This time around I cast my eyes and ears over two distinctly different surrounding releases, but ones which both soothe the ears and mind in these uncertain times.

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“”The music is based on the environmental & ecological despair happening in front of us, particularly in reference to South India. As with most of my work, the piece started with field recordings taken on location (in this case, on the Kerala / Tamil Nadu border in South India). I had been reading about the severe erosion levels in the territory and was sitting on the beach watching these little streams of sand pour out into the sea. I was watching the tide, not erosion, of course, but it was a very powerful miniature of the sad reality. So the piece is about this little moment of aching tenderness between me and nature, sitting powerless on the sand and watching it disappear into the water.” (Dylan Henner)”

Henner is a musician who uses such tools as field recordings, analogue synths and vibraphones to create pieces that remind me of some of that classic early 80’s environmentally and architecturally inspired brand of Japanese Ambience as explored by artists such as Hiroshi Yoshimura. There is a strong rhythmic component to Henner’s work that is essential in it’s success as it has a way of entrancing you, while minimal synth ambience that is not obtrusive gently coats the background. The two pieces “The Sun Made the Sea Look Gold” and “We Turned off the TV So We Could Hear the Birds” both clock in at between eighteen and twenty minutes in length which lets Henner explore his sounds and his light filled approach to his music. Despite having a really serious source of inspiration, the pieces are not all doom and gloom. Elements of the slightest bits of melancholy are from time to time experienced, but the music moves from periods of playfulness to those parts like the middle part of ” The Sun…” where you detect a serious intent in the music. The final part of “The Sun… to me represents the musical equivalent of the waves frequently, but calmly crashing the shores, sucking the sand back into the ocean.

With “We Turned…” the roles are somewhat reversed with a more ambient core to the piece largely generated from the synth pulses and explorations while the rhythmic vibraphone adds gentle, melodic tonal rhythms that feel designed to relax. Layering the synths there is more of a new age than ethnographic feel and it also opens up the piece for further diversions in sound. In a way the music in some form sounds like the glitchy tonal work that Markus Popp is famed for in the way that the vibraphone rhythms seem to bounce around entrancing the listener. I would defy anyone that listens to the two pieces collected on this release not to have their mood changed for the better after listening to them. “We Turned…” in particular would be great to listen to in the quiet hours of the very early morning.

“Flues Of Disappearing Sand” is a recommended listen and is available on limited edition cassette and Digital.

 

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“Geoff Gersh, recording under the name Ambient Fields, completed a landmark, genre-defining ambient music project during a six week music residency in Ólafsfjörður, a small town in northeast Iceland. He composed the music contained on Ólafsfjörður using guitar played through, and manipulated by, various effects pedals, all directly inspired by the interactions he had with the town and its natural wonders.

The music depicts a deep, introspective view of Gersh’s time spent in Ólafsfjörður. One can hear, and feel, the influence of the land and town: amidst the cold, Icelandic skies exists the warm splendour of life in its purest form. The album insinuates it should be listened to not from start to finish, and not in a linear motion, but in small pieces. Explore the music as one would explore new surroundings, as one would imagine Gersh spent his time in the remote village in Iceland doing, without a guide, relying only on the senses and an open mind.”  (Neal Gardner)

“Ólafsfjörður” the album is a sound diary for the town of the same name based on the North Eastern town with a population under one thousand people and an emphasis on mountains, skiing and fishing. With the cover art such as it is it might make you feel as if the music will be quite stark or that there are a lot of field recordings of rolling storms, crunching sounds of ice when trudging through snow. This is largely not the case as Gersh lets his guitar map the sonic landscape without it also being a generic guitar ambient album. The use of effects pedals have nicely been incorporated which changes the sound and the tone of the pieces. There is over an hour of music on the album with some pieces being extended in lengths ranging from eight minutes up to eleven minutes. The pieces that are under these lengths are usually the ones that I respond to more due to their immediacy.

The compositions range from the more ambient/drone based ones such as “Day 9”, to more cinematic ones such as “Day 37” which sounds like he is joined by a string section as well as the shorter of the two “Day 34” pieces. “Day 23” feels like a purely electronic piece where the sound is a mixture of swirl and cut up sounds that sound partly as if in the middle of a storm or like a broken radio transmission where only cut up sections are heard. The highlight piece for me is the track “Day 21”, a distorted guitar piece that feels as the most layered and realised piece on the album. This could easily fall into the cinematic category I just mentioned above and sees Gersh wrap layers of complimentary guitar sounds around the main motif. “Day 19” feels like an aerial piece, like you are looking down on a light filled, but cold expanse as you are carried about in an air stream, while the shorter “Day 13” track is possibly the most experimental of the pieces that if you didn’t know Gersh’s primary instrument, you may be guessing the sources of the music.

The press releases quote states about listening to the album in small pieces, but I am sure you can enjoy it in it’s entirety. “Ólafsfjörður” is available in a special limited edition CD package in a metal case with prints and badges (limited to 100 copies) plus bonus music and Digital.

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