With the year and decade coming to an end, I rush with a flurry of blog posts. Shorter than most I normally do, there will hopefully be 22! done before the year is over , nicely tying up everything and clearing the decks before next years releases (which has already got close to double digits). Here are some fine releases from the Rottenman Editions label.
“Driven by the emotional trail of their first album, they reaffirm themselves with “Thousand Pieces & Icebergs”. Second recording work by Dear Sailor, collaborative project by Pepo Gálan & Lee Yi. They present this petty collection of unpublished tracks recorded over a long period of time and released as a compilation, specially created for Rottenman Editions, with collaboration by Suso Saiz, Brian Hillhouse and Senmove.
A brief expedition to the far & coldest territories, where thousands of broken blocks of drifting Icebergs collide with each other, creating a beautiful solemn procession to give rise to an imminent rupture. Luminescence that tears apart and lasts, like a Sea´s Volcano; with drones that invokes the sounds of the underwater world, where their darkest creatures have their resting place.
Wonderful duality between ephemeral poems and melancholy capable of shaking our sensibility, an alliance of the ambient music spirit and the purer aesthetics of pop, creating a fascinating ritual of sacrifice to the oldest, most distant and inexorable of the gods.”
Rottenman Editions has had a place in my heart ever since the Emilía album “Down To Sadness River” arrived in my in box. Now one half of that duo Lee Yi teams up with Pepo Gálan to be Dear Sailor. Lee Yi has been featured before on these pages (and indeed down below) but for the uninitiated Pepo Gálan is “a composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer born in Malaga. His compositions create a characteristic sound with micro-textures, noisy environments and melancholic melodies loaded with beauty and elegance like dense sound fogs.” It should come as no surprise that being that this is a Rottenman release that the music is of the finest nature.
The Title track “Thousand Pieces & Icebergs (featuring Suso Saiz)” is the sort of piece I associate with the artists on this label. It fuses an organic quality with experimentation, natural instrumentation with electronics and sets about creating a soundscape for the listener to explore in. There is grittiness, but also beauty with an intention to create a soundscape that is not obvious in it”s direction or musical style. It flirts with an orchestral, cinematic feel as much as it does in the drone field. As an opening piece in a way it sets some form of ground work or inkling of where it may be that you will be heading on your journey.
“Black Lava” furthers this investigative journey heading into the darker forms of music that Rottenman are not afraid to release. Experimental in nature and based on different tones and frequencies, there is an underlying piano motif that makes it’s presence felt under the cavernous sound that initially opens up rather gently before being utterly consumed.
And just when you have an idea of where this release will take you on it’s final track, the result will completely upend you and making you check that you have not hit random and landed on a completely different album. That track is “Years of Fear (featuring Brian Hillhouse & Senmove). It starts out with orchestral like drones that swoon and fold from a distance, with a melancholic moodiness as stated in Pepo’s description of his style. Then it flips 180 degrees with bright ambient guitars, glitchy beats and breathy male vocals. Although the vocal style has a feeling of it possibly heading in a pop direction, the music never falls into the verse / chorus/ bridge cliche reminding me more of some of the vocal pieces on some n5MD releases than what I would associate with Rottenman. This is quite a risk especially when you have set up an identity either as an artist or as a label, but having those moments that throw people means that you can never be pegged into a hole and that there is the possibility of surprises down the road.
“Thousand Pieces & Icebergs” is the follow up to 2015’s self titled album (on El Muelle Records) and is available on cd and digital.
“It is a perfect imitation of beautiful nature. In some way, Shinji Wakasa searches his subconscious for images that elapses and merges with each other, creating a direct dialogue through his compositions, between the human being and his environment. Pure calm that starts from harmony of silence, which leads to seek the adventure of the encounter with privacy and beauty. “Tranquilo Trasciendo” is a fragment that is deposited behind the gaze, to generate an inevitably internal change and escape to ephemeral garden of the mind; to feel these sounds recovers your true being.”
A common criticism of my my music taste is that it just ‘sounds, not music’ which is something I have no problem with. I’d rather hear something tonally explorative than generic verse/chorus/bridge work. This particular album from yet again a new artist to me, is right up my alley and reminds me why Rottenman (with the exception of the Eyoko release “Yoso”) have been main stayers of this blog. Musically the pieces on this album remind me of The Green Kingdom as both have an interest in balancing natural environments with electronics and ambience.
Opening with “Rera” which was premiered by a few of my compatriots you are taken into Wakasa’s dream like soundscapes that even in their more darker scope such as the second track “Hystricidae”, they still manage to have some form of beauty and mystery seeping inside them. “Rera” is the type of tonal based piece with a multitude of sound sources meshing together like ambience, field recordings, fragments of piano, glitchy bouncing tones and others washed down with static, giving off a dream like feel and a colour to the music. “Hystericidae” sees Wakasa creating long drones and holding them until seem close to breaking while oscillating sounds retreat and return. There is a darkness to the piece that manages to not stray to far in the Dark Ambient direction. “Wood, Tar, Water Fire” in terms of sound balances the lightness of “Rera” and the darker tones of “Hystericidae” while having an innocence and sounding purely Japanese like some of the great works that have appeared before on labels such as 12k like Sawako or Minamo for example. I have to admit being an absolute sucker for this type of music as it tends to encapsulate the styles I like within a single piece. Wakasa also gives it enough of an edge for it not to be too saccharine.
The final trio of pieces: “A Light House”, “Ray” and “Strix Down” have more in common with “Hystericidae” than the other pieces. There is a definite move to darker territories with a swirling cacophony of bell like sounds dominating “A Light House” alongside creaking sounds giving you the impression of a distant boat listing about. With a piece like “Ray” I am reminded of the more recent Wil Bolton works that are largely centred around the use of field recording to build the essence of the pieces. There are elements that are familiar to both the first two tracks, but as if heard from a distance. The way Wakasa constructs the pieces there is a familiarity as the motifs repeat, but there is also the feeling of being stuck in one particular place and not being able to escape. With the albums final track “Strix Down” a pensive mood is created with the piece almost sounding like a reprise of “A Light House” as it has similar sound sources and structures, but while the other piece felt like it was being observed second hand, this time you feel as if things are happy right by you such is the clarity.
“Tranquilo Trasciendo” with its six pieces coming it around at thirty minutes in length is the perfect sort of package as it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and it offers many different styles, tones and structures to find yourself immersed in. Simply, perfect for me. While the vinyl is sold out, the cd and digital are still available.
“Fourth album by experimental musician Lee Yi for Rottenman Editions. In SSP the artist rediscovers himself facing the darkest part of the music, clinging to sounds that we generally classify as unpleasant, such as noises and saturations created by forcing his 4 track recorder and in turn, creating micro flash of light with small melodies, voices, string simulations and underwater drones. Inspired by those hard feelings we feel every time we look to the mirror, every time we face to Sorrow´s Self-Portrait.”
Lee Yi finds himself back on the label with his last solo release under the name Eyoko. While that particular release didn’t really do it for me, purely on the case of it verging into noise spheres that are not my thing, “Sorrow’s Self-Portrait” is more to my liking as it fuses together some of the styles that have permeated through Yi’s individual and group projects (such as the aforementioned Dear Sailor and Emilía). If you were to make comparisons to his previous solo work then it would be a mix of “Dissimilar Lake Pigments” and “Yoso” where he leans towards a more degrading sound palette.
Initially you get the feeling that the album is a bit stark, but it is once you pull back the layers and focus on the sounds that the textures and tonalities reveal themselves to you and show the music to be multi dimensional. The opener “Yelling!” reminds me of a noisier take on the vignette style of Emilía while it’s follow up piece “Crestillina” sounds almost Post Metal meets Electro industrial with its heavy (an melodic) riffs, breathy vocals and distorted percussion. Degradation and field recording rule the roost of “Apostasía” while “Consequential Damage” ,”Schizoid” and the title track have a power electronics meets experimental sound art feel about them.
“Sub-stances” and “Morphine Like Effects” bring us closer to the styles explored in Emilía verging on more drone like sounds while encompassing a certain amount of darkness and menace and being able to move through moods during their relative short duration’s. Indeed the opening of “Morphine Like Effects” feels like an Emilía outtake before ever so slightly verging into Yi’s more current sound influences. The seventy-three second “Butterfly Skin” concludes the album returning Yi to proto Post Metal Industrial soundscapes with a vignette style that makes it more of an intro or is that an outro considering it’s position on the record?
If you were to take this record in isolation you may think the Yi is going through a transitional phase or style in his music, but then when you bring Dear Sailor into the picture you just realise that there are many styles and techniques that he is comfortable in using and pursuing in his music. If you like the music of Emilía and noisier tropes, then this might be for you.