The sister label to Eilean Rec, IIKKI Books is like a fine art project. Built along similar lines to the Cd-r only label, IIKKI sees the pairing of musical and visual artists fusing both their artistic endeavors to create works designed to delight the senses of sight and sound. For each vinyl and Cd release there is a corresponding art book which the label states “the complete project works in two physical imprints: a book and a disc (vinyl/cd). It should be experienced in different manners: the book watched alone, the disc listened to alone and the book and the disc watched and listened to together” As this blog is purely one about musical adventures I will be concentrating on the sounds within, but please check out the available videos that highlight the visual side of the project.
Of this trio of releases we start with the Argentinian artist Federico Durand whose back catalog has been released on an envious list of labels. Names like 12k, Own, Home Normal, Spekk, White Paddy Mountain have been home to his works. He has also appeared in the duos Every Hidden Color and Melodía. His most recent work “Pequeñas Melodías” (“Little Melodies”) released via IIKKI books is technically sold out, but a small package (10 sets only) rounding up these trio of releases in both Cd or vinyl form is available via the label’s site.
“Federico Durand’s music is a weave of sound searching introspection and delight through simple melodies, made in the heart of Argentina. He likes music, gardens, John Keats’ poetry, collecting stamps and Earl Grey tea. He has also a musical project with Tomoyoshi Date (Opitope, Illuha) called Melodía.”
Durand creates a miniature musical world that blurs lines between organic and electronics, one that sometimes seems to only exist in tonal landscapes. His music is always bright and melodic with a touch of whimsical, but experimental feel. At times you are transported to times of innocence as witnessed by the opening loops of “Las Estrellas Giran En El Pinar” aka “The Stars Turn In The Pine Grove” then onto the buried and decaying guitar based “Los Juguetes De Minka Podhájská”. Both evoke a similar sort of wistful feeling for what has passed while also having their own identity.
With “Racimos De Luz” aka “Clusters of Light” Durand takes paints a sonic canvas of fragile oscillating tones that gently flicker outwards and bathe the listener in a calming sound bath of delightful tones. When the album reaches “Canción Del Reloj Cucù” aka “Song of the Clock Cucù (Cuckoo)” we are taken into a barely there soundscapes that feels like it’s been copied 100 times with the result being translucent and minor glitches and imperfections slowly added onto it. The album’s final track “El Cedro Azul” aka “The Blue Cedar” is about the closest you will get to contemporary ambient with its flowing drones mixed in with Durand’s tone work. Suitably it stays within the artists sound world giving it his own stamp.
If you are a fan of Federico’s music then you will love “Pequeñas Melodías”and if you are new to his world them the album is a great introduction to one of the most singular ambient artists around.
“After his first works based on field recording, Aries Mond has started to work with music instruments in 2012, mainly focused on piano. His first album has been released on eilean rec. in 2018 and Cut Off is his second album. Aries Mond also composes music for contemporary theatre. He lives in southern of France, in the Pyrénées.“
Like Danny Clay and Aaron Martin before him, Boris Billier aka Aries Mond makes the leap from the Eilean catalog across to the IIKKI one. “Spark” opens the album up with sparse piano and distant electronics and pops that is a brief interlude which feels like it sets the scene for the next piece. Fusing field recordings of playing children with naturalist piano recordings, the second piece “Fixer” is a track that becomes more than just the sum of its parts. The repeating piano motif exudes contemplation while the children’s voices could harken back to a joyous or innocent time and place.
“Cracks” sees fractured electronics enter the soundscapes diverting the sound away from the purer piano opening and making the track more of a sound art piece. There is a nice section in the middle of the track where the lines are blurred and the piece transitions from opening to closing style. The title track “Cut Off” has a darker almost sinister tone. Static soaks the environment where shuffling / trudging field recordings, bass drum wacks and piano create a rhythmically looped and noir-ish cinematic styled piece, which became of its percussive qualities gives it a real drive.
“Iodine” features chimes, piano, squalling sounds, field recordings and disembodied voices to create a piece that is very much in the experimental style and a little unsettling. Space is given and elements are woven together with a sort of free form and occasional juxtaposition. I wasn’t expecting such a change in styles some of which is carried through to the following track. “Curl” encompasses the previous looped elements,with cinematic flirtations and experimental sound construction.
“Dew” mirrors the earliest tracks of the album as does “Ink” to a certain extent pairing dialogue and stark minimal piano with scuffing/scraping sounds. But this cannot be said about “Shift” with its motorik beat driven feel, electronics and random piano. The beats really flip the script and take this piece into different territories while managing to not be held to a genre expectation. It’s the type of piece that leaves you a bit puzzled to its intentions, but captures your attention.
“Curve” features a horn like sound, not necessarily a drone, but with somewhat similar qualities, electronics and piano. The repeating piano motif and this horn (as well as the returning collection of other sounds) have a very introspective feel as if the piano indicates that someone is stuck in a rural and the horn is the reflection of the mood that the person is re-living. The closer “Rustle” is dominated by a collection of noise sounds that crash and combine while single finger piano metronomically pulses. Definitely looking back to the experimentation and cinematic elements of other pieces, it leaves me a little confused particularly as I like to have a read on the artists and their music.
I think this last sentence sums the album up for me. It’s not that I don’t like the album, rather I am trying to find the context in which to rationalize it. Is it related to a performance piece? The source of inspiration or intention of the artist? Finding these crucial clues would help me frame it and give it a context. That said it’s not an album that you’ll be able to predict nor pigeonhole.
“Cut Off” is available on Lp/Cd and Digital.
“The Humble Bee is the solo project from Craig Tattersall, a former member of The Remote Viewer and Famous Boyfriend bandmate Andrew Johnson. Tattersall’s music can be found these days more often under his alias The Humble Bee; as a founder member of The Boats; and in his collaborative works with the likes of Bill Seaman in The Seaman And The Tattered Sail. He has run the wonderful label Cotton Goods from 2008 to 2015 and since 2009 he has recorded 9 albums on his moniker The Humble Bee.
Originally from Kentucky, since 15 years, Offthesky is the prolific musician Jason Corder who currently resides in Denver, Colorado in the United States. His catalogue shows over 70 albums which have been released by a number of labels such as Databloem, Dronarivm, Eilean Rec., Hibernate, Home Normal, Rural Colours, SEM Label, Wist Rec.“
Collaborations within the ambient sphere are a representation of the stateless world of the music. Two artists from diverse cultures and countries can easily interact musically online as if they were in the same room together. The Humble Bee aka Craig Tattersall and Offthesky aka Jason Corder are no strangers to collaborations either within the group format or as duos. Names/artists like Bill Seaman, Pleq, Emmanual Witzthum, Radere, Ryonkt and others are scattered throughout their respective discographies that extend deep into the 90’s for Tattersall and the early to mid 00’s for Corder. With such an extensive output of their own and the common link that both released via Ireland’s Wist Rec label, it makes sense that the two have come together and the result is “All Other Voices Gone, Only Yours Remains”.
The album recorded between October 2018 and June 2019 also features other artists such as Cody Yantis on Sax, Julie Slater on Viola, Rin Howell on voice, Jiah Shin on Cello and Esther Hernandez on Flute. One instantly noticeable thing is how easily the music flows together which shows that the collaborative is an inspired one, rather than one where the tracks are bits and pieces of each artists sound.
“For Her Breath Is On All That Hath Life” from near silence swirls of ambience, chimes and ephemeral sounds appear. Somewhat ghostly and sounding like elements have been interned, there are constant movements that come through rhythmically while opening up space for instruments such as guitar, strings and vibes to further the near hauntological feel of the piece. The pace is integral to the piece as the parts are given the space and time to flourish, resulting in a track that is consistently changing while keeping a core feeling about it. It would be too easy to list this as introspective as while it has some of the quality I would ascribe to that feeling, there is something a bit more soothing and less moody about the piece.
“And She Floats In The Air” flows on nicely after a broken tape loop. Sonicly, a much denser piece with layers of sand, it nicely mixes up distant piano, mournful strings and a molasses like flow of ambience. While the previous piece didn’t feel moody, this was slightly feels that way. The reason being the density of the piece which gives a very internalized and thought out feeling. Slightly darker in tone, the music has a feeling that if it were represented in a photograph it would be a sepia one. It’s almost as if layers of spectral dissonance are layered finely on top of each other.
“Bee-Like, Death-Like” a looped distorted piano ‘riff’ that has a decaying quality is paired with vibes that are similarly affected, the result giving the music a horn like sound. Balancing between the first two tracks in regards to the density of the track, there is a mix of austere sounds and a hopeful feel that is trying to come out. Detritus covers the piece which accentuates and furthers the feeling that the music has been buried and in some ways is a time capsule of sound and an experience.
“A Wonder” circular sounding vibes and static glitches opens the piece, before it flashed into life with strings, pops clicks and micro melodies. Pulses of horn like drones sound like they are in a locked run out groove of a record as the stylus keeps knocking into them. Guitar signals a change in the sound leading somewhat into pastoral spheres with viola combining nicely , while pulses of static comes across in angled waves. Probably the most loop based track on the album, there is a certain sense of it being a short snippet of a time and all the memories that are crammed into that window.
“Abandoned Verse” The closest we have come thus far to pure ambient, the track delicately pairs piano, vibes and a drifting, but heavy ambience. The hauntological or glitchier moments for the most part have passed with the track being contemplative and one that if more light was let in would be a track of reflection. As its stands, this darkness adds a suspenseful like character to the piece, as if the reflection looking back at us is that something potentially bad has happened. Tattersall and Corder have this deft balance that highlights their combined style of composition which can evoke emotive responses to the pieces. You get the sense of more than tracks that have a variety of influences or components, as these are well thought out constructions.
“Wintering With You” reaches another level of delight with the vocals of Howell melting over Tattersall’s piano and this blurred landscape of instruments that have been given treatments that render them indistinguishable. The track naturally has a ghostly presence with the vocals seemingly being carried by the breeze. An ancient feel permeates the music that sounds as if it is slowly breaking down, worn down over time by the elements. Under the cloak of sound, there is a nice balance between an ‘old time’ feel and more contemporary touches with metallic drones, sweeping soundscapes and gentle crackle all being felt.
“Haunt Me Still” finishes the album with a flourish. The track is full of instrumentation including flute, guitar, what sounds like brushed cymbals, and a collection of electronics. It has a sing-songy up and down feel which is more rhythmic than the previous tracks, but it still stays within the framework of the album as a whole.In a way it’s a hybrid of jazz meets electronics meets guitar ambience meets decay. The way in which it moves adds another layer and offers up a bit of a surprise in comparison to those that have come before it. There is a certain amount of joy that is noticed as well, which comes through in the intensity of the track.
The album is a success and is best listened to in one sitting allowing each track to seep into the next. Hopefully this is just the first of future collaborations between these two prolific artist. “All Other Voices Gone, Only Yours Remains” is available on Lp/Cd/Digital and Art book from July 15.