The world is a blur especially the musical one. Releases come at a rapid rate that not all can be processed in time for their release dates. As I try to balance the older and newer releases, here are some of various styles that were released in February and March which I cast a brief look over.
“Henning Schmiedt’s new original variations of Bach’s famous Goldberg aria deal with the same theme as the original – to find rest in sleepless nights and the hope that slumber will finally come. Accordingly the titles of the songs In Henning’s new album Schlafen tell the story of a hypnosis session. The upright muted piano is played extremely softly and gently, presenting the iconic classical gem in a very different attitude. Microphones placed very closely to the piano capture an intimate sound and emphasise the noises and movements inside the piano. The music paints the blue colour of twilight and might make you sink in deeply.”
Henning Schmiedt continues his long relationship with Flau that goes back to 2006’s “Klavierraum” album. With a title that translates to sleep and cover art that carries through the concept with the “counting sheep” motif, the music contained within the album is designed to be a quiet intimate soundtrack to nodding off. Schmiedt’s music has a sort of free form characteristic which gives it this openness. He probably is, but you don’t feel like he is, playing from a written score. It feels as though he has a framework which inspires him and then he explores all that is around it. The recordings are that raw, natural, close recorded style which gives you the intimate feel that matches the album’s theme. The playing is close to his “Klavierraum, Spater” album, but with a more calming, restrained style. Personally I would lean to more ambient based works as a sleep soundtrack, but this would by suited as a precursor to that, late at night with no one else around.
“Schlafen” is available on CD and Digital.
I have combined these five releases together as the tend to fall under the umbrella term that is New Age. The albums featured in this post share some elements, but also have their own identities as well, showing that a blanket sort of description is somewhat misleading. The releases come from two labels both based in Oakland, California (also home to blog faves n5MD) with the labels being Constellation Tatsu and Inner Islands.
“Open Spaces is a recent body of work by Christopher Hancock involving binaural recordings and 360 spatialization of additional drones, tones and textures. The result is an EP of immersive, hypnotic ambient work. Currently teaching music production at SAE Sydney, this work was initially created as part of Chris’ practice-led research into 360 audio for his masters degree. Chris has been releasing music for a couple of decades under various aliases and genres, while working in a traditional analogue studio recording and mixing a variety of genres for clients”
If you take one track from this release you will not get the complete picture. With the opening track “Opening Space” I felt with all it’s drones and field recordings that I had a fair idea the way the rest of the pieces would probably head. To a certain extent the second piece “Morning to Night” follows that path and then there is “”Compassion” with Michelle McCosker on vocals which for some reason gives me Dead Can Dance like vibes, which is probably to do with the darker approach to the piece and the vocal experimentation. The standout piece of the album is also the most different one which is “Some Days Are Easier Than Others” which bases itself on loops with a quasi classical meets vaguely electronica like feel. It has a real seesawing feel as the music pans around you. Hancock excels on this piece as it entranced even when it becomes familiar due to the ever so slight additions and changes that are introduced. With the exception of this piece the majority of the album sees itself based in the Ambient/Drone with Field Recordings realm, but enhanced by Hancock’s mastery of the study making the pieces vibrant and multi-dimensional.
The cassette edition of “Opening Spaces” is sold out at source, but Digital is still available.
“This release tells a story of a journey towards the glorified wise-man, who are hermits and form some kind of a brotherhood. They live high in the Caucasian mountains and are in deep contact with divine beings and god. “Samosi” in Georgian language means cloth. This album is a cloth you wear on your journey to the high summits of Caucasus.”
When you take into consideration the album artwork, the meaning behind the title and the track titles themselves, it is no surprise then that the music has a swirling, squally sound as if the freezing cold air is blasting around you. Saphileaum aka Georgia’s Andro Gogibedashvili creates a rich soundscape that evokes a landscape as peaceful as it is chilly. The music employs mystical like sounds and found sounds as well as traditional drone soundscapes while creating a sonic journey that takes twists and turns. A piece like “Underneath The Godly Sky” sticks out for me due to it’s moving and calm soundscape. The release is bound to be liked by those into both New Age and Ambient as well as concept albums.
“Samosi” is available on Cassette and Digital.
“José Orozco Mora is a Mexican musician and composer from Chapala, México, previously releasing music under the name ‘Camedor’, and also active as the synth player for the experimental outfit Lorelle Meets the Obsolete on their live performances. With his recordings, Orozco explores the meditational and trance-inducing qualities of sound, based on repetition and polyrhythmic arrangements that create intricate textures, using electronic and acoustic instruments as the medium.”
While the other releases within this “new Age” post uses synths, they are not always the dominant instrument or are used in a more dronescape approach. With José’s album you could classify this as pure synth album. The music on the title track “Formas Aparentes” aka “Apparent Shapes”constructs these repetitive building blocks of chopping and layering synth sounds that come at you from all directions. Other pieces move more within the trancey synths soundscapes while dipping into the Soundtrack style that Tangerine Dream pioneered in the early ’80s. The end result is an album that is as much a new age one as it is a synth one as it is a prog one as it is a soundtrack to a fictitious film. The balance of the pieces works well as Orozco Mora clearly shows his talents abundantly on the title track, but then leaves these little nuggets of sounds during the other tracks which provide sparks along the way.
“Formas Aparentes” is available on Cassette and Digital.
“I visited Australia for my day-job as a photographer’s assistant, venturing deep into the outback in search of landscapes inhabited by the Indigenous people of Australia, in search of a greater understanding of their relationship with the land. I took the photo used on the cover of the record there, near Uluru, where a Pitjantjatjara guide told me about Dreamtime and the Everywhen creation stories of the local Anangu [tribespeople]. I approached these songs with Dreamtime in mind – the accumulation of worldly understanding through the telling of stories that begin before humanity inhabited the earth. A search for a deeper understanding of truth and meaning through ancient wisdom. Of course, they’re my own stories and don’t have the reverence or complexity of meaning of the actual Indigenous stories, but I offer them in great respect and reference to the true Dreamtime.”
My previous encounter with Henner’s work was the “Flues Of Disappearing Sand” release on Dauw. This particular release for Inner Islands is quite the different sort of release with more of a basis within Ambient framework – I definitely get Eno “Ascending (An Assent)” feelings from “Take A Feather From The Old Pelican”. The percussive nature of that other release is replaced with a more shrouded soundscape with which the listener needs to pay more attention and slowly pull back the layers of sound to reveal what lies beneath. With the background information you get a feeling through the music of a reverence to the stories that is translated through the calmness of the pieces. Musically there is also an environmental feel, as if the pieces where inspired by the relative isolation of the places he visited. I have to admit feeling that the music was going to be in a similar vein to the Dauw release, but this shows a more open approach to music which Henner explores.
“A Dingo Crossing A Stream” is available on Cassette and Digital.
“”Skin to skin serves as both a follow up to Licking as well as a sister album to Princess Heaven (under the moniker Ava Lux). The Sabriel’s Orb project has served as a place for me to retreat from a lot of the more complex energies I have been working with in other projects and in life in general. I picture a flowing dark river of energy, saturated in longing, in sadness, in desire, in hopefulness. I’m obsessed with where the ends of joy meet the ends of grief, how ecstasy can also be melancholy, the way so many beautiful moments can contain so many emotions at once. Ultimately, maybe I’m just a romantic with an aching heart creating soundscapes to embody what that feels like for me, and to remind me how to feel.” -Willow Skye-Biggs
The four pieces on this album use space and weighty synth passages with undulating movements and a nod to retro sounds. The material and colours of the artwork (which also remind me of an EBM 12″ style artwork from 1982) are represented in the pieces as the music has a flowing nature while also having a melancholic/introspective vibe as it has a sort of lava lamp equivalency with the synth lines constantly moving and evolving. There is little for the listener to grab onto, rather they ride upon the flowing journey that Skye-Briggs takes them on. The music lulls you into thinking that not much is going on such is the gradual progressions. It is only when you go back through the tracks to highlight points that you notice the changes that have subtly occurred.
“Skin To Skin” is available on Cassette and Digital.
“True to its name, Drift is an album that casts the listener off into a sea of sound. Aptly “drifting” between styles and between themselves, the two artists behind this collaborative effort — cellist Seigen Tokuzawa and pianist Masaki Hayashi — have ensured that their sound is a soft clash of drama and dreaming, with no concern for fashion. One thing the pair find particularly interesting is how cultures mix and mingle together, historically creating genres like tango and bossa nova; with their different backgrounds and different skills, their aim is to create such a mix themselves.”
It makes sense that this album comes from Flau after the above Henning Schmeidt release. This album has a feeling of Late night Jazz meets Modern Classical mixed in with a score for a contemporary performance piece. Based on Cello and Piano there is a stark quality to the album where both Tokuzawa and Hayashi don’t feel the need to fill out all the sound. This use of space allows for a more complementary sound of the two players and strips back anything unnecessary. The playing also incorporates room for flair which rather than be committed to a particular form or style lets both players to explore and push out the boundaries of music. The duo also cover pieces from Squarepusher and The Velvet Underground which re-positions the music into a different style and makes you assess them in a different light. A piece like “Quarter” shows that the duo are unafraid of making music of pure beauty as they are unafraid of exploring more mathematical like approaches on “Soramame”. There is a slight lo-fi quality to the recordings which gives this glassy, but intimate sound. I think if the recording was one which was more dynamic it would change the complexion and feel of the pieces.
“Drift” is available on CD and Digital.
It makes sense that I put these two albums together as Blear Moon mastered the Two Hands | One Engine album. Two Hands | One Engine is Justin Mank who in the past sent me across some of his material to review. I ended up passing on it as (and I hope I don’t come across rude or mean) I didn’t think it was ready to be reviewed. It sort of felt to me like an artist finding their way and almost two years on Mank’s music is becoming more engaging and he seems to be finding his feet. His music has been released by Healing Sound Propagandist, Assembly Field and Elm Records. The six tracks and thirty eight minutes of “The Mind Wanders” features music that is slow paced and experiences changes in tones, emotions and melody. The majority of the pieces are of the glacial and introspective kind and require a real focus for the listener to discern the instruments or sound sources. Mank doesn’t bash you over the head, instead he lulls you in with the ever so slight subtlety which shows that his pieces have this depths and subtle nuances that are coming to the fore. “Howell” is a perfect example of this as it moves through various movements with the occasional repetitive motif shining through ever so briefly.
“The Mind Wanders” is sold out from source, but the Digital is still available.
“I was working on this album for past two years while living in different places: Czech Republic, Urals of Russia and Taiwan. It came from my irregular daily improvisation practices and later picked to work on. It is somewhat melancholic, sometimes dark, it’s meditative yet quite dynamic. I’ve used digital and analogue synths, guitars, field recordings, found sounds, experimental texturing and editing methods and tape processing.”
The music of this album is of the darker side of Ambient. The tracks tend to move from dark drone pieces of sustained and lengthened notes or those that almost cross over into noise territory on the likes of “Afterworlds”. While some pieces are relatively drained of colour a piece like “Temptations” provides this balance that while it still is dark, there is a hint of light there amongst the swirling core of the piece. The highlight for me is “Learning For Kids” which has this melodic undercurrent buried beneath a relaxing sort of squall of noise. It gives of this aura of a calm interior under a unsettled exterior. It would be interesting to know which pieces were recorded where and whether Vlas Barev aka Blear Moon was either affected or inspired by these situations and environments he found himself in.
“Expanding Lands” is available on limited Edition CD-R, Cassette and Digital via the Secret Press label.
“Shuta Hiraki returns with these cinematic musical collages created mainly with old LP records left by his mother in the warehouse, mixing her own recordings of old upright detuned piano from the Nagasaki Sound Bath Museum with field recordings recorded on cassette. Perfect amalgam between classical music, traditional Japanese music where flute and piano builds a great bridge to an enigmatic paradise that sometimes darkens and then shines again. A brilliant treasure for lovers of the sound of tragedy.”
Shuta Hiraki returns to the Rottenman Editions label with his follow up to 2019’s “Not Here, But There”. While his previous album was a pure drone one, this album is an amalgamation of styles resulting in a rich album that could be best describes as a sound collage. There are sound sources such as Japanese flute, drones, Modern Classical movements, vinyl crackles and pops as well as found sounds and singing. There is a hauntological type quality that makes you feel like you are listening to some form of historical recording that has been reconstructed due to wear and tear over time. Because of the nature of the music it is hard to see it as one particular style which provides a little quandary when listening to it. You could sort of see it being used to accompany a procession of static images covering for example a person’s life as it has a personal feel thanks to the snatches of singing and because of the distant feel of the music, it reflects the past. This is the type of album not to listen to as a piece of music, but rather one to disappear into to search for it’s meanings an stories.
“Voicing In Oblivion” is available on limited Cd and Digital.