It is time to catch up on the rarest of format in the Underground Ambient, Modern Classical, whatever scene – the single. These eight releases encompass the above styles and either are self released Digital only works or through labels and either stand alone releases or acting as a bridge to another releases or part of a series.
“David Swick is an American composer based in Portland, OR. He most recently released an album of piano and cello duets and has performed as a member of The Radial Conservatory.”
David Swick is yet another new name for me. This Portland musician is also a member of the Radial Conservatory whose ethos is “The Radial Conservatory creates environments of light and sound that invite the audience into the centre. Orchestral compositions, avant-garde electronic works, and immersive atmospheric imagery come together to create expansive, visceral art. Radial concerts create meditative spaces that conjure a shared imagination, bringing us into contact with a greater depth of being.” The music that I have heard from this project mixes electronic works with modern classical styles with a healthy dose of Ambience.
On the two track single “Bedford / Bedford (Part II)” Swick removes the electronic element to concentrate mainly on piano and drones. The lead track “Bedford” is centred around somewhat plaintive piano sounds that possibly because of it’s recording style – it is not too close recorded for that raw feel, nor is it sonicly punchy – it doesn’t veer to much to the overly melancholic side. Instead it feels like an internalised emotional piece where you can detect a confidence building within the playing over it’s duration. Dark distorted drone like sounds enter the piece in the last fifty or so seconds adding a nice balance and as they retreat to silence the feeling that possibly what was ever in mind has dissipated. Part II of the track removes piano from the equation and instead has a sound not unlike a church organ with it’s deeper droning tones giving off a orchestral vibe while still being a drone piece at heart.
Just how these are reflective of Swick’s work which includes “Duets” and “Breathing Strings: Ordinaries & Loving Kindness” I am not sure. Possibly they are a move in a new direction. “Bedford / Bedford (Part II)” is available Digitally.
Let’ stay in Portland shall we with local Derek Hunter Wilson and his two recent PWYW Digital releases “Brutal” and “Cruellest Month”. The last I heard from his was his split release on Thesis with Rauelsson which came out back in November 2018. Since then he has released a few digital releases like “Abstratkes Vol 1” and “Memory Invention” plus the “Steel, Wood & Air” LP on Beacon Sound. Both these two singles have despite the similar cover art, a sound of their own
“Brutal” is the case in name only as Hunter Wilson creates a piece that would be best described as orchestral ambient. The music is very captivating with such a full depth of sounds which is highlighted by the fact that the music changes shape constantly throughout with a feel equivalent to watching water rippling outwards once a rock is thrown into it. Somewhat dark in tone, the music has a shimmering and haunting quality and despite the movement noticed, there is a feeling of slight, but apprehensive calm.
“”April is the cruelest month,” to quote T. S. Elliot. This track was made remotely with everyone involved staying at their respective houses during quarantine. As I keep inside to stay healthy and flatten the curve, looking out my window there are spring flowers blooming and it’s become sunnier and the days longer. There are a lot of cruelties happening currently. Hopefully this song can be a sort of balm and give you some space as you stay inside.”
You could state that this piece is a soundtrack to the current time which find ourselves in. Despite the scenes and devastation that are happening across parts of America as I write this Oregon has some 2989 cases with 121 deaths, which in relation to other American states is quite successful considering the population of around 2,151,000 people. You could state the Hunter Wilson’s piece which is very much string driven and mournful to be an elegy for those who lost their lives, but also for the people that find themselves in isolation. A multi-layered piece of contrasting moods “Cruellest Month” despite the title still has hope within it’s fabric as noted in the violin that holds melody before almost disappearing and then returning stronger.
Both “Brutal” and “Cruel Summer” are PWYW Digital releases and are great entry points for those who have yet to check out Hunter Wilson’s works.
“Warsaw-based cellist/composer Resina returns with a new single in the form of a remix from fellow Polish producer M8N. ‘Procession/ Surface’ is a composite, 9-minute-long track formed out of remixes of two of the tracks from Resina’s 2018 album ‘Traces’ (which already spawned a 2019 EP of remixes from Lotic, Abul Mogard, Ben Frost and Ian William Craig). About the remix, Resina says, “Miron (aka M8N), has been active on the Polish independent scene for many years and in many incarnations. He is a personal friend of mine and it was a nice surprise when he asking me if he could do a remix. I’m a fan of his style, attitude and original way of creating electronic and electro-acoustic music which doesn’t try to fit any obvious genre. I was also excited about the piece because I knew that our music can work together.”
The word remix tends to have a caveat attached to it. M8N aka Miron Grzegorkiewicz is a Polish electronic producer who has worked with Resina (aka Karolina Rec) before so the two artists have an understanding of how each other works and their aesthetics. A piece like this is hard to pigeonhole as it doesn’t feel that it is part of one particular genre. It has elements from electronic music, but a strong dark cinematic feel totally removes it from this style. The remix is fairly faithful to the original while changing some of the contexts of the sounds and repositioning some of it’s elements to highlight different sections. There is also a greater influence of the more dramatic cello playing of the original with a magnified intensity being the main feature.The combining of the two tracks sees the haunted vocalisations of “Surface” open “Procession” while the track finishes with a rather stripped back and ambient version of “Surface”.
The best forms of remixes are those where the remixer does not remove that essence or parts that make the original piece a success which is what M8N has faithfully done. My only criticism would be how the piece ends. I think it would have a more dramatic effect if the main part of “Shimmer” was included throughout as it would have more of an effect, rather than the split personality feel that it has when they are combined together.
“Procession / Surface” is available digitally.
“These days – this world – this life…all seem to cruise by at an accelerated pace. “The Liquid Real,” if nothing else, is/was a meditation on a prolonged moment in time. Attempting to stretch it out – appreciate its simplicity – and experience its evaporation into nothingness.”
Devin Sarno is an LA based musician and producer working with major label Warners. This his latest release is a pure Drone piece where armed only with a sampler and found sounds he has created a drifting, droning work. The music feels like it is encased in fog. There is a certain amount of low level distortion to the piece and the way the drones feel circular the resulting sound is quite contained. There is calm and dreamy sort of quality to the piece as it quite consistent in it the way it feels and sounds, although from time to time I feel like you can hear some form of a distant storm. On his Wikipedia page one of the artists mentioned in the long list of people he has collaborated and recorded with is Celer which will make a lot of sense when listening to this piece.
“The Liquid Reel” is available Digitally.
James McDermid’s music has appeared on labels such as Polar Seas Recordings, Whitelabrecs and KrysaliSound to name a few as well as recently instigating his own Mailbox label. He finds himself on the Brazilian La Petite Chambre label where he joins in on their “At Home With…” series (one that shares a similar concept and artistic style to the Whitelabrecs “Home Diaries” series, although existing just before that series was made public). His two pieces “While The Sun Drowsily Blinks” and “Hopeless and Chimerical” are both influenced by literature and the current events. For “While The …” McDermid took influence from the Robert Graves poem “To Walk On Hills”. The poem is a love song to long walks which naturally during lock down are not an activity people are able to do. So for McDermid it was a fusion of the combined love of walks, the poem and seeing just what he couldn’t engage with directed through a piece of music.
Like “While The…” the title of “Hopeless and Chimerical” was lifted from another work, this time “The Great God Pan” by Arthur Machen. While this piece was finished prior to the pandemic fully evolving, the music as well as the literary influence has become somewhat of a soundtrack to the situation of forced isolation. McDermid is known to be one of the more experimental ambient musicians with an emphasis on the more noisier end of the spectrum which is duly noted on “While The…”. With “Hopeless…” the music is more of a swirling vortex that seemingly sucks in sounds as it builds and grows. Of the two pieces it is the more accessible one.
For this release McDermid is matching any donations given as he is raising money for The North Bristol Food Bank, so if there ever was a good cause to support and a chance to check him out, then it is now. “At Home With….James McDermid” is available Digitally.
On this particular release El Conejo aka Bruno Nunes Coelho found himself reduced to the amount of instruments at his disposal as they were stored at the studio he shares with the band Constantina. He was restricted to what he had at home which was a 6 string resonator, an old harmonium keyboard, a violin bow, and some field recordings that he collected during travels. The idea of restriction tends to work in favour for some artists as it tends to give them a focus and remove distractions. This is the case with these works that could easily find themselves on one of his releases.
The music of El Conejo is one which screams Summer. There is such a bright, vibrant and relaxing sound to the music which encompasses elements of folktronica, glitch, acoustic and ambient styles. Both “Oh, My Sweet Cocoon” and “Bloom, Spring, Bloom” share these elements, although with the latter featuring more of the Harmonium and it’;s more droning qualities, I learn more towards “Oh, My Sweet Cocoon” as the track for me.
If you haven’t heard the music of El Conejo before, please do as you’ll be in for a treat. Like James McDermid’s release the money collected for this one benefits one of the labels friends whose letterpress work adorns their physical releases. “At Home With …. El Conejo” is available Digitally.
“Ver Sacrum ‘Sacred spring’ is a religious practice of ancient Italic peoples. It was customary to resort to it at times of particular danger or strife for the community. This piece was composed and recorded during the confinement of the Covid-19 pandemic on March-April 2020, in my Onix II Studio-home, near Barcelona.”
If I am correct the title refers to migration away from danger which in this current time essentially means isolation and lock down. Sanfilippo is known predominantly for his piano based works and with this piece the music is a mixture of synth, orchestral and vocal with the occasional grittiness passing through. The pace and the scope of the piece is what you would expect with the title and it’s definition. The music is one that has a strong element of sadness to it with predominantly long notes held throughout it. The music is removed from the doom and gloom that you may think and instead it is quite reverential and deeply considered. Sanfilippo has been releasing music for decades now and has the experience, knowledge and sensibility that is involved in creating a piece that has real emotions behind it with a genuine feel. As a composer Sanfilippo on every release demonstrates the talent that he has when it comes to construction, especially in the use of instruments and styles which makes his music always engrossing and never a case of simple repetition. By not going overly dramatic and really amplifying the emotion in the music Sanfilippo is paying a tribute to the people who are sick and have lost their lives as much as he his giving hope for those that will be around after it has all passed.
“Ver Sacrum” is available Digitally.