With this succinct round up I cover the always interesting Greek label Sound in Silence and their releases from the end of last year until now. Label boss George Mastrokostas has a fine ear for sounds and has built a roster that encompasses old favourites, new names and new permutations. One thing that is apparent is that over the eight months that these ten releases came out the label hasn’t really repeated themselves with each release offering something different to another.
“The Gentleman Losers is the experimental musical group of brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka, based in Helsinki, Finland. Since their formation in 2004, they have released three albums and one EP on labels such as Büro, City Centre Offices, Grainy Records and Standard Form. After being stuck with the previous album for many years, the Kuukka brothers wanted to make a simple, quiet album this time around. It was all much unplanned, but as the songs were nearing completion, it was clear that there was a coherent whole there, a feeling. They felt that this album has a sense of introversion to it, a feeling of winter approaching, and of holing up to wait for the seasons to change.“
An album that has since been re-issued on clear vinyl by the Dauw label, “Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter” has all the hallmarks of Ambient meets Post Rock meets Collage. The album feels very much like a studio work, one which touches on a style of melancholy that is not overly remorse, almost as if some emotion has been taken out of it. Piano lines eroded by time, distant percussion, cold drones, hints of post rock meets dream pop (“Book of Leaves” For example), glitch-like textures amongst others lends the duo an organic and personal feel to the material.
A hazy dream like presence is felt throughout the album with moments feeling that they are so fragile they could be blown away with the breeze. On “Kingdom of the Wind” For example the loop based music feels like transmissions from a distant time that are decaying in front of us. The album’s final track “Bend Low, Sweet Branch, Bend Low” captures the mood and feeling of the previous half hour plus while emphasising the laid back feel of the music. Here the Kuukka brothers demonstrate their knack for unfurling minimal guitar lines that shimmer and bend while creating a soundscape that mixes up emotion while casting feelings of contemplation. The track highlights how space and time in the hands of the right artist(s) can add more to the music by exercising control and adding just the slightest bit of tension.
“Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter” adds to the Canon of music that is detritus soaked, somewhat nostalgic and bathed in melancholia but also existing in its own form and not being so derived that is a pastiche. The laid back feel that also encompasses an interesting and engaging soundscape makes the album an enjoyable listen.
“Make We Here Our Camp In Winter” is available on limited Cd (500 copies) and Digital on Sound In Silence and on Lp (limited to 200 copies with alternative artwork).
“This Earth To Another is Umber’s second full-length album, five years since his debut came out. Utilizing both electric and acoustic instrumentation, including dreamy electric guitar melodies, nostalgic acoustic guitar arpeggios, soothing synth layers, glacial drones, gentle beats and subtle electronics, Umber creates an album full of shimmering ambient textures and ethereal soundscapes, with hints of atmospheric post-rock and slow moving electronica“
Sometimes press releases can attempt to drum up attention with bold claims or as the saying goes “adding mayo”. With the above press release Sound In Silence nail the exact features of this second Umber album. A wall of sound is used in the pieces on the album that most certainly shimmers as Steward constructs pieces that are equal measure electronic and acoustic. At the heart of the music is an ambient core, but the pieces are not locked into this particular sound, instead they mix in electronics, Post Rock style feelings, acoustic instruments with a dream-pop edge.
Rather than just a continuation each track takes the listener into a different aspect of Umber’s world with the acoustic, almost new age meets beats of “Harvest” to the wash of sound that is the opener, “Altered Fragments”.
Textures change throughout the album with cold glacial pace of “It Just Fills The Hollow Spaces” and pure drone-ness, while the follow track “Multnomah” let’s the light in with its acoustic guitar and off kilter woozy loops that feel dream like. The reprise of sorts that is “Harvest (Slow)” dramatically changes the feeling, sound and orientation of the original track and moves it aware from its near new age -isms and gives it a very moody, distant and deteriorating sound and feel. At twice the length of the original it doesn’t drag or feel overdone, instead shows the simplicity of changing the pace of a piece and the dramatic effect it has.
“Grape and Grain” shows Steward layering various guitar motifs alongside beats, drones and synths that for some reason make me think of dawn and sunrise. There is nothing over forced, the music just feels like it’s flowing out naturally and almost effortlessly. “Low Tide” concludes the collection and is a track that feels very low key and minimal that slowly expands adding additional instrumentation to bring together. What is shows is how Steward is able to create pieces that are like mathematic with addition and subtraction of instrumentation which alternates the feel (especially it’s rhythmical qualities) resulting in a piece that you won’t tire of listening to.
It’s been awhile since I listened to his previous works, but it looks like a look back is in order. “This Earth To Another” is available on limited Cd (200 copies) and Digital.
“Amp is the electronic/post-rock duo of Richard F. Walker (aka Richard Amp) and Karine Charff, based in London, UK. Amp’s lineup has changed many times over the years, since their formation in 1992 by Walker, after his collaboration with David Pearce (Flying Saucer Attack) on The Secret Garden and the Distance projects. During the last years Amp have centered around Charff and Walker, while in the past the duo has been joined by a succession of collaborators, including Matt Elliott (The Third Eye Foundation, This Immortal Coil, Hood, Flying Saucer Attack, Movietone), Matt Jones (Crescent, Movietone), Guy Cooper (The Secret Garden), Gareth Mitchell (Philosopher’s Stone, The Secret Garden), Ray Dickaty (Moonshake, Spiritualized), Robert Hampson (Loop, Main) and many others.“
So, back when it was warmer in my neck of the woods I took a solo hike. Naturally my ipod was with me and with almost no one around me I had (mostly) the hills to myself. The soundtrack to that hike was Andartica’s “Longview” (Polar Seas Recordings) and this album by Amp. Both releases enhanced both the solitude and quietness of the hike, soundtracking it nicely. It’s no surprise that in such an ugly world we tend to lean towards things that make us feel hope or attempt to add beauty where it lacking. A release such “Entangled Time” certainly assists in this process. The release is full of glacial ambience with hints of electronica, breathy ethereal vocals and a floaty quality that assists in guiding you towards a positive mind set. A track like “Will-oh Dreams” has pounding beats, but still manages to be relaxed rather than forceful. The duo create pieces that are not obvious in their instrumentation which removes conceptions about the styles and journeys to follow on. Instead they seem to centre on creating sonic tapestries designed to be somewhat hypnotic with their drifting and droning. It’s not all sweetness and light with a track like “Opal Tears” having a darker wind swept edge to the drones which in conjunction with the breathy wordless vocals takes the music in a different direction. The final track is an extended version of “Will-oh Dreams” which extends on the original by almost doubling it in length. This version feels more electronic with a glitching and rumbling underbelly as well as the propulsive beats. By increasing the length Walker and Charff are able to focus on the trance inducing aspects as well as the display the balance between relaxed and dream-like vs propulsive and almost dancefloor orientated.
A release like “Entangled Time” works as it is an an ambient release that offers more than just an ambient feel. Influences of Dream Pop/Shoe Gaze and electronic enhance the gentleness of the music and in turn relaxes the listener into a bliss like state. “Entangled Time” is available on limited Cd (200 copies) and digital via Sound In Silence and on Lathe Cut 10″, CD and Digital via the group.
“About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings) is a wonderful collection of thirteen new unreleased tracks in conjunction with four reworked versions of tracks from his highly acclaimed debut album which was released last year. It is in line with his debut album as all tracks were recorded around the period of the Memory Sketches sessions, trying to preserve particular personal memories in form of music. The album’s instrumentation is centered on wistful piano lines, warm synth arpeggios and layers of swirling drones, enhanced by cello, violin and saxophone performances by Sebastian Selke of CEEYS, Jean-Marie Bø and Tobias Leon Haecker, while field recordings and other sounds, like vinyl crackles and subtle electronics, perfectly fill the background atmospherics.”
Following on from the original album on Schole/1631 Recordings, Sound In Silence unleash a collection of B-side and Sketches. Typically with sketches that were presumably turned into fully fleshed pieces and B Sides you might be thinking of material that is not as good as the parent album. A simple listen easily smashes that idea and shows that Linghaus has a bag full of excellent material. The thirteen tracks on offer with lengths ranging from twenty nine seconds through to the epic three minutes and thirty seven seconds for the most part don’t sound like Sketches, more like perfectly formed vignettes.
Linghaus easily slips from stark piano recordings to string driven or synth heavy ones without the album sounding like a collection of odds and ends. Instead it feels like a glimpse into an artist who is clearly influenced by a variety of sounds and instruments and translates them into his own pieces. The differences in the tracks adds to the soundtrack feel of the original album than as a compilation. The epic “Jonathan Brandis” is the highlight for me personally with its delightful combination of controlled strings and piano that resonates with me as it also contains a certain calming ambience in the mix as well as moments of tension.
I would personally recommend not looking at the track list and letting the music continuously wash over you for the next twenty four or so minutes. Doing so will take you on a meditative journey. “About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings)” is available on limited Cd-r (200 copies) and Digital.
“Western Edges is the new ambient/electronic solo project of Richard Adams, founder member, alongside his brother Chris, of the legendary Leeds band Hood. Since Hood went on hiatus in 2005, Richard Adams has recorded his music under the moniker of The Declining Winter, either solo or with help of friends such as Martin Cummings (Northerner), Paul Elam (Fieldhead), Mick Harrison (Prolapse, National Screen Service), James Yates (Seamajestea), Barrie Cummings, Joanne Ellis and many others, having released several sublime albums, EPs and singles on labels such as Home Assembly Music, Rusted Rail, Monopsone, Mobeer and Rural Colours, amongst others. Prowess is made up of eight electronic tracks, of blissful ambience and shimmering electronics. These tracks were made to soundtrack the feelings Richard Adams had about the area where he lives in Saltaire, West Yorkshire and the Aire valley, while each one was inspired by a different photograph of the area. Adams skillfully blends together elements of soothing ambient, lo-fi electronica and minimal techno, creating an impressive album full of warm soundscapes, ethereal textures, washes of lush pads, drifting synth layers, hypnotic drones, deep bass lines and minimal beats.“
With a pedigree such as Adams’ as well as his list of talented collaborators you have high expectations of a release such as this and “Prowess” doesn’t disappoint. The mix of Ambience and Electronica is one which emphasises the best features of each style and blends them nicely into a fluid mix. Opening with the swooning and slightly melancholic ambience of “You look So Beautiful From Up Here”, the Electronica touches show themselves with the synth pads of “Suddenly a Dream” with its airy spacious ambience gently cut through with a slightly dark drone. This darkness continues with the self titled track which takes the listener to isolated cold and places.
“Solid Gold Soul” other than being a contender for title of the year naturally has a dancefloor feel with crunching beats, beds of lush synths and layered electronics and ephemera. The highlight for me is the subtle bass line that makes its presence known briefly which works in nicely with the rhythms. My only gripe would be it’s length, I could quite happily listening to at least twice the duration and as it fades I’m and out I wonder if it is part of something bigger. “You’re Going To Miss My Love” blends an ambience familiar to the tones of “Suddenly A Dream” with more of a hint in the Moody direction befitting the tracks title. What is abundantly clear is Adams’ talent with creating an engaging and classically sounding ambient track, one which drifts ever so nicely.
“All Downhill from Now” hints more to guitar work than synths or electronics with its shimmering and clanging sounds while “Very Good On The Rushes” sees Adams return to a mix of Ambience and Electronics. This time however, the beats are more forceful and propel the track forward highlighting the difference between the slow moving drones and propulsive beats. Synth lines acting as melody take the track in a retro inspired direction, but as an ambient fan it’s the drones that win me out. The album rounds out with the epic and slow burning “Absence”. Like a ever blowing breeze the ambience sways and undulates with characteristics slowly revealing themselves from behind the drones such as minimal beats, dubby techno sounds, synth and real, not synth bass lines. The way that the track slowly reveal’s itself while building hints at a track that will fully explode but teasingly returns to the ambience of its opening. I personally would love to have seen Adams finish the album of with a track that really went for it and would be a nice finale to the album. That said I look forward to more material under the Western Edges moniker.
“Prowess” is available on limited Cd-r (300 copies) and Digital.
“MIS+RESS is the ambient solo project of Brian Wenckebach, based in New Jersey, USA. He is also known as one half of electronica/shoegaze duo Elika, experimental/electronica duo Thee Koukouvaya and lately as member of Measured, a new collaboration project along with Evagelia Maravelias, the other half of Elika, and electronic producer and latter-day Tangerine Dream member, Ulrich Schnauss. To date MIS+RESS has released an album on Somewherecold Records in 2017 and a self-released EP in 2018. Dispellers is a gorgeous collection of eight calming compositions, centered on ambient atmospheres and dreamy soundscapes. Utilizing mesmerizing melodies and blissful layers of delayed guitars, loops of ethereal textures, heavily processed with reverb and a variety of other effect pedals.”
If you are looking for a release that from the get go you can pigeonhole, then look away with this release by MIS+RESS. Somewhat feeling like a release that is missing it’s rhythm section (which would make it a more traditional sounding almost pop record), the release is a guitar dominated beast that feels as close to surf inspired music as it does to ambient guitar. A track like “She Trembles As She Paints” is a perfect example of this mixed style which builds on the guitar style established with the opener “The Floating World”.
Somewhat slightly murky in sound quality the material varies from its sunny guitar twanging ambience that takes you away from your cares and worries through to the more experimental electronics and loops of tracks like “Diet Butcher” and “High-Funtioning Sleepwalk” (which introduces Glitch techniques and Quasi theremin sounds).
The tracks were the guitar is more of the focus are those that work nicely. A track like “Moonglow” nicely balances the album’s styles managing to steer clear of the overly experimental touches that for me, don’t work as well on tracks like “Adulting”. The album is rounded out by “The International Dark-Sky Association” which is a Moody drone and loop based piece that offers a different territory to explore.
The moments that the album is fully immersed in the guitar surf/ambient styles are those that I find work best.”Dispellers” is available on limited Cd-r (200 copies) and Digital.
“HIN is the new ambient/electronic project of two school friends, Jerome Alexander (Message To Bears) and Justin Lee Radford (The Kids And The Cosmos), based in London and Los Angeles respectively. Warmer Weather EP is made up of five captivating tracks, with a total duration of something more than 20 minutes. HIN’s debut deals with feelings of isolation, environmentalism and friendship and is a perfect mix of dreamy electronica, elegant dream-pop and soothing ambient. Utilizing wistful guitars, warm pads, hazy synths, enchanting electric piano melodies, deep bass lines, gentle male and childlike female vocals, intricate beats and glitchy electronics, HIN create an EP full of emotive textures and sublime soundscapes.“
You get the feeling that somewhere in the Sound In Silence musical mixture that there is a place for pop music. It’s not that a release such as this is “pop”, but it does have poppy moments mixed in with its glitchy IDM fabric and effected vocals. It’s been awhile since I last connected with the work of Alexander and Radford is a new name to me, so I was curious in checking this release out. It’s the type of release in the current climate that could have cross over appeal to a wider audience than those that predominantly listen to Ambient or IDM.
I guess the pop reference is probably due to the vocals and the gentle style of singing, while musically the duo mix (sometimes in equal amounts) electronic and acoustic instrumentation to create pieces that have a a laid-back feel.”The Lower Heat” sets the benchmark for the EP with its use of melody and clipped beats alongside the previously mentioned styles. This relaxed vibe continues with “Blue in Alkali” with its pulses of rhythms, Home made percussion, classic ambient guitar styles, minimal electronics and looped and effected voices. It’s the kind of track that shows the balance in the various styles and how they come together nicely. The centrepiece of the Ep “Beneath The Lake” moves into a dream pop extravaganza of sorts with its vocal driven, ambient heart mixing in with electronics that for some reason have a nostalgic feel that while it doesn’t sound old, makes me think that it is of a fond time in the past.
The final two tracks in “Red Sun” and “Home” veer more to the electronics side, but with fragile piano lines that have a nice raw quality. “Red Sun” is the more upbeat of the two with its skittering beats, submerged vocals and hazy feel which nicely has unlisted female vocals that add a nice touch. There is a lot going on in the track which helps reveal different characteristics. “Home” nicely brings the collection to a close with crunchy organic sounds and the home made Bears that I am familiar with from some Message to Bears material. The female vocals announce themselves on this track nicely mixing in the loop like lyrics and non singing styles. A bit to brief as it could nicely end the Ep on a bang rather than a tease, but it still sets up anticipation for any possible future material.
“Warmer Weather” is the kind of release that brings a sense of easiness and light into any situation that it is listened in. Both Alexander and Radford are capable at channeling in a particular feeling that is not overly stated, instead it becomes apparent when listening. You could easily see thus EP as being both joyful, but also introspective with the innocent nostalgia that I feel when listening to it. The EP is available in limited edition Cd-r (300 copies) and Digital.
“øjeRum is the solo project of musician and collage artist Paw Grabowski, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. For over a decade, he has been producing his sublime music, ranging from atmospheric ambient to experimental folk, having released several albums and EPs on labels such as Fluid Audio, Eilean Rec., Shimmering Moods Records, Champion Version, Unknown Tone Records and many others.
Alting Falder I Samme Rum consists of six new compositions with a total duration of about 45 minutes, captivating the listener with its atmospheric textures and melancholic soundscapes. Grabowski creates one of his best albums to date, built around loops of minimal synth melodies, layers of lush pads and swells of hypnotic drones. Alting Falder I Samme Rum is a gorgeous album with a feeling of nostalgia and meditation.”
Paw Grabowski is a prolific artist with a current release schedule the moves from new releases to re-issue to those from archives. This particular release is quite different from what I have previously associated with him from releases such as “The Forest Is Sleeping Within The Trees” or “Nattesne”. On this particular album Grabowski has gravitated to using synths to create oscillating, undulating and hypnotic pieces all with the same title, number I to VI. There is a relaxed and almost meditative work the Grabowski conjures up over the pieces as they rise and fall as he varies between synth pads and drones to construct the tracks. At times hazy and woozy and at others fragile and delicate, the pieces have a vibrancy that I have not come across before much in the previous material that I have heard before. You can hear comparisons between these pieces and the styles of the works of the releases I previously alluded to, but it’s the sonic textures that make the difference on this particular release.
With a release such as this it’s pointless to single tracks out as they feel like part of the one whole piece, but “IV” with its more drone focus stands apart from a piece like “V” which has a Moody Neo new age feel which carries on into “VI” by reaching a more symphonic and cinematic feel as the notes oscillate in loop like fashion while beds of Ambience wash over everything. This particular track is probably the highlight with the way it slowly builds and draws the listener in with its subtle changes and repetition.
“Alting Falder I Samme Rum” (aka Everything Falls Into The same Room) is a revelation for me in Grabowski’s catalog and intrigues me more about it’s depth and what other releases to discover. The album is available on limited Cd-r (200 copies) and Digital.
“For more than fifteen years Wil Bolton has been making predominantly sound-based artworks for both music releases and installations, often enhanced with video or photography. His work has been shown in many exhibitions and festivals and has also worked on projects with video artists, choreographers and dancers. Surface Reflections consists of five long-form tracks of warm ambient, with a total duration of about 44 minutes. Blending layers of field recordings, recorded in Hong Kong and focused on everyday sounds, with delicate loops of guitars and synths, manipulated and edited with effect pedals and laptop processing, Bolton creates one of his best albums to date. Surface Reflections is a sublime album of emotive melodies, hypnotic soundscapes and mesmerizing textures.”
The most recent works that Wil Bolton has been involved in have featured fields recordings from far off lands. Releases like this one, “Viridian Loops” and “Lygan” (as part of Anzio Green) have focused on everyday sound as an important part of his compositions. Bolton weaves in delicate, whispy elements of sound into these field recordings resulting in a hazy listening experience. It’s almost the musical equivalent of summer heat rising from the pavement casting of mirage like visions. With the opener “Shrouded” being quite a piece that has all the elements jostling in sound, the second piece “In the Air Of The Morning” strips it back to leave a minimal mix of background field recordings and treated guitars that strum or flicker, glitch like. The music is opened up as neither sound element dominates the space making for clarity and a nice contemplative listen. “Shallows” sees the field recordings come into play more often with Bolton using his flickering guitar lines to add melodic texture to the almost industrial nature of the field recordings.
“Crossing” has Bolton’s guitar playing interacting or possibly reacting to the field recordings. The guitar is a mixture of fragile tones and gentle strumming that paints a warped vision while the field recordings remain constant (although there is a indicator like switch sound which adds a rhythm. While some of his field recordings in the aforementioned recent releases were more rural, these pieces are interactions with city life. The closer and title track continues the ground work laid by the first four pieces mixing in water sounds, while the guitars are so fractured they sound as if they are transmissions being interrupted and scattered across the field recordings.
In isolation the tracks on this album are nice, however as a whole album there is a feeling of repetition which lessens their impact. If the components were used differently (less field recordings – or have them used in isolation) or possibly more instrumentation to add different textures, then it would be a bit more captivating in my opinion.
“Surface Reflections” is available on limited Cd-r (200 copies) and Digital.
“Jason Sweeney has been composing and recording either solo, under the alias of Panoptique Electrical, Other People’s Children and Simpático, or with friends in various musical projects like Pretty Boy Crossover, Sweet William, School of Two, Luxury Gap, Par Avion, Great Panoptique Winter, Mist & Sea, Winter Witches, GIRL and many others. He has also been directing and creating interactive works for the internet, experimental films, projects for galleries and theatre spaces and has collaborated with some of Australia’s leading performing arts companies and organizations.
Human, Insignificant is a wonderful collection of eight new emotional songs about brokenness and fragility. With a total duration of something more than 26 minutes, it’s a brief, quiet and melancholy album, written, recorded and produced by Sweeney with the help of his collaborators Zoë Barry and Jed Palmer who played and recorded cellos respectively. Centered on Sweeney’s fragile vocals and elegant piano melodies with the addition of string arrangements of cinematic cellos and layers of other odd sound artefacts and noises, Human, Insignificant perfectly merges songwriting, modern classical, evocative atmospheres and ambient soundscapes. “
Following on from his previous Sound In Silence release “Middle Ages”, (Jason) Sweeney sees himself fully immersed in the style familiar to the latter career of Scott Walker mixed with Anonhi with hints of David Sylvian. The vocal style is very similar to his previous album, but this has more in common musically with his previous Panoptique Electrical album “Quiet Ecology” as it shares some of that album’s darkness, but pushes it further into the more minimal sound art style. On this release he is supported by Zoë Barry and Jed Palmer both on cello.
For a release that is twenty six minutes long Sweeney makes sure to have an emotional stamp on the music, predominantly brought forth in the vocals. For large parts of the album the music is stark and minimal centering around his vocals, piano and mysterious sounds which flutter and shift in the background. On the title track his uses multi-layered vocals to make the singing a musical instrument over stark piano stabs and slow manipulated send distant cello. The track “Manifest” reminds me of his previous albums style and has the most confident and almost forceful feel of the tracks. Relying more on vocals and piano with minimal effects you can picture Sweeney sitting down and recording this is in one emotional take.
Strong, vocally driven work is not really my forte especially those that you can feel the artists emotions being channelled through their performances. That said I do have an appreciation that would make this an occasional listen as the music draws me in and while I admit finding it hard to digest the late period Scott Walker material (the late ’60’s work is more my period), Sweeney may take influence from him but does not overplay it like Walker used to.
“Human, Insignificant” is available on limited Cd-r (200 copies) and Digital.