Various – Sleeplaboratory2.0 / Heights.

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“The idea was originally came about after our label owner Harry and his wife had a baby daughter, Isla. Harry curated a full-length compilation to help soothe his daughter to sleep and whilst Isla hasn’t needed much of a helping hand where sleep is concerned, he was keen to continue this project as a series. Throughout much of last year, we have been working on a follow-up, inviting artists to meet this sleepy brief of minimalist Ambient tones. We’ve invited familiar label artists back as well as established names and perhaps you’ll see that the odd one or two go on to have releases with us later this year.

Over the 16 tracks, a serene and enveloping environment is established. The physical product is as usual presented across four printed panels and this time, artwork is provided by Harry’s wife Beth in an image taken on a family day out. As usual, we will not make any recommendation on how our listeners might best enjoy this record and so it’s down to you to choose the best environment to listen, whether this be late at night with headphones, on a loud system or perhaps played through Bluetooth speakers in and around your home.”

What looks like being an annual tradition, the Whitelabrecs label have issued a vast compilation continuing the sleep music theme of the original release. Sold out almost instantly, the compilation includes artists from the 2019 roster like Old Amica, Jens Pauly, Logic Moon and Gray Acres to name a few as well as some artists that you would expect to possibly make up their 2020 output – Mikael Lind, Halftribe, Marek Kamiński & Piotr Michałowski, Warmth and Gavin Miller. Naturally with a theme in mind there are certain parameters that the music will fall into and in fact the pieces contained could be grouped into sections such as gentle drone all the way through to approaching the white (background) noise that is an effective aid in falling asleep. But the beauty of the compilation is that it holds a mirror to a scene and shows the different approaches and sounds which can be grouped together, as having their own identity and sound.

Naturally dependent on your individual taste certain artists and their tracks will resonate with you more. A piece like Halftribe’s “Pneuma” continues the quality that was established with his 2019 album “Backwater Revisited” (Dronarivm), while Mikael Lind (who I previously heard on “Strings and Clusters”) opens the collection with a piece that invokes operatic dream pop mixed in with ambient/drone and a whole lot of haunting melody. Warmth’s “Transition” is a collection of muted colours and synth tones resonating while Gavin Miller, in his solo guise contributes “Rewilding” a piece that works, not necessarily in loops, but of waves of sound that nicely ebbs and flows between darker and lighter tones.

Polish artists Marek Kamiński (aka Lights Dim) & Piotr Michałowski unleash one of the most gentle pieces of ambience I have heard in a while with “Ruminations” and Jens Pauly’s “Tynne” feels like a soundtrack to those moments that happen before you fully fall asleep and things are a bit hazy and wonky like this static soaked tonal piece.  The Tasselmyer brothers under their Gray Acres moniker take us into the noisier aspects of the compilation with “Midnight Rain” evoking a swirly dense storm of a piece, while the mysterious Glåsbird with their contribution “Søvnfjord” which translates to “Sleep Fjord” is as expected a near modern classical meets drone piece of beauty and Emanuele Errante goes epic on “Alla Sera”. The compilation closes with the rather eerie “Solver” by øjeRum which would probably induce more nightmares than dreams with it’s unsettling tones.

Amongst these pieces are a collection of other fine works that represent the breadth an depth of the genre as well as the label. Although the CD-R is long sold out, “Sleeplaboratory2.0” is still available as a Digital release.

 

 

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The Spanish Archives label releases their latest various artists work “Heights” which is “A new compilation featuring Conor C. Ellis, Pepo Galán & Lee Yi, Patrick Spatz, Andrew Tasselmyer, Shuta Yasukochi, David Cordero & Miguel Otero, ánthene, Snufmumriko, Hilyard, Sphereleus and Warmth.”. The label are no stranger to compilations with ones such as “Solstice”, “Soundscapes Vol. 1 &2” and “Archives 2015” to name a few being released. There is a close affinity to the Whitelabrecs label with several artists appearing on both labels: Warmth, ánthene, Robert Farrugia, Edu Comelles, Logic Moon, Sven Laux and others appearing on both labels.

One of the trademarks of the Archives label is there attention to detail with their visual look evolving nicely. Their use of Alexander Kopatz photography nicely compliments the music they release and gives the label a strong identity in quite a busy scene. You could comfortably state that “Heights” is a pure ambient compilation. It shows the variety of styles on offer within the scene without really blending in other genres. For the most part the music remains within the darker and murkier tones with an emphasis on mood rather than chill out or relaxation. Andrew Tasselmyer opens the compilation with “Columns” a consistent piece of dark, distant drones blended in with a storm soaked sound. Connor C. Ellis submerges the listener with a guitar influenced loop orientated piece that sounds that is coming exactly from the origin of it’s title, “Canyons”. Snufmumriko on “High Pasture” offer a more light filled sound, but it sounds as if it was reflected through a prism, while ánthene contributes a pulsing and near haunting “Eastern Standard Time” that evokes a cold early morning with just the minimal amount of movement happening.

One of two collaborations on the album “Simancon” by David Cordero & Miguel Otero, is a gentle, quiet piece that fuses barely there ambience with guitar parts that loop and resonate all throughout the piece, giving off angles of sound and is quite a highlight of the album and makes me want to hear more from this duo. The second collaboration comes from Pepo Galán & Lee Yi who forgo their Dear Sailor project name and create a mournful piece of haunting drone. With their collaboration they tend to be quite open and free with the music that they create. Hilyard presents a rather still piece with “Adaptogenic” which changes subtly and has a feeling of being on a journey. Whitelabrecs boss Spheruleus contributes “Inertia Ridge” which a rich piece full of elements that are brought together. Largely consisting of a series of drones moving in different directions there are also small fragments of other sounds like guitar that add the touches that make the piece. This is followed by Archives boss Agus Mena aka Warmth who contributes his usual warm sounding slice of ambience that feels like it evokes the album’s cover art. Shuta Yasukochi and Patrick Spatz round up the album with “Decade” and “Goblets Filled With Light” respectively offering completely differing sounding tracks which highlights what I said at the start of the review. Yasukochi’s is a glacial paced , slightly noisy and rumbling piece that has an introspective feel while Spatz one is dominated by field recordings of rain that sounds like dusty static from vinyl overlaying a distant and bleak drone that is attempting to cut through.

If you are looking for examples of what exists within this underground Ambient scene then both compilations are worth checking out. “Heights” is available on limited Edition CD-R (80 Copies) and Digital.

 

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