The current Covid-19 pandemic has changed the playing field for many industries. One such industry affected is music where productions have been pushed back or shipping halted in its entirety making physical releases in some cases an impossibility. One such label affected is Whitelabrecs who have put their physical release schedule on hold and have issued a series of digital only releases with additional Covid-19 specific themes or are the result of producing music under the current situation. This post covers those physical release prior to the pandemic and the six releases thus far from their “Home Diaries” series.
“Blochemy is an artist from the Czech Republic, with previous releases on labels such as Clean Error Records and Sun Sea Sky Production. The latter release featured remixes by Halftribe, Sinerider and Stray Theories. Blochemy has been making music one way or another since the late nineties, following the Ambient and IDM scenes, informed by the likes of Warp and Ghostly International. His current sound is inspired by labels such as Home Normal, Spekk, Dronarivm and 12k.”
The music Blochemy creates for this release sound like damaged tapes have been used to record the pieces and then played back at half speed. By having such a sound the music feels like a soundtrack to sleep, either at the point just before you drift off to sleep or the deeper moments where everything is a bit of a blur. There is also a feeling of cut up techniques used to create the pieces that are then cut and paste together to give the tracks their disjointed and rhythmic feel. Sometimes music of this nature can suffer due to it’s lo-fi feel as the sounds can be muted making the levels feel squashed. There is a difference between lo-fi feel and lo-fi sound. I get sent plenty of lo-fi sounding releases and for the most part they sound average, however a lo-fi feel accentuates the tones and textures of the music and that is what Blochemy has been able to achieve with this album. Towards the end of the album the pieces move away from the more rhythmical beginnings into more drifting, dreamy, static soaked ambient pieces where sounds ripple outwards like on a piece such as “mon”. The existence of warped textures are still there on pieces like “san” or “gile”, but they feel a bit more refined than earlier pieces like ‘”foim”. This is my first interaction with Blochemy’s work and I can see where the current influences are coming from as it has qualities of the likes of Federico Durand without sounding just like him.
“Nebe” is very much suite for fans of the more tonally explorative ambience. It is available on CD-R and Digital.
“Glåsbird’s anonymous and imaginary travels to far flung locations continues, with this next excursion landing at the Norwegian fjords. To reflect this landscape, Glåsbird imagined a journey north to the edge of the Arctic sea over several days, stopping to capture the intimate acoustics of painted wooden shacks and drawing in the landscape through tiny window panes. Whilst the previous releases use reverb-heavy strings or tape-decaying piano to reflect the cold, stark expanse of snow, Norskfjǫrðr makes use of acoustic timbres with more emphasis on the raw sound. Various creaks and scrapes rustle underneath these melodies to reflect the sound from inside the cabin, micro-sound fragments being all the more audible due to the silent outdoors. A hint of folk is present at times in the form of bowed and plucked strings, to reflect the fauna and flora present across the West of Scandinavia. The familiar modern classical tones of piano and strings breathe a stark and chilling spine from time to time before the gently dramatic Endeligfjord marks the end of the journey, looking back out to the Barents sea.“
The most noticeable feature of the music of the third Glåsbird album is the rusty, metallic sounds that permeate the pieces. It’s almost like a guest musician has added these textural sounds to Glåsbird’s work as there is a clear continuation of sounds from the two previous albums. This raw, decaying environmental feel adds to the main theme of the project, which is being a sonic representation of a space. This album though moves away from the more Modern Classical style that exists on “Grønland” and “Svalbarð” and instead focuses on the ambient qualities that have been part of the compositions from the start. This change is probably the result of choosing a more populous area and one where there is more of an infrastructure and not so much desolation.
With music that is a soundtrack to an imaginary travel there is a certain artistic license especially if the person is nowhere near the place of choice. If this is the case then Glåsbird takes the imagery and any particular information about the place as the basis of the pieces. Whether it is environmental factors, weather conditions, population density any of these can be considered. There is also the chance that this is a snapshot in time which would focus the attention either on a specific place or season. With “Norskfjǫrðr” the pieces are a mixture of dark ones such as “Steinfjord”, then there is the field recordings woven throughout “Fjernfjord” which imply an innocence and then the cinematic, slight eeriness of “Nåletrefjord” and the mildly epic nature of “Endeligfjord” which highlight the variation that exists on the album.
The recurring theme other than imaginary travels and exploring areas are the huts or homes that appear on the three album’s covers. It’s possibly debatable to suggest that the last two albums with their single isolated huts represent a lonelier feel to the music than “Svalbarð” as there is a consistent, if slightly changing musical feel between the three where the textures are becoming more organic and affected. “Norskfjǫrðr” is available on CD-R and Digital.
“Disconnect is a debut album by an emerging artist, arriving at a time of uncertainty and disarray, where terms such as self-isolation and social distancing are on everyone’s lips. However, this record’s theme is not born out of the adversity that coined these phrases. Instead, when creating these works the artist was informed by his thoughts around identity and how we perceive it as a whole. Do places of origin matter? He moved around a lot as a child and at times, felt he had no roots which left him feeling very disconnected at times. Some years on and settling in Iceland, he now realises the valuable lessons and skills the experience has brought.”
Sævar Helgi Jóhannsson is S.hel an Icelandic musician that comes from a family of musicians and music teachers. His music is a mixture of Modern Classical and Electronica with a slight cinematic feel. With a personal history of being somewhat stateless and the album title such as it is, it would be easy to assume that the album could be quite stark and melancholic. While there are passages throughout that have those qualities, the feeling you get is more of one that there is an intense thought process going on in composing them. There is a slightly unsettling feel to “The One-Eyed king” which is as avant-garde as it is Modern Classical and Cinematic. A piece like “Irritant Bodies” sounds like contemporary Modern Classical spun through the early 90’s Mego catalogue. Then Jóhannsson goes a drops the devastatingly beautiful “Law And Market” with it’s sublime piano, soaring strings and barely there electronic abstractions.
Maybe part of the feeling of disconnectedness or stateless is revealed in the way that the pieces are disparate and you are not merely getting a eight track album that sounds very similar. A piece like “Chimera” with it’s spoken Icelandic text, Ambience, off kilter beats and pump organ like feel sounds completely different to the naked, raw, minimal nature of the piano and electronics piece “Eia Popeia”. But, what these pieces do have in common is a chance for Jóhannsson’s music to be open to various possibilities. This is a wise decision as as much as I like pieces like “Delay Common Sense” which shows how confident he his behind the piano and creating tonal pieces, this particular field of music is quite cramped, so having a chance to expand upon this style will keep his music fresh.
“Disconnected” is available on CD-R and Digital.
“The Mi Cosa de Resistance Home Diary is a fuzzy haze of melancholic drones, carved out on the morning of Sunday 29th of March from 8am. All of the pieces were created on that day, 12 days into the lockdown conditions imposed by the Argentinian government. Usually recording multiple tracks in a day can feel like a pressure to achieve something, with distractions often preventing success. But currently, time stands on end and this transcendence finds its way into these restful, labyrinthine recordings.”
The result of the Covid-19 pandemic is the current switch from predominantly physical releases to digital only. Each release has a variation of the same artwork (interestingly a hut) and comes with a pdf interview about each of the artists and their approach to the pieces. The opening release for the series comes from Fernando Perales who was a member with the well known experimental group Reynols. The pieces for his release entitled “An Endless Puzzle” where all composed on March 29th on his Ipad using various projects he had on the go with each track being in the chronological order that it appeared in. A self professed non musician who has had a career dating back to at least the mid/late 90’s and the music presented here is as good as any ‘real’ musician. Working with samples, real to real recorders, Ipad’s, apps and software Perales constructs hazy Basinski-esque sound collages that are as every bit dreamy as they are post industrial. I was a little wary of his music to begin with due to the more experimental or art focused work of his background, but have come to be entranced by his subtle ways of weaving sounds together with a barely there quite tranquil feeling. The pieces tend to be repetitive in nature, in the good way and are as relaxing as they are hypnotic. Tonally they change from piece to piece as some of them feel closer to sample based work like “A Secretly Crafted”, while the bleached out colourless “Image” is a work of pure restraint and subtlety.
If you are looking for a soundtrack to drift to then this release is a must hear. With each releases I have heard of his I am fast becoming a fan. “Home Diaries – An Endless Puzzle” is available digitally.
“Edu is the founder of the Audiotalaia netlabel and has released music through labels such as Fluid Audio, Archives and Crónica. During the years of his work, he has collaborated with musicians such as Isabelle Latorre (piano) and Sara Galán (cello). It is during this time of ‘lockdown’, where his native Spain is being particularly hit hard, that he finds himself revisiting recordings made with these musicians.
He has had a busy 2020, with the arrival of his twin sons, his release with us and this extra time at home has given rise to Mirar Lluny, meaning to look far away in Catalan. The work was the small moments of time he had spare from caring for his newborn children and he looked to create a meditative sort of modern classical piece, which is surely his most musical yet.”
Unlike the Mi Cosa Resistence release this particular piece had been sitting in some form on the computer of Edu Comelles. Originally a (rejected) piece for a proposal of a client, since the lock down in Spain Comelles was able to work on it some more. It would be curious to know how close to the original piece it was and why it was rejected. The piece “Mirar Lluny”suits the piece as most of the music occurs in the background with a distant sort of feeling.
The tone of the piece is one which treads into slight melancholic territory which could indicate that the piece is about the past which is referenced in the titles translation. Slightly metallic scratchy drones rattle and hum, while delicate ambience occasionally wafts across. Known for his duo Cello + Laptop, this piece is presumably a semi collaborative one where he has worked in elements of that project’s partner Sara Galán and Isabelle Latore piano lines and then refined them and used them as a palete to work with. There is a certain openness and free form quality to the piece which allows for it to constantly evolve rather than remain in a certain territory. The piece feels like a nice mixture of Ambient sounds and styles, but through the lens of a sound designers vision.
“Home Diaries – Mirar Lluny” is available Digitally.
“For our next edition in this series, we welcome Berlin’s Felix Gebhard who for this album recorded as Brusgenerator. We worked with Felix a few years back with releases on both Tessellate and the Audio Gourmet netlabel and he’s also released with labels such as Analogpath, Sleep Lab Library and Hangover Central Station. Our experience of Felix’s sound has generally been warm, organic guitar and field recordings. For this side project, he has adopted the guise of Brusgenerator and turns in a dense and brooding album of electronic Ambience.
This body of work was originally conceived as a theatre soundtrack, but due to the Covid 19 outbreak, the show was cancelled, meaning it sat incomplete. Felix was keen to work on this from his 5th floor apartment, as not to discard these creations. The extra time to focus on these recordings enabled him to develop these without a deadline and we’re delighted to release this set of 8 recordings, which have retained their story-telling qualities from the originally intended theatre performance. Albeit, these stories have become about home cooking, sights from the balcony and watching movies, all told from the comfort of a 5th floor apartment.”
The pieces of Gebhard’s album originated from sketches for a theatre show. Whether or not they represent the full material or theme of this show or have been mutated towards being a pandemic inspired album I am not sure. The album is the most electronic of the series with a retro and dark feel to the pieces. For some reason I am reminded of some of the work of Benjamin Finger. The pieces are not like those from the rest of the series as they feel quite improv like in their construction.There is an abstraction and experimentation to the pieces that for me makes it a little hard to get an angle on their inspiration or intent. Some of the tracks translate to “Evening Walk” and “Melancholic Event” which may be inspired by events he has seen from his home. Unfortunately, While I have enjoyed all the other releases in the series, this particular one is not really to my taste.
“Home Diaries – From The Fifth Floor” is available Digitally.
“This collection of recordings was composed in an empty Evesham (UK), against a backdrop of struggles. It captures the routine he has established, between balancing his business in this difficult time, his brief time outdoors during quiet walks to and from work and the evenings, which he fills with music to contrast the silence of the day.
This album makes use of small fragments of unused sound from his previous work, as these snapshots of a previous life are woven into the fabric of the present. He wanted to capture the solitude and repetition of the days he spends and made use of domestic field recordings along the way. He wanted to shine a light into the mundane and reveal the hidden beauty of solitude. Whilst the music is deep and textured, it can be all too easy to sink into its vacant, ghost-town environments as the concept of routine wrestles quietly within a situation that is eerily new.”
Andrew Sherwell’s contribution is one which exists within the glacial realm of Ambience. When you take into consideration with what is going on in the artists life, this makes sense. It as if Sherwell is filtering in the daily experiences he encounters and feeds them into his pieces which are a mixture of cold, distant and desolate. There is a haunting, static soaked quality to the music which gives you visions of being isolated and barely encountering anything or anyone. Without these descriptions coming over to make the music feel unnecessarily bleak, Sherwell much like Perales above shows how adept he is at creating pieces that straddle the line between dark and melancholic works.
While also reflecting the nature of his current day to day activity the pieces feel as if they are trying to make some sense of everything and to create some form of a positive – in this case a body of work. The pieces are also site specific as they are about a time. Presumably the field recordings and the time of construction was from the peak end of winter where temperatures barely scraped over ten degrees. Add this weather to the isolation for love ones, a pandemic all the while trying to save a business, makes for a deeply personal and time capsule like piece of work. Hopefully for Sherwell there is a light on the horizon.
“Home Diaries” is available Digitally.
“We are joined by Krakow, Poland based artist Pruski who has previously released music through the Four Tapes Records label. We had already planned to release an album from this artist later this year, named ‘Playground’ and when we broke the news of a delay in our schedule, he embraced the Home Diaries theme and put together a beautiful longform drone.
I Need Space helped provide somewhere for Pruski to carve out a place, in which to channel the uncertainty of the situation, with restful modular synth tones underpinned with gentle field recordings. The sound of nature becomes a comforting backdrop for the mind, as the sounds of tired, failing computers are not powerful enough to break this thoroughly tranquil peace setting.”
This piece from Pruski is largely composed on modular synthesier and old electronic gear. Ironically the free time allowed by Covid-19 resulted in a decreased activity, but a return to the things that move him like music. His piece is a twenty minute piece in high loop formation that is lo-fi in nature with a mixture of Ambience and Drones along side a more experimental take on electronics. The piece heightens the sound of degradation and has drones that while not being melodic are definitely not dark. They are somewhere in between. The track naturally evolves over time, growing as elements start to reveal themselves and then change their position within the track. Normally with music I tend to get a visual accompaniment to particular tracks, but I am not getting it with this track. Possibly due to it’s repetition the closest thing I can tie it to is a snapshot of time that repeats over and over with slight changes altering the outcome. One thing that is apparent is the way in which the piece with it’s use of loops and repetition sucks you into a relaxing state making for an enjoyable listen.
“Home Diaries – I Need Space” is available Digitally.
“This new Spheruleus album effectively became the spark to create the Home Diaries series. Harry recorded short guitar or ukulele sketches during the day as his daughter Isla played, before adapting these into tracks at night. Canvas Homes is a sonic diary of the events that unfolded, telling tales of Harry’s experience of lockdown, as he spent the time at home with his family. The work takes on the raw and unplanned nature of the acoustic sketches, adorned with documentary field recordings and orchestral MIDI textures.”
Label boss Harry Towell gets in on the act with a release that embodies the nature of the series concept with the ‘use whatever you have at home’ concept. Sort of similar in nature to his last album “Light Through Open Blinds” which had a concept about documenting the sounds of a house and memories that are tied into places that we live in, Towell uses the house this time ’round as a place of refuge. Sounding like the more ambient version of his last album, the beats are gone but the home spun magic remains. There is a barely there feel to the music which gives it a weightless touch resulting in a calming listen.
The music is organic making it feel like a very pure listen. All the creaks and nuts and bolts are left in the recordings as is the sound of his daughter playing. This gives the music an authentic feeling and one that you can relate to. As well as the use of predominately acoustic instruments like Banjo, Guitar, Kalimba, Violin, etc… The titles of the pieces represent things that were happening (“Solitary” and “Kind Dawn, Grateful Dusk” either reference or include the clap for the NHS initiative) while “The Warm Room” represents the room where most of the recordings were made and “Bring Home The Beach” is about building a sand pit instead of going to the beach as is their Easter tradition.
Musically this is some of the finest lo-fi pastoral sounding and texturally laden music that you will come across right now. “Home Diaries” is available Digitally now.