried) drones that move slowly and tantalizingly over each other , creating long linear pieces built for floating along with. The centrepiece is arguably “N59.957534 E30.323258” which you can check out below. It feels more shimmery and environmentally affected. The location is the Petrogradsky District in St Petersburg, Russia. A commercial and desirable Real Estate area it is full of history such as the Peter and Paul Cathedral and the Leningrad Zoo. The second epic “N60.571260 E30.226697” refers to an area that has changed hands between Russia and Finland over the years. This piece is quite moody, while still having  a hazy, wavy and shimmering feel. The music feels like it’s under a cloak. It is sonically similar to his “Small Hours” release, possibly a bit more submerged. It would be interesting to hear it with crystal clear sounds and see what depths the music holds, as right now, while it is nice, I feel I am missing out on the levels I am sure the music contains. The cassette for this release is sold out, but a handful of cd-r’s remain.

“A Spot On The Hill is the latest musical project of multi-instrumentalist Dan Cook who previously played in indie rock bands The Verna Cannon and Lay Quiet Awhile. Falling somewhere between Ambient, Post Rock and Contemporary Classical, A Spot on the Hill’s debut album “The Tenth Wave” features ten tracks of fragile instrumental music composed of piano, violin, digital keyboards and acoustic guitar.”

When a musician has a past that is not rooted in their current music it tends to, in my opinion put them in good stead. Take for instance Olafur Arnalds hardcore background. Cook has been in bands that have released on labels such as Southern and Cargo. You get the feeling that the past twenty or so years have been filtered somewhat into this, his solo debut.

Opening with the solo piano meets folk drones of “Trust Fall 2.0” Cook gently, but intriguingly eases you into the album. A bit of a gothic charm to the track (no, not that horrible kind of gothic), it lets you know you are listening to someone whose music is not one-dimensional.  After the hypnotic “Repeat After Me” Cook introduces acoustic guitar into the mix with “What’s Gone Burns On”, an introspective piece and one that benefits from the digital keyboards to add an extra depth to the piece. The album feels like it has been building up to the title track which nicely pairs piano and violin, which balances the sounds and emotions between each instrument nicely. The tone of the piano conveys hope, while the violin’s wail is more acceptance than melancholia. Cook nicely paces the track and isolates the piano at times to alter the mood. By the end of the track shuffling percussion is added which gives me feeling of the Dirty Three  when played alongside the violin and enforces the tracks Post Rock pedigree.

The three middle tracks “A Time to Heal”, “Piano Cannon” and “Fourth Floor Drone” sees Cook experiment somewhat with the additional sounds to a certain degree of success. “Fourth Floor Drone” is the weakest of the three that I think would benefit from being stripped back, “Piano Cannon” (A reference to his previous band?) nicely mixes minimalist piano with a consistent bassy hum while “A Time to Heal” has nice piano and acoustic guitar, but I am not that found of the warping sounds that are wrapped around the instruments. The noisier droning sound that comes on in the final third of the track works somewhat well.

The final trio of tracks are a return to form mining minimal styles and letting the unforced beauty through. “The Glass Ship” is the most expressive of these and is a joy to listen to with its hopefully piano and playful lines.”Three Minutes Hate” strips the music back to the bones with silence and pacing being integral to the piece. The violin drones are especially subtle and act as a supporting element rather than a co-element. “What if I was Wrong?” with its strident piano and light howl of whispy drones through its use of repetition conveys the title perfectly. The piano has the introspective feel, while as the drones start to howl more, the convey to me, anxiety of mistaking and interpreting something wrong.

I haven’t checked out Cook’s previous work, but as an opening salvo you can see the framework for where he could take this project in the future. Further instrumentation and exploring of emotions could see the music expand and I would have no doubts that Cook is more than capable at doing this.

Sounds define our perception of the world: from the chaotic Indian markets to the inscrutable English forests, they envelop everything we know and experience, and intensify our sensations. Among those sounds there are hidden melodies, travelling in the ether, which can be isolated, reworked, and transformed into more complex compositions: the representation of a particular moment, environment and atmosphere, combined with the unique taste and feelings of the person who reinterpreted them. With Song Lines, Simon McCorry studies our ability to listen: travelling through space and time, he catches strands of melody and transforms them into cultural impressions, shifting from East to South Asia to Africa to Eastern Europe to Western Europe. Never ever actually being any one thing.”

This album released on Cassette and digital in late July of last year could be described as environmentally affected glacial drone with hints of classical elements. The album’s music stays for the most part in the howl that you get from a gale. But, that said it is not one-dimensional. The drones that are contained within as they unfurl, change from being quiet fragile through to overwhelming.

The opener “The Third Stone” sets out a slow-moving template that starts to take shape after the four-minute mark with the drones becoming more tactile and the sound pallet becoming denser with a fuller sound that includes a variety of field recordings which are used subtly. “Whisperer” incorporates a darker rumbling drone at the beginning which separates it straight off from the previous track. A selection of strings layer and compete each other with different textures and coming in at different angles. There is a purity in the sound that makes me feel about the early dawn where the grass or shrubs are covered in dew and the sun is just starting to rise.

“The Stars in the Firmament” take the lead of “Whisperer” in regards to the strings and take it more moodier, darker, almost folky direction. The strings have weight and the notes hang and haunt as they slowly dissipate. The feel of the track for some reason makes me thing of a traditional folk song with deep, but dark meanings embedded within it.”Undefeated’ is the album’s epic at just over sixteen minutes in length. The drones for the track are long and linear weaving over each other and creating highs and lows with their tones. They have a mournful quality which is amplified by their length. A quarter of the way through the piece changes as the drones begin to reduce in size and increase in frequency before, for the first time, rhythmic elements are introduced. Having a somewhat tribal feel (vaguely Dead Can Dance like) they focus the piece into more than just a drone track, by adding an element that can tie everything together. as the track continues, the sound gets fuller and the music becomes more hypnotic nature as McCorry  brings the track to the point where it falls over the cliff and disappears to a dying ebb.

“A Slight Return” brings more field recordings, this time from my guess a tube station and pairs them with minimal, but lyrical string passages. While the other tracks have been more drone orientated, this one with its use of field recordings and blocks of sound feels a bit more ambient in nature, By this I mean that it is more about the texture of matching filed recording and strings rather than just pure ambience. In a way it brings the album to complete as other than being the final track it offers something slightly different, but harkens back to the previous pieces as well.

Sometimes I think music like this is best listened to in small batches. Because of its nature it the qualities can be overlooked if it’s listened to in its entirety., but if you isolate a particular track it lets it shine. For fans of Orchestral Drone.

“Ashlar is British duo Wil Bolton from London and Phil Edwards from The Wirral, Liverpool. They began collaborating around 2011 ahead of their debut release “Saturday Drones” on Time Released Sound and followed this up with “St. James Gardens” on Hibernate.With “Distant Scenes” most of the sounds began with piano loops (played by Wil) and acoustic guitar parts (played by Phil) , which were heavily processed and re-processed several times using both software effects and guitar pedals. Where the first two albums featured environmental sounds from the local area, the field recordings were made by both artists separately, in wildly varied locations including Japan, Korea and the UK.

“Distant Scenes” is an album built around distance, time and space as their different recording locations inspired new but separate ideas. A warm but blurry canvas has been woven over a four-year period, as time has rusted the memories of the good old days spent jamming on their earlier albums and newer ideas have been corroded into a melancholic fuzz.”

This naturally sold out album sees the duo mix up sounds, styles, techniques and textures to create an album that fuses electronics, field recording and ambience. Mastered By Wil the sounds are crisp, at times gritty and present, while at other coated in haze and fuzz. A track like “Insects and Dust” is the perfect sort of track to single out as it encompasses these qualities. The acoustic guitar, field recordings, fractured, dislocated sound, blurring ambience all intermingle throughout the piece changing its texture along the way. Throughout the album the main elements change in their role and influence of the track. Field recordings are essential in the opener “Beneath the Haze”, while the second track “Set Apart” focuses on a mix of rippling almost glitchy sounds and field recordings before gradually becoming a drone piece.

“Orchid” feels like you are out in the park with water running, birds chirping and sounds that coalesce to make music. Rather than field recordings added to instruments it feels like that the instruments are just part of the natural ambience. “Postcards at Home” feels like a distant cousin to “Orchid” with a similar sort of structure, but with a very different outcome. While “Orchard” felt warm and inviting, Postcards…” makes the air feel chilly with a slight sense of dread that hangs as the notes drone and fade. “Colourless” borders on noise with its tactile, metallic, grinding drones that twist and surge throughout the track, but the calmness and relative beauty that permeates through the album has returned with the closer “Patterns in Memories” with its gentle, relaxed and contemplative sounds. While “Insects and Dust” distilled the elements of the album int a single track, this particular piece shows the duo leaving the best for last. A delightful mix of field recordings, drones and instrumentation it is a track that benefits from what has been left out rather than what has been included. The space is clear for the all the elements to gently reveal themselves with a nice subtlety that makes it a joy to listen to. The best ambient I find is one that isn’t forced, just natural and this track feels pure with an attention to details and soundscapes.

With each release taking on average three to four years, it should be 2021 or 2022 before we hear from Wil and Phil again, but until then we have “Distant Scenes” to enjoy.

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