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 …txt, facture and Élan Vital labels.
“Off Land returns with ‘Field Tangents’, a beat less, seamless, ambient kaleidoscope. ‘Field Tangents’ combines live performance audio merged with studio sessions to create something that is both unique and familiar. Archived field recordings from various times and locations form a subtle spine, connecting the album’s sixteen tracks. Richly melodic and eerily emotive, ‘Field Tangents’ transports the listener to a prism outside of space and time.”
Off Land is Bostonian Tim Dwyer whose back catalogue has come out in various net and physical labels such as Resting Bell, En:Peg Digital, Psychonavigation and Carpe Sonum to name a few. His new album “Field Tangents” find a fitting home …txt records. He describes his work as that he “has been influenced by meditative music such as Javanese gamelan and minimal drone. Dwyer’s music is sparse yet texturally intricate, lying in some sort of electro-acoustic limbo between Namlook’s more dusty ambient collaborations, literal Phonography and contemporary classical experimentalism.” . “Field Tangents” is an epic sixteen track album that comes with a bonus seamless mix, with the final download track clocking in at just over sixty one minutes long.
The sound of the album is a nice blend of new age touches, retro synths and classic ambience that borders on symphonic. Dwyer for me creates more like mini soundtracks than actual standard songs. You feel as if each is a story within itself. Some of these utilise Field recordings of street life, a style I find always adds a bit of a personal touch and includes you in an experience or situation as compared to those of say water running, etc… I would suggest the music on the album is background music and I mean this in the nicest possible way. The music never over reaches or intrudes and becomes this soundtrack that you listen to while doing things. It has this quality which makes it nicely compliment whatever activity you are undertaking. From the more meditative moments like “The Mist Offset” or cinematic synths of tension in “Wayward Brumme” or the squalling drone meets sci-fi synths meets field recordings of “Evaporation”, the album is a collection of contemporary ambience with a multifaceted feel.
““A clear horizon — nothing to worry about on your plate, only things that are creative and not destructive” – Alfred Hitchcock.
When asked his definition of happiness, Hitchcock’s intimate answer talked about the removal of negative energy and emotions to provide himself with a clear road ahead to allow his creativity to flourish. With his latest release, Petter Friberg challenges us to go beyond what we think are our limits, fully embracing a sense of flow so that both time and space are forgotten, to give us a renewed energy and joy in a more creative purpose and better quality of life.“A Clear Horizon” is an exquisite ambient work composed to invoke these feelings and ideas where hypnotic patterns weave around drifting synthscapes, subtle melodies and evolving loops. Let your mind drift and head towards your own clear horizon.”
Like label mate Off Land, Motionfield aka Petter Friberg has a history with net labels and physical labels. His work has appeared on labels such as Test Tube, Stadtgruen, Thinner as well as Carpe Sonum, Neotantra and Databloem. By my count “A Clear Horizon” is his twelfth album and features eight tracks with a dubby core running through most of them. Friberg has the knowledge of how to blend styles seamlessly with electronica, ambient and dub techno influences being thrown into the mixing pot resulting in pieces that accentuate all those styles characteristics and have their own quality as well. He is not afraid to also play with light and texture as witnessed on “Ominous” with it’s obvious environmental influence and slashes of sound that change the feel of the piece. The beauty of the pieces is that you can sense the styles that influence him as mentioned above, but he never goes into an obvious direction. There is a feeling of pulling back rather just giving the listener what they could expect, which adds a variance and intrigue to the pieces. It also enhances the dubby and drifting qualities of the music. A track like “Home” is a good example of this and also reminds me of those Thinner / Autoplate releases of the early 2000’s were the music balanced the ambient vs electronica vs minimal divide.
“A Clear Horizon” is the perfect distillation of those times and the present. It’s as if the children of Thinner/Autoplate (and other like minded net labels) have mellowed with age and maturity to produce an album that is both a hearkening back to an earlier time, but also very much of the present and future. “A Clear Horizon” is available on CD and Digital.
“Place Language is an international non-profit compilation album project inspired by the themes found in Robert Macfarlane’s widely-acclaimed book ‘Landmarks’. In particular it focuses on the book’s extensive topographic glossaries, the “word-hoard” of depictive landscape terms gathered from 30 different languages, dialects and sub-dialects around Britain & Ireland and divided into sections by type of terrain (Flatlands, Uplands, Waterlands, Coastlands, Underlands, Northlands, Edgelands, Earthlands and Woodlands).Relying on these topograms, or “tiny place poems”, as creative prompts, Place Language seeks to both inspire a renewed interest in our surroundings and reinvigorate our appreciation for the audible textures & patterns that characterize a place in keeping with the book’s stated desire to “re-wild” our vocabulary.
The collection features the work of 28 different sound-artists, field recordists, and musicians from around the globe each of whom selected a Landmarks topogram and recorded an impression of it thus adding rich new aspects of dimensionality through the act of sonification. These selections cover all nine of the book’s glossaries along with place-words of new coinage as prompted by the blank one which Macfarlane leaves at the end of the book for readers to fill in from their own experience. The end result is a truly global and collaborative survey of place, language, and sound.”
“Place Language” was probably the epic release of 2019 in some way. It came to my attention via and people like Brian from Stationary Travels ,the guys from Hotel Neon and Fluid Radio. Inspired by the writing of Robert Macfarlane, the album features a who’s who of underground ambient and sound artists with the line-up being: Aaron Martin (USA), Anthéne (Canada), Benoît Pioulard (USA), Bethan Kellough (UK), Celer (Japan), Dalot (Greece), Federico Durand (Argentina), Hakobune (Japan), Hammock (USA), Hotel Neon (USA), Ian Hawgood (UK), Kate Carr (UK), Lawrence English (Australia), Lowercase Noises (USA), Marcus Fischer (USA), Melissa Pons (Sweden), Poemme (USA), Porya Hatami (Iran), Richard Skelton aka The Inward Circles (UK), Siavash Amini (Iran), Simon Scott (UK), Sound Awakener (Vietnam), The Green Kingdom (USA), Tobias Hellkvist (Sweden), Warmth (Spain), Wil Bolton (UK), and Yann Novak (USA). It resulted in a UK tour from Hotel Neon, Marcus Fischer and Rafael Anton Irisarri.
For the most part the album has a through line of field recordings and their importance in the musicians relationships to places. The important part of the compilation is that having twenty eight artists who exist within the same sort of musical sphere is that it doesn’t become to samey. The coordinator of this (I believe it was Brian Houseman) has done a great job in selecting artists that sit nicely alongside each other without it being a case of high repetition. Ian Hawgood (who mastered the album beautifully) and Federico Durand exist in the quieter minimal scene and the ever joyful The Green Kingdom, while Lawrence English and The Inward Circles venture into darker, noisier soundscapes. Instrumentation thankfully is varied through out from the sublime piano work of Poemme and the instantly recognizable cello of Aaron Martin. There are also pieces that fit comfortably in the field recording/ sound art vein from Bethan Kellough and Kate Carr. One thing the ambient community does exceptionally well is charity compilations. Past releases like “Kanshin” (Hibernate/Fluid Audio), “Dayalu / For Nepal” (Hibernate) , “And Darkness Came” (Headphone Commute) and “For Nihon” (Unseen Music) come to mind as great examples of what happens when a community comes together.
If you are going to buy one compilation this year, for both a good cause and some exceptional music, then you can’t go past “Place Language”. The ultra limited CD edition is long sold out, but the Digital is still available.
“Krzysztof Kotlinski is an artist creating music under several pseudonyms and presenting completely different musical styles. He was associated mainly with club music for many years, but in his heart there were always unusual sounds hidden. The desire to search for new musical solutions and experiments resulted in the creation of a project where he explores music from the border of ambient and post classical presenting a large dose of emotional vibes which is the foundation of his every production. In his work he uses recordings from fields, recordings of acoustic and electronic instruments – mainly of the piano and a modular synthesizer by means of which he then creates unique, sometimes surprising rhythmic and melodic combinations. His main inspiration to start this project is contemplation on life and death, and the search for the answer to the question “who are we and what are we doing here?”. Kotlinski’s music is deep and emotionally intense, it will not leave the listener indifferent after listening to it and will definitely give a lot of food for thought.”
Krzysztof Kotlinksi is the first release on the new North Macedonian label Élan Vital Recordings which is run by Toni Dimitrov who is a member of Post Global Trio, Post Global Duo, Private Mountain as well as a solo artist and collaborator. Who also ran the Acid Fake label of the early 200’s. With Élan Vital, Dimitrov is release small batches of releases which feature an attention to detail and care. So far two releases have appeared in editions of twenty copies, we will focus on Krzysztof’s release and with Andartica ‘s review below.
Created over a seven year period from 2008-20015 Kotlinski’s pieces are highly textured works that use a wide soundscape in their construction. At times sounding like things are falling apart, there are fragments of melodies, snatches of found sound. At times it feels like an Electroacoustic work, at other Modern Classical, some times a hauntological feeling is cast upon the material and at others the pieces border on noise. What is predominant throughout the album is a sense of time and place with a definite foothold in the past. The submerged, distant and warped sounds help establish this feeling as does the more darker tonal landscape that Kotlinski uses. The beauty of the pieces and indeed the whole album, is the slow pacing which adds to the mystery of the pieces and gives them additional weight. There is a restraint shown in the work which helps as it doesn’t obscure what is happening underneath, instead the pacing allows for the listener to discern the subtle shapes and textures that are evolving throughout.
“Black Rain” is available as a highly limited CD release (20 copies) and Digital and is worth checking out.
“Sand (The Wandering Place)” is the third release of the ambient music project, andarctica. Four meditations on memory, the album consists of fragmented mantras, repeated as they decay over time. Using a combination of granular synthesis, orchestral sounds and tape delays, Sand is the act of remembering itself: with each recollection a memory changes, and as details blur and faces fade, one finds a certain comfort in forgetting.
andarctica is the ambient music project of Brian Barth. Based in Amsterdam, he crafts flowing, persistent pieces that combine orchestral and electronic sounds with field recordings and manipulated tape textures. Drawing inspiration from artists like Rhucle, Celer and Mnemonic45, andarctica uses slow-moving patterns and melodies in combination with full-frequency layers of sound to encourage moments of quiet focus and induce gradual auditory hallucinations.”
The first time I came across andartica was via the quickly sold out Polar Seas Recording release “Longview” which I liked and was the soundtrack to a hike I did at the start of the year. This time around Barth finds himself on Élan Vital with his lush minimal ambience coming to the fore once more. Over four tracks and around forty one minutes Barth provides the listener with music that is almost meditative because of its lowercase like feel. For the most part the music is subdued. You won’t really her Barth go for great walls of sound or overly lush synths (possibly with the exception of “Beckon” which has some flourishes of fuller, present sounds). Instead Barth sets about bathing the listener in a soundscape that is relaxing and hypnotic. Sometimes it feels like little movement is going on (such as the final part of “Beckon” which has controlled tight minimal loops), but a track like the opener “Last Summer” shows him at the peak of his powers with minimalism and the way that he makes less seem a whole lot more. The first paragraph in the press quote says it all really, there is degradation, the music has a blurry quality with fragmentation and repeating motifs coming and fading away.
“Sand (The Wandering Place)” is a great addition to the ambient canon from an artist that if you haven’t checked out before, then you should. The album is available on limited CD and digital