There are certain days that pop up as popular release dates for labels and artists. March 22 was one such day that saw the release of the following albums via the ever reliable n5MD, Dauw and flau imprints. There was also the latest album by Lullatone “Music For Museum Gift Shops” which landed in my in-box on release day, but as that is a Fifty-two track double album more time will be needed to devour that. Without further ado, lets start with start with: Stijn Hüwels.

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2019 is looking like a big year for Stijn Hüwels. Other than this album he has collaborative works with Norihito Suda and Tomoyoshi Date on the Home Normal label over the next two months and his art is featured on Ian Hawgood’s forthcoming Slowcraft release. Suffice to say that there is no shortage of beauty throughout these releases.

On Tomodachi, Hüwels gives us the best of his two worlds by combining his solo studio work with his collaborative efforts: “The starting point for this album was simple. I sent out a question to fellow musicians I deeply respect and whose work I especially like. I know all of them for some time, and they all have a significant influence on my work. I asked them to send me ‘something’, a sample, melody or field recording I could use to create a new piece of music. This exchange of inspiration forced me to approach composing in a different way than I use to do, without abandoning my main gear (guitar and laptop). Slowly, I tried to make a consistent story from the different pieces I got. That’s how the album was formed and how it got its final shape. I decided to call it ‘Tomodachi’, Japanese for ‘friend(s)’. That’s the only thing I can say about the album: it’s about friendship and music”.

The collaborators (or suppliers of an influence in this case) come from a diverse line-up that includes the likes of Ghost and Tape’s Heine Christensen, Dirk Serries (Vidna Obmana) and the aforementioned Tomoyoshi Date. What you get over the course over the ten tracks and close to an hour running time is the type of ambient music that I think in a way defines the current era. There is mysterious nature to it where lines and colours are blurred, tones are glitched, sounds can be vibrant or drenched and submerged, all with either full-blown organicness or just the faintest touches of it. In a way it’s almost like an ambient mix tape.

What you will discover is how the influence of a certain collaborator be it their sample or just their influence of their music on Stijn and his it influences the pieces. Take for example “Tomodachi (Ralph) where Ralph Steinbruchel’s experimental electroacoustic style is clearly felt. Or the kindred spirit of Heine Christensen on  “Tomodachi (Heine)” which further cements the whole Ambient Ratpack Mafia that congregated at the Home Normal show in Prague in 2018 which includes both Stijn, Heine and label boss Pieter Dudal. It’s these connections and friendships that are making for this fluid and invigorating music where a community of people from different parts of the world can connect so easily and collaborate to release works such as this.

Other highlights of the album include “Tomodachi (Christoph)” which nicely pairs melodic blurriness with loops and a hint of something slightly darker, which is taken further in this direction with the piece with Patrick Steven aka Hypnoskull which for some reason makes me think of Post Metal ambience without it being that obvious. Dirk Serries who has had a long and productive career as Vidna Obmana, Fear Falls Burning or under is own name and he brings a long droning guitar influence to Stijn with the piece “Tomodachi (Dirk)” being of the ever-moving and floating, but dense slice of ambience.

Just before the album finishes we get to hear the track “Tomodachi (Tomoyoshi)” which feels like an exercise in depth. There are sounds that are so vibrant and close while others lurk almost out of sound, but it’s the slow weaving of these chime like tones and fragility, as well as the melody that encompasses it all, that makes this easily one of the highlights on a faultless release.

The pro’s of doing a blog are you get to hear fine works such as this. The cons are you wish to spend more time with releases like this. This is one I look forward to coming back to and enjoying more and more.

“Tomodachi” is available on limited edition Cassette and Digital. Totally Recommended.

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