Past Inside The Present have only been releasing music since the middle of December, 2018. But in that short period of time there has been a flurry of releases from some lesser known artists through to those who command a very decent following in the underground ambient community. Mixing digital with an ever expanding physical presence, the label certainly has captivated people and captured their own part of the scene with an impressive 100,000 streams on bandcamp of their releases in less than half a year. This post the first in a series, looks at the early releases from December through to March, which with the exception of Gallery Six and Forest Management introduced me to a bunch of new names. The aforementioned Gallery Six alongside Lauver and Dawn Chorus and The Infallible Sea are early standouts.
The duo of Marc Ertel and Zachary D. Frizzell aka Dawn Chorus And The Infallible Sea (and also members of the Post Rock band Pillars)opened the label back in December with the Eight minute single “Jeune Espirit” aka “Young Spirit” which in essence is what the label exudes with it’s strong promotion and noticeable ebulliance coming through its various mediums. The track itself features a distant roaring drone and a looping ever-growing drone, mixed in with field recordings and what initially sounds like someone walking which is manipulated with changes in depth. Given together with rolling drones, it has this tape loop feel that has stuck on a glitch. The soundscape is one which feels either like stuck in a rolling storm or submerged in water with waves rolling over you and the only calm is between the breaks.
扎克 aka Zākè Sound is one of the central components of the label as an artist, but also responsible for the artistic vision that the label has taken. In recent times that vision has coalesced with some very impressive results (even their test pressing jackets look great). With “Night Shineth As The Day ” 扎克 unleashes a slow burning, tightly wound piece that throbs and pulses away while field recordings glide in and out. The music has the feeling of floating as it rises and falls without reaching crescendo’s or troughs and has a meditative quality that is enhanced by it’s movement and the melodic nature of the piece.
With “Kasita” 扎克 takes us into more glacial territories with both the temperature and the pace of the piece exuding this cold and calm feeling. Multi layered drones, pops and crackles and what appears to be light guitar lines weaving gently in. While the previous track felt more compact in it’s movement, this one a pure drone piece, is an ever moving beast as it takes the listener down valleys into desolate territories where light is scarce and the temperature chilly. The track shows a nice balance in tones which informs the listener as the track moves on its journey.
“Perfect Hour’ and ‘Sheridan’ are two arrangements from Forest Management’s ‘21st Century Man’ sessions that draw a fine line between ominous and heavenly attributes. Raw and vast, these songs conjure the ebb and flow of melancholy and peace.“
John Daniel aka Forest Management has been labels such as Twice Removed, Oscarson, Constellation Tatsu, and his own Sequel label to name a few. The two pieces on offer here are sonicly different with “Perfect Hour” sounding like it was recorded in the middle of a tropical rain forest early in the morning with all manner of life making their presence known. Drones that tightly loop and unfurl combine with a sound that feels like pure humidity. Both these two main features build over the duration of the track giving it a somewhat claustrophobic feeling, like you are being engulfed by sound before giving you a reprieve. “Sheridan” is a more compact piece that has a nice oscillating melodic drone while slightly darker, almost metallic sounds buzzsaw next to it. As the track progresses the balance of the sounds in the piece change with each rising in intensity, but the melodic ones rising over the buzzsaw ones.
“”Celestial Bodies’ was created with periodic bursts of energy in December of 2018. The songs were named after they were completed and the themes and emotion of the songs brought forth the inspiration. These arrangements are calming and mysterious, while exploring the vastness of space and time. Une bande son à l’infini.“
John David Lauver records, naturally, as Lauver. Opening the EP is “Orion Nebula” which given the title doesn’t go over the top in regards to more spacey or prog related ambient. The synth patterns are definitely there, but they are overshadowed by more darker, almost distorted drones which give the piece a real sense of isolation and desolation. The tone of the drones is one of melancholy and a sense of hopelessness which is somewhat countered by the more reflective synth lines.”Ceres”, named after the dwarf planet is a more purely electronic track with multi layered synth lines cascading in different directions and bubbling electronics, The tones within the piece have a sense of dread to them and are suited to science fiction films where the outcome is rather bleak. “Event Horizon” strips things back to a minimal, glacial sound that nicely has some reverberant piano that breaks up the vast nothingness that the underbelly soundtracks to. Of the three tracks thus far, this feels the most complete with it’s layering of drone that overlap creating a piece that is cinematic and genre hopping (glacial ambient meets modern classical meets prog synth ambient) and is the pick of the tracks on the release. “Proxima Centauri B” follows on somewhat with a similar template to “Event Horizon”, but by no means apes it. It, like the previous piece is cinematic in nature, but the variance in tones and playing results in a piece that has hope built into it which is definitely enhanced by the string section that rises eloquently. When the strings are paired, the intensity results in an increased emotion in the music which ends the ep nicely. If I were to recommend a direction for Lauver to investigate more, then it would be to look at these two final tracks as a template as the execution and inspiration lie within them.
“In this decade, I visited many places in order to record organic sounds such as, rare bird voices and sounds of waves (I live in the basin area far from sea). There is a river near my house and I often visit there to record, or merely walk. When I recorded in the early morning hours at that riverside for ‘Under the Morning Mist’, the body of water was beautifully wrapped with a dense mist. A gorgeous backdrop and inspiration for this arrangement. A park located in the city where I reside, was the inspiration for the arrangement, ‘In This Perfect Dream’. The captured sounds of trees, leaves, and the winds.. All beautiful sounds around me that we typically take for granted. I got lost in time, it felt like a perfect dream, hence the title of this arrangement.”
Hidekazu Imashige aka Gallery Six is a prolific Japanese ambient musician whose work has found homes on labels such as Shimmering Moods, Archives and Unknown Tone to name a few. His contribution to the label, which continues with a forthcoming vinyl release are the tracks “Under The Morning Mist” and “In This Perfect Dream”. Both as mentioned in the press notes above feature field recordings in the structure, but are like flip sides of a coin. With “Under The Morning Mist” Imashige opens with field recordings and an almost mournful drone which he somehow manages to keep this mournfulness but also add some hope into by the way the music moves and it’s slight melodic edge. The innocence in the field recordings also add to this hope. With “In This Perfect Dream” the components are relatively similar, it’s just the way that they are used, or their features that gives the piece a differing feel. The drones are darker and somewhat distant with the filed recording of birds being more in the foreground and sounding less ethereal, more panicked. I guess this is just perception. There is a hint of melody woven into the drones that if it was more pronounced may alter my perception of the material.
“Heather | Ebb’ are two beautiful short-pieces that encompass somber washes of looped textures, complemented by subtle field recordings. These arrangements are a momentary glimpse of quiet, sentimental meditations that pursue a sense of stillness; even if it is just for a brief moment.“
Another new name to me, Jack Hyde contributes the tracks “Heather” and “Ebb” to the digital collection of the label. “Heather” mixes up vinyl crackle with clanging circular loops while drones that mix depth float above. In the second half of the piece the texture changes somewhat with the drones ascending, the clanging loops mutating into a similar texture, but with a different sound and more space coming into the piece. There is an alien like feel to the proceedings. with “Ebb” Hyde adds drones and electronics that initially sound like they are distant and warped to field recordings of desolation. The way that the drones , which come in pulsing loops and the electronics grow throughout the piece, you are half expected some beats to come along and you could easily imaging a driving rhythm taking the piece forward. Instead what happens is you have a rhythm which continues to move, expand and contract.
“These arrangements incorporate ethereal movements, richly layered cascades, and slow-motion soundscapes that summon the listener to a truly atmospheric state of mind. Minimal at its core, Dawn Chorus and the Infallible Sea intentionally set out to create restrained ambient compositions with a sense of impenetrable mystery. “
With this self titled seven track, forty two minute album the duo of Ertell and Frizell push further into the ethereal floating ambience with touches of glacial coldness. The first release to given a physical counterpart on the label (a second run is sold out and originally first released by the duo prior to the label’s formation) is best listened to in it’s entirety as the tracks flow nicely from one to another. The album opens with the floating “Alpha” that takes us into similar sonic territory to that of Phoebe’s “Reminder”. By the time we have reached “Lumière Déclinante” aka “Declining Light” the music has become more introspective and slightly dark in it’s overall feeling. Rather than being depressing, it as a soothing, self reflective feel, one that is concerned with inner emotions. The long form, wind soaked classical drones of “Passé Tranquille” continue with the aerial vibe before the detritus soaked “Espérer” takes us into more organic states with Ertel’s guitar work floating over granular loops and leading the listener in a memory/nostalgia based direction. Partially a reworking/remix of a Williamette track, its hows the duo eager to stretch out and not be repetitive in their soundscapes. The final two tracks “Mer À Laube” and “Choeur Du Matin” take us into Stars Of The Lid territory with slow paced pieces full of haunting ambience, granduer and deft sweeping drones, highlighting that this a duo that you must keep an eye out for in the future. I am keen to hear just where they will take us on their next release.
“These two gorgeous arrangements by Chicago producer ‘Phoebe’, incorporate sun-drenched field recordings with ethereal drone billows that freely and subtly move to and fro. Phoebe masterfully captures a sense of warmth and comfort through these beautiful compositions.“
Giovanna Lenski aka Phoebe fits the above bill with the opening tones of “Reminder” being ethereal ones, which manage to be both melodic, but also windswept at the same time. They have the effect of soaring above the earth, battered around by the swirling winds and looking down upon the small matter below. Buried deep within a faint field recordings which initially sounded a bit disturbing. I couldn’t make it out if was someone crying or sobbing, or a dog barking. As the journey continues the music gets more intense, thick and battered by the elements. “Lucent” exists in a similar plain structurally, but has a different feel. A bit harsher and noisier with a cold feel, it has an under lying motif that rears it’s head from time to time like sun that breaks through a gap in the clouds. You can vaguely detect field recordings that may be better served if the overall track wasn’t so bustling with sound. The separation would allow individual components to shine in their own right than be almost totally obscured.