The battle to keep up with the number or received submissions is long lost, so I present to you my late, late, late round up of releases I would be remiss not to at least give a mention. This is part one.
Adrianna Krikl “Celestial”
Adrianna Krikl got in contact with with me out of the blue and offered me a cassette of her works. Being that I haven’t owned a tape deck in close to two decades (and have thoroughly missed the whole cassette revolution), I politely passed and instead asked for a download of her material. And I am glad I did. She sent over two of her short releases in “Celestial” and “Endless”. Both have their own qualities with “Celestial” being more of the ambient persuasion and “Endless” leaning to the electronic side of things. Her description on her bandcamp page is that her music “blends analogue synths, digital software, beats and loops for a filmic sound.“
The tracks on the “Celestial” single feature soprano Caroline Joy Clarke and Cellist Nina Uzelac, with production and mixing by OKGO’s Dan Konopka.
Kirkl effortlessly combines strings and choral elements with electronics and either moves them into darker spheres (“Celestial” which vaguely reminds me of a Soma remix) or retro dance floor fillers with modern classical (“Unease”). When (presumably) it’s just her her on “Tape Study 001” she works on experimenting with Ambient Sounds and textures.
“Endless” would be the more commercial side because of the vocals which makes the track reminiscent New Zealand’s Lorde with vocalist IamLawn sounding as if she is from NZ or Australia. Again featuring Nina Uzelac and Dan Konopka’s production work, it also features Jess Diggins on Cello on “Fathom”. The single is another example of Krikl’s methods in combining modern classical styles with electronic ones, not necessarily geared for the dance floor, but definitely having an ear towards blending electronica and dance music.
Between the two releases and six tracks there are twenty three minutes of music that are all enjoyable. As mentioned before the balance that Krikl gets and the way that she reframes the styles results in music that would please people of either style of music. A note must be made for how good the pieces sound which accentuates their qualities. Recommended.
Altars Altars “Fragments”
It seems very fitting that this re-issue found its way onto the Home Normal imprint seeing as how label boss Ian Hawgood and tape machines are so strongly linked. “Fragments” originally came out on the Mmm Sound label in 2016 and feels like a long lost audio document that has been dug up and dusted off.
There is a strong haziness to the music as if it has been recorded on a malfunctioning tape recorder on decaying media. The tones of the pieces numbered A I to A VII and B I to B VII (hinting back to the original tape release and sides of the then untitled pieces) range from darker ones like A VII or B I to the more bright and summery A III which is the musical equivalent to the way the reflection of the sun appears on the album’s cover. Due to the lengths of the pieces (0:42 to 4:58 with the majority being in or around two minute mark) there is a tendency for them to feel like snapshots of time or blurred memories which lends to them both a personal and nostalgic quality. Designed for those lazy long weekends where the sun is getting close to setting but the temperature is still slightly warm.
Constellation Tatsu have sent over the three batches of their releases. Their next batch – Fall with Sofie Birch, Hakobune and Thyme Lines drops November 12, but in the meantime we’ll catch up with their Winter and Spring/Summer batches (note: Northern Hemisphere seasons).
Rose “Night Places”
“Night Places is the latest project from Reuben Sawyer, whose been an illustrator & musician for over a decade. Sawyer has various aliases, and his Rose persona comes off as hypnotic, focused, and beyond freezing.”
Rose makes their fourth appearance on the Constellation Tatsu catalogue (although one of Sawyer’s other aliases opened the label) and exhibits a different sound to what I would expect from the label. The music is decidedly more dancefloor orientated but from a perspective hinting the darker aspects of electronic music with a slight ambient edge. Opening with “Phosphorescent” with it’s pounding beats, industrial-esque electronics and intangible atmosphere make for a slightly claustrophobic feel, while still exhibiting ever so slightly in the Constellation Tatsu sphere. The mood changes with “The Searing” being more Ambient in focus with its loop like feel and repetition, while the title track moves from squaling ambience through to crisp beats and a swirling soundscape. The beats change the complection of the piece and at times feel as if they are independent of the piece, but then at other times anchor it and give it focus. As I have not heard any if Sawyer’s works I can not comment on the variety in his styles, but each track offers something different to listeners.
Jordan Christoff “Enveloped”
“Jordan paints sonic landscapes with synth experimentations, no computer screens, but a full acoustic world that draws from contemporary ambient sonic landscapes, a sound that is also committed to honouring the roots, clearly inspired by composers like Eduard Artemyev and the sounds of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares.”
Since this release Christoff has appeared on the Past Inside The Present and Vacuum PRESS / 眞空出版 labels. His music is best described as dense and swirling. Submerged tones wriggle over each other like a living organism trapped while drones cut through. Texturally the music is thick which makes discerning it’s sources as being difficult and while some music that shares this style can be gentle, Christoff ‘s music has an allure of mystery to it which is heightened by the submerged sound which in some ways removes the colour and temperature out of the music making it feel cold and overcast.
Chris Otchy “Suburban Landscapes”
“A vivid exploration of the natural world, the album weaves together a tapestry of serene synth compositions juxtaposed with denser, more industrial material that stops just short of techno.”
Chris Otchy is part of the Synth Pop group Soviet, while “Suburban Landscapes” appears to be his solo debut. “Suburban Landscapes” definitely resides in the synth drenched world of prog and new age with touches of Ambience and (mostly) beatless near techno. There is a feeling of introspection in his music that I don’t necessarily associate with those two genres. While they are known for their exploratory style (and the pieces on this album head in that direction), the music has more of a laid-back vibe that gives it a personal feel. This is noted on the track “Out of Reach” with its pastoral guitar and minimal barely there beats. That said the music contained on the album is not all the same with the 8-bit sound of “The CHOAM Corporation”. Otchy ends with the Japanese -esque new age piece “Taming The Moon” showing that he is open to different styles.
Curved Light “Flow And Return”
“A visceral psychedelic journey, the album is perhaps more densely layered than his previous efforts, but here laced with a fresh batch of memorable melodies and a neon under- current of 21st century dread.”
Peter Tran aka Curved Light returns to the label following up his 2017 release “Quartsite”. The fourteen tracks on this release are for the majority vignette sized length and see him traverse new age, synthwave and ambience and tease the listener with where they could go. You get the feeling that they are for a film in Tran’s mind with their styles differing to suit a particular theme. When Tran bursts from these shorter pieces like on the likes of “Paths Divergent” or “Flow And Return” that is when the pieces become more fully formed and their vision is more defined. This is when the pieces, for me, work better.
Part of the label’s Spring/Summer Batch, Arrowheads is an exercise in New Age /Prog /Ambient synth work outs. Missing the obvious field recordings that can push the music more into the New Age territory, the music has enough of an ominous edge to make it the perfect sort of soundtrack to a zgrade sci-fi film that went straight to vhs from 1982 (and I mean this in a good way). The music takes you into alien atmospheres with it’s retro flourishes, but still has the melodic core to make it not too obscure. There is a wash to the sound that makes it feel submerged and that if it had more clarity may make it more vibrant. That said it is a quality that suits it given the feel of the pieces and the above mentioned retro feel.
“Mastered by Leaving Records’ Matthew “Matthewdavid” McQueen, Lifeforce is an unreleased album from 2011. James Michael aka Arrowheads has put out music with Digitalis under the name ‘Pan’ and has collaborated with Patrick Spatz, another artist on Constellation Tatsu in the latest Spring / Summer Batch of 2019. Lifeforce feels like a video game then moves into kosmische, fantasy, then entire worldsexplored for the first time. Melodic, playful,experimental… just fun times for the worthy adventurer.”
Andrew Tasselmyer & Patrick Spatz “Inner Currents”
One of the rare releases on the label that are not on Cassette and rather Cd. Both artists are known for other projects such as Hotel Neon or Fray Acres (Tasselmyer) and Before Flags (Spatz) and they come together on this album to make pure drone. This is the type of music that relies on loops and shifts to construct the pieces with an emphasis on tonality and texture. The repetitive nature and the Basinski-esque feel are what makes the pieces as they have a strong sense of familiarity, but also a calming drift. As the press release below makes reference to the trading of tapes and the building upon them, the music is naturally dense, but never feels like it’s overcrowded.
Time is important to the release with three of the four pieces clocking in between nine and fifteen minutes in length. By stretching out the time it allows the duo to create elaborate frameworks of drones and to accentuate the compositions. The lack of a need to rush I feel is crucial to the success of drone works and both Tasselmyer and Spatz adhere to this method. Thankfully for a drone release not all tracks sound the same, the may have the same essence, but not the same sound. My personal favourite is the opening track “Inner Current Number 1” which is the type of track that I would give as an example of Drone to a novice listener.
“Interior Currents is the debut collaborative album from Pennsylvanian musicians Andrew Tasselmyer and Patrick Spatz. Motivated by a shared love of low fidelity recording techniques and thoughtful detail, the two artists set out to create music that felt organic and physical, and could facilitate introspection and close listening.
The 4-part album was born from cassette tapes that Tasselmyer and Spatz traded in person, each filled with entirely analog and acoustic sound sources – voice, piano, pump organ, guitar, and field recordings. Extensive processing and treatment of the original tapes, combined with live overdubbing, resulted in 4 pieces of deep, dense ambience.
With its source material recorded largely during the transition from winter to spring, “Interior Currents” is a meditation on evolution, change and progression, and an album best suited for low-volume listening and personal reflection.”
Living Dog & Mike Johnson “CRO$$”
“CRO$$ is the debut collaboration between Asheville, NC musicians Mike Johnson and Corey Parlamento (aka Livingdog). Each song was structured by using a different combination of acoustic and electronic instruments, field recordings, and household objects. They created fictional story lines based on photographs to dictate the direction each song would travel and then utilized elements of ambient and avant-garde music to create a sonic landscape for each image and story. CRO$$ is a collection of soundscapes that range from meditative and playful to chaotic and explosive.”
Utilizing different sources of influence gives each track its own flavour with the music moving from more guitar based to ambient to almost sound collages that are experimental and free form in nature. While not being to my taste – the more structured pieces work for me, it might be for those who prefer an openness to their music.
Opaline “Thought Texture”
““Thought Texture” by Opaline, a solo vehicle of Hunter P. Thompson is a look through the magnifying glass into a world of of glowing, retro-futuristic vistas with a nostalgic vibe and the abundant use of liquefied sequence-based rhythms. Fans of Steve Hauschildt, Panabrite, Le Révélateur, and of course the whole lot of Emeralds-based catalog should be delighted. Built on heavy synth massaging, this release skews towards wonder and warmth over coldness.”
While I mentioned that there was a submerged quality to the music of the Arrowheads release, the clarity of this release is vibrant and adds colour abd depth the music. Opaline aka Hunter P Thompson has been releasing music for the past seven years exclusively on Cassette on imprints such as Twin Spring Tapes, Oxtail Recordings, Rainbow Pyramid and others. This is his second release on Constellation Tatsu following on from 2015’s “Memory Drain”. There is a feeling of joy and inquisitiveness to the music in the way the lush synths arpeggiated. The music straddles the new age / prog divide quite nicely with Vapor trails being emitted by Thompsons synths, while thick pulses of sound float and morph around. A track like “Lost Formats” is the perfect example of this stylistic balance hinting at 70’s German prog and 80’s Japanese New Age. These days music that accentuates a drifting quality is the style that I find myself drawn to. In this day and age pieces that are essentially a form of musical therapy are very much needed and this is no exception. Sit back, get comfy, press play.