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 Hush Hush label run by KEXP DJ Alex Ruder who describes the label’s output as “Music for headphone sessions, contemplative journeys, intimate encounters, late-night vibes…”
“Hush Hush Records is thrilled to welcome Italian electronic musician Julian Zyklus to its roster to present his solo debut album Four Dimensional Waves. A bold conceptual record based on the cyclic idea of a universe born through a white hole that moves and grows through four-dimensional waves before arriving at its final black hole, Four Dimensional Waves is a mesmerising cinematic journey. Over its 8 transportive tracks, Julian Zyklus takes the listener through a cerebral exploration of serene ambient passages, hypnotic neo-classical arrangements, and propulsive techno rhythms that masterfully capture the epic nature of its inspiration. His solo work began to fully take shape in 2017 when he submitted a composition into a musical contest for National Geographic’s “Genius” series and received inspiring feedback from the judges of the show, “Genius” composers Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe. Using their words of encouragement as a motivating factor to further explore solo material, he began work on Four Dimensional Waves using prepared pianos, loops, synthesizers, and sampling to create his widescreen, melancholic, celestial songs.”
Zyklus’ album is a diverse collection of pieces which keeps in track with the output of the label, which refrains from type casting. The pieces varying over genre lines like Ambient, Electronica, Techno and Modern Classical. Zyklus is as comfortable with heading towards the dance floor as he is at creating more cerebral pieces. With the opening track “White Hole” you have a feeling of where the music might lead you, but even within this piece with it’s electronics and organic instrumentation, you see how varied the album will be as the track is a true map of terrain the album will cover. Moving through the swirly ambience meets exploratory synth of “4 D W”, “Dark Endless Desert” takes us into Black Lung like twisted electronics balanced by a shimmering ambient belly. “The Peace on Earth” sees Zyklus completely switch styles with delicate piano work and field recordings and the piano meets electronica of “Looking For A Better View” before dissolving into pure proggy synth and piano mysteriousness of “Back in the Black (hole)”.
“Four Dimensional Waves” is a nicely diverse collection from an artist that it will be interesting to see where he goes next. It is available on cassette and digital.
“Hush Hush is thrilled to welcome London-based pianist, composer, electronic producer, and vocalist Sleepertrain to its roster to present his debut release, ‘A Gift.’ An immersive 6-track offering, ‘A Gift’ unveils a distinctive sonic world over its hypnotic 16-minute running time, conjuring up a shadowy, mysterious, and enveloping landscape.
While an entrancing dimly-lit mood remains cohesive throughout, each song organically unravels beautiful new shades of colour and mood. Mainly written between 2016 and 2017, the passing time allowed Sleepertrain to patiently introduce intricate elements and lush textures to each song, using field recordings and peculiar samples from his surrounding natural world. Fusing his passionate audio archivist tendencies with his classically-trained piano talents and on-going fascination with electronic production, he’s created a captivating and surreal sound palette from sounds both strange yet oddly familiar.
Beginning with a fragile late-night piano improvisation ensconced within the quiet rumblings of a morning commuter train, ‘A Gift’ weaves through soaring cinematic vignettes, experimental wordless vocal tracks, and ethereal R&B-tinted moments that manage to sound both vaporous and intimate. A bold and confident first-time release, Sleepertrain’s ‘A Gift’ beautifully captures the melancholic and hypnagogic “night bus” aesthetic that sparked Hush Hush’s launch over 7 years ago, while re-contextualizing and transforming its amorphous sound for the modern day.”
You would think that a six track , sixteen minute EP would be easy to categorise, but Sleepertrain quickly dispels those thoughts, proving the reason for this release to come out on Hush Hush. The opener “Empty Carriages” is a moody solo piano recording that is infused with cold ambience and ethereal vocals giving the feeling of a room that is inhabited by ghosts, while the following track “A Gift” sees the artist building upon the opener and adding flesh to the bones with it’s punchy crescendo sounds and electronics, making the listener take notice. Vocals of the instrument style rather than singing dominate the soundscape of “Only You” while the music has moved more into the beat filled world without it being a pure dance track. It’s more experimental than those that have been before with some of the vocals reminding me of Arthur Russell and the way that it balances the electronic/experimental fence like he used to. More vocal abstractions are featured on “Disappear” which sounds like modern electronic based pop meets ambient/electronica. As the background to the artist mentioned above alludes to classical training and an interest in electronic production, you get this feeling with this piece that Sleepertrain is melding their knowledge of the classical composers of the last forty years with current electronic producers and the result is this amalgamation of styles. The final two tracks “Let Go” and “I Don’t Need You” for some reason and I can’t put my finger ion it, remind me of Ghostly International works and I am not an expert on that label’s out put. It’s probably because of the nature of the way that the musical has club elements without being so easily categorised as such. There is less of cross pollination of the styles that Sleepertrain has shown on this release, but enough to give you the feeling that these are not traditionally club based tracks.
“A Gift” are for those into genre fluidity and is available on cassette and digital.
“Avian Comfort is a new collaborative project between Seattle-based electronic producers and Hush Hush alums Shelf Nunny and Academy Garden. As we head into the tail-end of summer, Hush Hush Records is honoured to help present their debut offering, the expansive and colourful 4-track EP, ‘Weekender.’
Avian Comfort is the musical culmination of a budding friendship between two like-minded electronic producers. Ethan Strange began his solo career under the alias Celadon City, releasing his debut album ‘Earth OST’ on Hush Hush in February 2016. He’s since put out an EP on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs label, self-released his sophomore album ‘Somehow We Will Get Through This,’ and also recently changed his alias to Academy Garden. Originally hailing from Edmond, Oklahoma, Ethan made a new home in the city of Seattle in summer 2018, and in his desire to meet friends and make new sounds, he connected IRL with his long-time online buddy and fellow Hush Hush label mate Christian Gunning, best known under his musical moniker Shelf Nunny.
The two began to brainstorm ideas together while exploring how to best fuse their individual production techniques. Over the course of 8 months of conversation, connection, and collaboration while both living in the Pacific Northwest, Avian Comfort was ultimately born. The moniker is a nod to the duo’s affinity for ethereal and weight-less soundscapes, as well as the soaring melodies and kinetic rhythms that often appear throughout the EP. Beginning with the joyful and buoyant title track, the EP segues into “Starboard,” a skittering and intricate IDM-inflected journey akin to wandering through a luminous maze. “Chapel” kicks off the latter half, utilizing a steady mid-tempo pulse to set the foundation for layers of expressive guitar, evocative piano, and glistening textures. ‘Weekender’ gently wraps up with the aptly titled “Murmuration” as it sighs its way through a blissfully nostalgic vibe, its cinematic downtempo beat serving as the release’s widescreen sunset.
“Weekender” is the kind of track which is hard to categorise because it feels like parts of different sorts of genres mashed together. I am sure there is some sort of genre classification to it, but I couldn’t tell you what it is. Musically elements of New Age and lo-fi Electronica fuse with tribal beats and shimmering synth pads, resulting in an upbeat summery feel. Never truly being a dance floor filler, it has a certain swagger to it that is somewhat infectious.
“Starboard” opening with woozy, dubby piano loops and micro melodies the track then ventures into more club style territory largely led by piano stabs that are converted into percussion. There a minimal vs maximal approach with the truncated percussive snaps setting the feel that the other instruments such as synth lines, more piano, ambience and beats flow. The music in the second have becomes more vibrant and hectic which is not something that works well together, but in this case the duo pull it off.
“Chapel” the cerebral dance floor calls you with this foot tapping slice of crunchy beat led, piano and guitar accented track which nicely balances a laid back vibe with a semi – propulsive rhythm. The nice thing about the track is the way in which it flows through different feelings and styles and could easily be led down a particular path, instead it feels like it is stretching out tendrils of sound and holding on to different influences.
“Murmuration” your quickly thrown by the opening acoustic guitar, but once it’s joined by fragile piano, a collection of electronics and ambience as well as vocals, you realise the come down has started. Moving away from the feelings that have been present in the three previous tracks and venturing into more ambient zones, it probably hints at where the music could be taken. As I have not heard either artists other projects I cannot say whether or not this is new territory. That said, while I am not really a beat driven person and I like this track, I probably would lean towards the track being more like the other pieces for a bit more consistency.
“Weekender” is available as Digital only.
“Following nearly 20 impressive self-released albums over the past 7 years, Hush Hush Records is thrilled to present the official label debut from Pacific Northwest electronic producer WMD titled ‘Young Angry Love,’ a 10-track showcase of his emotionally-rich cinematic soundscapes that yields the most introspective and intentional release in his extensive catalog.
Michael Erickson is the musician behind WMD, a project that has become synonymous with gorgeous, evocative, widescreen productions. Only 22 years old at the time of this release, his output has already quietly reached prolific status, garnering a devoted online fan base along the way with each offering. Whether it’s through his blissful downtempo beats, tranquil ambient passages, emotive post-rock explorations, or celestial 8-bit/chiptune anthems, WMD’s music carries a beautiful melodic streak that’s as captivating as it is relaxing.”
Some releases with the name of the artist, their release title or cover art instantly give hints to potential listeners about what they will encounter. This release bucks that trend from the nondescript album art and the mysterious three letter name. You kind of expect to hear some sort of new underground movement like Vapour Ware, but instead and not for the first time on Hush Hush you get a musically adventurous release. Erickson takes influence for Ambient, Modern Classical, 80’s style New Age and 80’s drum machines, to create pieces that are inspired by, but maybe not wholly resident of certain styles.
There is a minimalism that the pieces inhabit as the pieces utilise organic and electronic instruments with an introspective feel coming across the majority of the tracks as Erickson uses guitar and synth/piano in equal measure. The music is laid back without being light wait and has a certain attention to a feeling that is equally introspective as it confident and outward looking. Erickson is not afraid to cloak the music when it is required, nor is he constrained from opening it up an letting in the light as heard on “Wither and Sink”. Throughout the album you can detect a style that permeates all or most of the material which ties the pieces together. The music is never wholly ambient or modern classical or new age, but Erickson takes elements from this and fashions them together to create his own thought out pieces.
“Young Angry Love” is available on Cassette and Digital.