Dronarivm: Halftribe/ Olan Mill/ Offthesky/ Snufmumriko.

With the year and decade over, I am attempting to play catch up before the new year really hits. This post features the Russian Dronarivm label, who had another solid year with releases from The Green Kingdom, Porya Hatami | Aaron Martin |Roberto Attanasio, Sven Laux and Daniela Orvin, Purl & protoU and the four releases featured below.

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Ryan Bisset aka Halftribe returns to Dronarivm after his previous release with the label “For Summer, Or Forever” which was released in May 2018. It also signals the return of the label to the cassette medium since 2013. Bisset is the type of musician whose work redefines a relaxed and chilled out experience with out being too saccharine. Not everything he does is sweet as there is an undertone to some of the material that feels melancholic, with a longing that feels deeply personal. Bisset’s work has an obscured quality that makes for deeper listening as it’s not all apparent on the first past. He also likes to blur the lines melding ambient with experimental electronica to create pieces which offer variety throughout the album. Subtlety is part of the key as evident on the title track with it’s light padded piano that briefly shows itself over the hazy , static and dubby ambience.

There is a noticeable change to this album from “For Summer…” While there are elements that are representative of both albums, with “Backwater Revisited” they are more refined and are worked into the music in a way that is more complimentary. From the outset with “Tuning Out” you know it’s a continuation from the artist, but you can also note a more relaxed feel is in play. A track like “Off-Kilter” with it’s long drones, ambient forms and delicate and sparse piano would be a highlight on every album. My final comment on my review of “For Summer…” was a hope for more piano and while this album isn’t full of the instrument it is used in a way that both satisfies you and leaves you craving just a little bit more. Another highlight is the dense and drifting “Gloriously Gentle, Warm and Fuzzy” which does just what it’s title suggests with a soundscape that is ever moving and somewhat murky.

“Backwater Revisited” is a nice album that makes you wonder if Bisset is transitioning in styles and whether or not his next album will be of a more drone and modern classical style as the more experimental electronica based moments are noted less on this release. The album is available on limited CD, Cassette and Digital.

 

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“Sacred Geometry is full of detail and texture. Its emotional depth comes from a connected place. Following my experiences in yoga and plant medicine I began to see the mathematical elegance of nature. To mirror these geometric forms in sound was the source of my creative process.

The first half of the record captures a performance at the 2018 Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht, Holland. Voice, guitar, synthesiser and field recordings were processed into a collage of meditative sounds. In the second half of the record acoustic sounds are fused with harder electronic processes. The track Toroids represents my vision for this record (almost) perfectly.

Closer consideration for the mysteries of consciousness has led the music to border on the spiritual. I hope people will find something to meditate on in each of these songs in the same way I have.”

Olan Mill and Alex Smalley have a relationship with Dronarivm that now runs to three full length albums and appearances on and over five compilations and remixes. This now sold out release is the latest in their long running relationship. With a back catalog of the who’s who of ambient labels like Serein, Hibernate, Home Normal and Preservation to name a few, Smalley has over the past decade created a body of work that when discussing this very album, James Catchpole of Fluid Radio said the following about Smalley’s music that it “continues to sweep listeners off their feet with his gravity-defying, open-wide drones, which are both beautiful to gaze upon and deep enough to hold lasting substance.” The first thing that probably stands out for me is the depth of sound. Coming straight from Halftribe’s album to this the difference is quite noticeable. With Halftribe you have to venture and explore, picking things up to see what is underneath, but with Olan Mill you dive into this vast wide and free soundscape.

What is impressive is that the first half of the album is recorded live and usually the dynamics of a live recording can be lacking, but that is not the case with these tracks. If you were trying to put a classification of Smalley’s music you would struggle as it is not something that be filed into boxes. His music firmly exists within the Ambient/Drone framework, but he has a wider array of influences like sound art, electroacoustic and to a lesser extent Dark Ambient that become part of the fabric of his pieces. The music of Olan Mill is textural, always moving and with a cinematic feel in that some of these pieces feel like they are suited to works that highlight, loss, isolation or some sort of catastrophe. The albums final track “Dimensionality” perfectly exemplifies this feeling, with the birdsong recordings adding a bittersweet feel to the music which is drifting and looping.

My initial thought of this album is that it was a tale of two halves, but the more I listen to it I can see a through line in the material that even when there is a change from the more traditional based ambience to the more experimental approach, that it belongs to one artist. “Sacred Geometry” is sold out physically at source but available through distributors and digitally.

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“fallowdefinition: [verb] – to leave (land) fallow (uncultivated and un-sown for a period of time). The songs herein are an ode to the still beauty of forgotten light, the smell of dust-covered memory, and time-stained fragments of abandoned space at the edge of winters past.”

Another prolific artist that has a resume to envy, Jason Corder aka Offthesky, returns to the Dronarivm family with “Fallow”. 2019 saw the release of collaborations with The Humble Bee as well as releases on Eilean Rec, Hidden Vibes and Handstitched*. The music on this album as the press quote alludes to is dark. It explores the outer reaches of sound where the physical equivalent is a dark, damp space that is cold with little natural light. In reference to memories , this could easily be emotional feeling or the memory or indeed the distance in which they are in relation to life and experiences. This is best noted in “Bleeds Life” with it’s distant cavernous, but never hostile sound.

The title track leads the listener into an outer-worldly place of haunting tones and a soundscape that screams of distance. Coupled with the dissociating vocals of Rin Howell, there is also some microsound melodies that add a tiny bit of sweetness. Corder isn’t the type to do more traditional forms of Drone or Ambience, instead it feels like he comes from a more electroacoustic or experimental point of view when constructing his pieces. Sounds clash, juxtapose and find common ground to create evolving soundscapes that don’t tend to remain in one place. The finale piece “Tempest Without You” shares many of these traits, while simultaneously briefly revisiting familiar territory. The titles of the eight pieces in some way divide into four pairs (“Slow Let Go” and “Slow Let Gone” for example), but as for their direct relationship I am not entirely sure.

“Fallow” is available on CD, Cassette and Digital.

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“Explorations into dreamy, texturally rich environments and dub flavoured landscapes through the use of rhythm and subtle melody. Snufmumriko, is a producer based in Gothenberg, Sweden. Sculpting his sound from field recordings and old records, he aims to create sonic environments which both work as background music and reward active listening.”

This is my first time encountering Ingmar Wennerberg aka Snufmumriko who has previously appeared on labels such as Archives, Shimmering Moods and Post Global to name a few.  His music is described as “Sculpting his sound from field recordings and old records, he aims to create sonic environments which both work as background music and reward active listening’. Released in an edition of forty-five cassettes and since sold out, the six track album is a collection of swoony ambience that approaches that of dubby styles of techno and makes the album feel like it’s rolling into one continuous piece. That is not to say that you are getting six pieces that sound the same, it’s just their drifting quality that enhances the feeling that you are on one big journey and the way that music relaxes you is central to this feeling.

This is the first time I had encountered Wennerberg’s music, but it has the elements that make for an effortless listen – the synth pads, granular sound, swells of ambience, minimal beats, field recordings and a sense of calm, make for an enjoyable listen. You get the feeling that electronic music is a main source of influence that has led him through to ambient zones like others before him and the result is combining those two main musical influences.  It has the lush qualities of GAS while also embodying the ambience of Loscil, but having it’s own feel that captures a feeling of nostalgia. There is a muted quality to the music with a track like “Mot nattens hjärta” aka “Against The Heart Of The Night” being a great example of this confluence of styles, influences and sounds. The consistency show over the six tracks and forty-one minutes means that there is not one stand out. Each piece equally holds their own space while adding something else to the mix, like the final track “Drömmens tassemarker” aka “Dream Paw Makers” which flirts ever so slightly with more experimental sounds early on in the piece.

“Sekunder, eoner” aka “Seconds, Eons” is the perfect sort of album to put on at the end of the day and just let the crap of the day just disappear while you listen. The physical release has sold out,  but digital is still available.