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 releases from the Indiana based Past Inside The Present label with releases dropping regularly. Here is a quick look back to earlier in the year with a bunch of digital only and physical & digital releases. Note: the label has started a sub label doing digital only releases called Healing Sound Propagandist where you can find their releases here. All releases are Digital only unless mentioned.
“What is amazing about these two compositions, is how they were constructed. Ian meticulously hyper-processed vocals on reels and then washed out them out into multi-layered textures. The result; two delicate arrangements slowly drifting in a graceful and ethereal space. A soundtrack that could be found in the earth’s exosphere, where the atmosphere merges with solar winds. These arrangements encompass supernatural billows that are saturated with gorgeous transmissions which seem too perfect for this world.“
Initially the label started with their self contained artists and then started working with the bigger names of the underground scene with Home Normal honcho being one of the earliest names. For this digital single he offers two cuts “Vocalism” and “Regeneration” which keep within his familiar analogue techniques, but sees him experiment with vocals which naturally, is prominent in the first piece which sounds like a choral drone. “Regeneration” is like a ultra minimalist version that has stripped back until it is opaque and has a very environmental feel.
“Glistening in layers of manipulated piano work and blanketed with lush, drone treatments, Erinome brings forth two seraphic arrangements that are compelling and lustrous.“
Prior to his “Low Priest” album for the label, a digital single of “A Burning Down I” and “A Burning Down II” was released. On the “A” side aka “A Burning Down I” Erinome aka Aaron Ross Hanson experiments with a kaleidoscope of sounds and colours that flicker, warp and rumble and move through such territory as noise spheres and still ambience. There are sections were the tones are feverish as if played very fast and cut up. “A Burning Down II” evolves out of the woozy finale of “Part I” and sees Hanson move through scattershot electronics and more distorted rumbling section before lightly running out of steam.
“These richly layered drone movements incorporate delicate guitar billows, subtle manipulations and reticent swells with an emphasis on superior tone and atmosphere.“
NAAL aka Dave Mantel is a new name for me and the first of his two tracks, “In Him, I Saw Me” is a gentle long form drone piece of subtlety that moves through a consistent territory with ever so slight instrument additions like padded piano. The music has an aerial quality as if you are floating over something with the slight changes reflecting those of the environment and atmosphere. The flip “We’re Here, We Will Die” despite the track’s title is as introspective as it is uplifting. It and the previous piece show Mantel to be a fine ambient composer of grander pieces whether they be close to fourteen minutes in length or only three and a half minutes long. Both are very enjoyable pieces for a name I will have to check out more in the future.
“Both tracks featured on this release were captured and recorded with magnetic tape. Tape noise were undisturbed and not edited from these arrangements. Original sounds of ‘Empty of What” by Patrick Spatz with additional treatments by 扎克. This arrangement features processed baritone ukulele, processed pump organ and processed field recordings.”
This particular release features two artists in Patrick Spatz and zaké who has since branched off with another (sort of) sub label called zaké drone. The Before Flags piece “Empty of What” is a moody mysterious piece of ambience that has a certain stillness associated with it. It feels like a piece suited to a lake in the hills in the middle of winter with clouds rolling over it and no one around for miles. The zaké piece “Valley of Vision” is static soaked with a glacial but melodic core to it. There is a bit of distant, but emotional feel to the piece, as if it is conjuring up memories of the past. Together zaké and Spatz (who has released collaborations with Andrew Tasselmyer (Hotel Neon) and Hakobune) mix their two pieces together in a way that gives it a call and response sort of feeling and somehow takes them out of their initial meanings , probably more so “Empty of What” rather than “Valley of Vision”.
“These gorgeous arrangements encompass two guitar drone improvisations that were captured during late night sound design sessions in spring 2019.“
Hilyard is Bryan Hilyard a US based Ambient artist who has been active since 2013 with releases on Elm, Stereoscenic and Cryo Chamber labels. As the above quote states both tracks “Distant” and “Spirals” are drone pieces of different tones. There is more of a relaxed squall when it comes to “Distant” with its swirling guitar lines manipulated in drone form, while “Spirals” has after a subdued beginning, a more insistent tone mixed in with a definite rumble becomes the core of the piece before the light is sucked out of the piece.
“Seven Fixed Dreams and Seven Ghost Years are intersecting trapezoids written and recorded by Viul in early spring 2019 using guitar, tape and effects, concerning very large objects and very slow movements“
Viul is New York Based Ambient musician Luke Entelis who has also appeared on Benoit Pioulard’s Disques d’Honore label. His pieces for this two track ep “Seven Fixed Dreams” and “Seven Ghost Years” are loop based works that balance between clarity and dissonance with “Seven Ghost Dreams” in particular being bathed in a wall of distortion. Interestingly when some artists use this as stylistic choice within their music it has a tendency to mask the inadequacies of what was there before. However , in the hands of Entelis and masterer Rafael Anton Irisarri it makes for a captivating listen as you try to discern the shapes and colours under this wall of sound.
“Songs of an Empty Room’ is the second solo album from Iranian sound artist Maryam Sirvan, also one half of the electronic duo NUM. ‘Songs of An Empty Room’ is a static inner journey into infinity, a story of a secluded room on a dull, grey summer evening. These works delve into the concept of detachment from the outer world and seek tranquillity in an imaginary, non-existent inner space―a craving for otherworldly existence and exploration for a personal perception beyond time and space in a hallucinating manner.’Songs of An Empty Room’ is an exploration through sonic territories employing limited acoustic sources: obsessively, exclusively, electric guitar and voice. It offers textural structures using digital manipulation and sampling, creating personal atmospheres and soundscapes.“
“Songs For An Empty Room” is a five track album of long form pieces with the shortest being almost seven and half minutes and the longest at just under 16 minutes. Sirvan’s pieces exist in an alien world where drones and electronics intersect, crossing genre boundaries as well as textural and sonic ones. There is a free form feel to the pieces in the way that they are unpredictable, making the music quite personal to the artist.
“Songs For An Empty Room” is available on CD and Digital.
“Portraits of Past Vol.I is a compilation featuring artists who contributed exclusive tracks in winter/spring of MMXIX. Arranged and curated by Past Inside the Present.”
This compilation features cuts from the various singles that have been covered on this and a previous post. Artists include: Hilyard, NAAL, Ian Hawgood, Warmth, zaké, Gallery Six, Erinome, Jack Hyde, Dawn Chorus And The Infallible Sea and Lauver. The Cd version is now sold out.
“Remnants’ by Isaac Helsen has taken several forms over many years: A full-length album and a double album, before it was scrapped entirely; reborn as a four-part series of EPs, and scrapped again; finally, taking form as ‘Remnants’, an eight-part series to be released over the course of 2019 on Past Inside the Present. The project is both an autobiographical examination of the artist’s struggles with mental health and an attempt to deconstruct the idea of an album, creating a new series of sounds by collecting broken pieces of varying styles and in scattered stages of completion. The individual eight volumes will be released sporadically and unpredictably throughout the remainder of 2019, noting both the sporadic and unpredictable nature of these collections of sound as well as the processes in which they were conceived. “
This was the first of Helsen’s “Remnants” series which eventually extended to 8 volumes which were then collected in the cassette / Digital release “Remnants Vol. I-VIII”. “Viscera” has a haunting, melodic drone style with field recordings which give it a travelogue/personal feel. This is a distant rumble underneath with a wind blown drone that runs across it and becomes the focal point. Helsen takes his time to build and disperse his sounds without rushing any aspect of it. This re-enforces the feel of the piece
“The Auger” on the other hand has a somewhat retro feel, but one that reminds me of the sort of tone that you can get from string instruments such as cello and violin – that almost metallic, rusty sound. Somewhat cinematic in nature, there is a freedom to the playing.
“Duniskwalgunyi” sets the tone by moving through movements from the initial subdues early morning dawn like feel through to the more pulsing and warping finale before returning to the quieter style. On this piece Helsen shows how capable he is in the long form style as the track just made me sit back, listen and enjoy it.
“3347-00-8GA” is a brief electronic interlude that unfortunately doesn’t do anything for me, but that is OK as soon enough we are onto “Athabasca” where Helsen experiments with long linear drones and the dynamics of light, space and volume to create this oscillating piece.
“Of Blossoms” and “The Memory You Take” follow on nicely in the style that Helsen has demonstrated before on volumes I and II, however there is a definite dive unto more murkier territory with distant and submerged soundscapes being predominantly heard equally on both tracks. That said with the title “The Memory You Take” there is more of an emotional feeling to the track with the weight and mournful feel of the drones.
“swrdmaa95” is similar in my feeling to “3347-00-8GA” in that with it’s experimental electronics and exploration of textures, not really being my sort of thing.
“Hotel Neon is the Philadelphia-based trio of Michael Tasselmyer, Andrew Tasselmyer, and Steven Kemner. Together they create music to get lost in: atmospheric washes of guitar and electronics, paired with meticulously designed visual projections that combine for an immersive audio/visual experience. Since forming in early 2013, the group has released 5 full-length albums, including their newest LP “Vanishing Forms” released in April 2019 through Spanish ambient imprint, Archives. Hotel Neon has toured and collaborated with the likes of Benoit Pioulard, Loscil, The Sight Below, and Marcus Fischer, filling a variety of performance spaces from galleries to cathedrals with their densely layered walls of sound. Life often requires us to feel a sense of dread and wonder simultaneously. Introspection and empathy are especially needed as of late. These two deep and engaging tracks by Hotel Neon help to create a space in which one can settle and reflect.“
Hotel Neon are known for dense and sonicly rich ambience. This is further demonstrated on the two track, ten minute release “Bloom”/ “Fold”. “Bloom” feels like the soundtrack to a coastal area where the waves are crashing against the shore with noisy sounds echoing around. There is a multitude of sound levels, from an angelic sort of melody, darker drones, a surging sound and a wash of static that all interlock and move from time to time giving the piece a living, breathing feeling. “Fold” on the other hand has a sort of washed out theme where the sounds initially aren’t in the foreground, they are threatening to break through with every growing surge of noise, before the threat subsides. Density is central to these two pieces which is something that has appeared all over their catalogue and shows them to be consistent in their vision.
“‘Parallel Inflection’ is condensed compositions from Warmth’s third ambient album ‘Parallel’, which includes two previously unreleased arrangements from the Parallel sessions. ‘Parallel’ is the third ambient album by Warmth. A tribute to the minimalist ambient of the nineties”
Warmth is Agustín Mena who also runs the Spanish ambient label Archives which has been home to the likes of Caught In The Wake Forever, Hotel Neon, anthéne and Robert Farrugia to name a few. Like the music Mena makes, his labels works have a look of beauty. This particular album for Past Inside the Present is a ‘version’ of his original “Parallel” album that he released back in 2018 and has already seen a second cd-r issue and an issue on cassette. This vinyl issue sees more concise versions of the tracks that featured in it’s original issue with reworks of the tracks “Concave” and “Parallel”.
To say this album is minimal is an understatement. Mena uses a relatively small sound palette per track, but never does it verge on boring. It is just one of those things that in the hands of a lesser artist it could be colour -by-numbers and rote, but Mena has a way that is relaxing and is the soundtrack to a drift. There is a definite lean to the more calming, melodic tones of ambient music (especially in the first half of the album) and there is also enough depth for it not to be vacuous. The two reworks are sees a flip of the sounds with the elements that were embedded within the pieces flipped and focused on, reversing the initial focal points. An almost reduction of the tracks, they open up another interpretation of the individual pieces and re-enforce Mena’s qualities as a composer.
“Parallel Infection” is available on LP and Digital.
“”The following collection of songs is an attempt at expressing something from which much of our generation seems to be suffering: exhaustion. It is difficult to keep up with current events and, at the same time, keep your sanity intact, and each one of these songs was written at a time during which I felt absolutely overwhelmed; however, in writing them, I found a deep sense of comfort, too.”
Matthew Prokop is a member of the American / Austrian Post Rock band Lehnen where he plays drums and synths. On this cassette release for Past Inside the Present he uses predominantly synths, pianos and guitars to create pieces that take his Post Rock background and puts it through the prism of Ambience with a dash of Modern Classical. It is probably no surprise then that the tracks lean towards the descriptive styles and sounds that you are familiar with, as well as leaning towards the richer cinematic forms of ambience. “For Tired Souls” is the sort of release where setting aside certain tracks as highlights is a redundant sort of concept, instead it is one where there is a consistent sound and vision with only the last two tracks stepping away thanks to the minimal electronic beats of “Lifeline” and the stripped naked rework of “Turquoise and Blue” by 扎克 aka zakè. This is just an enjoyable well weighted release that is worth checking out and adding yet another name to that mental list of artists to follow.
“For Tired Souls” is available on Cassette and Digital.