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 March which I cast a brief look over.
“The first musical lines of this project were drawn while in Romania, where together with the director, Milonakis travelled to prepare a show for Craiova’s National Theatre. The post-communist atmosphere, the humid streets, the sense of modern balkan darkness contrasting with incredibly vivid painted walls, strong flavors, smells, and amazingly passionate and friendly people would be decoded into music for the classic Russian play. The thirteen tracks in “The Seagull” blend melancholic piano melodies, soaring strings, gentle electronics, atmospheric haze, and evocative soundscapes. Sometimes discreet and others at the forefront of a strong narrative, each piece pours itself into the other like communicating vessels, coexisting with romantic encounters, philosophical arguments, family quarrels and a series of unanticipated arrivals and departures. Piece by piece, Milonakis masterfully introduces us into a world of frustrated lives and unrequited love.”
Manos Milonakis came across my radar due to his involvement with the Canadian label Moderna Records with his “Festen” album. He releases some new music with the label later this week, but the album I am covering is his physically sold out release via the fine Spanish label Piano And Coffee Records. The origins of this album predate “Festen” with Milonakis finding the right time to release it. He kept going back to the recordings finding that the music resonated with him. With recordings split between Greece and Denmark with fellow Moderna alumni Ed Carlsen, Milonakis has created an album that nicely incorporates modern classical and electronica elements with the widescreen grandeur of a soundtrack. There is a brevity to the pieces that is not always noted such is the feeling of completion to the material. Milonakis alongside a string trio adeptly moves between musical styles with a rich and vibrant release which never ebbs in it’s consistency. The pieces have a submerged feel at times and at others they feel as if they are skirting around you. As the music is consistent in it’s differing styles you are made aware of the many talents that Milonakis has. You sense that he has a multitude of musical cues to inspire him as the music contained can be as varied as the electronica styled “It’s Getting Damp” or the noir-ish “Treplev’s Waltz”. The end result is an engaging and moving work.
“The Seagull” is physically sold out but Digital is still available.
“These four arrangements are intended for low-volume listening. Set against the backdrop of an escape to hidden corners of the rural Southeast, prolific healing sound propagandist zakè and Polar Seas Recordings present “Carolina”. Suffused with manipulated field recordings, each of Carolina’s four pieces reenacts a moment in its composer’s journey: “Gaffney Fields” pairs memorial chimes with a persistent drone, while the flowing “Chesnee Rivulet” and the gentle roar of “Woodland Aurora” evoke distant ensembles lost in a forest thrum. Mastered at Black Knoll Studio (NY) by Rafael Anton Irisarri, Carolina is a solemn yet joyful paean to seclusion, and the awe beyond our doors.”
The latest vinyl release from the Canadian Polar Seas Recordings label comes from zakè who is one of the people behind the Past Inside The Present / Healing Sound Propagandist / Fallen Moon Recordings and Zakè Drone Recordings. This four track album is composed using field recordings and tape machines amongst other sources. The tracks are inspired by different areas of South Carolina with sound sources to depict each place. This is a pure drone album with the pieces sticking to that template despite each having their own individual sound. “Gaffney Fields” has an open feeling with nature field recordings and chime sounds while the remaining three pieces have a more dense soundscape with “Chesnee Rivulet” and “Woodland Aurora” having a similar intensity. “Meadow Twilight” is the standout of the four pieces for me as it works the loops nicely with a calmness as well as warmth. This album is largely sold out at source with some copies remaining with the artists themselves and distributors which means that it has reached people on a positive basis, however I personally crave some more variety and changes to the dynamics within the pieces like he demonstrated on a release such as “Milieuxia”.
“Carolina” is available on LP and Digital.
“A Perception Of Everything” is the seventh full-length album by Endless Melancholy and his first for Sound In Silence. It is an album, inspired by travelling and visiting new places. It is made of field recordings made using a microcassette tape recorder, tape loops and synth pads. It is an album about the constant attempts to live in harmony with yourself and searching for your inner peace. About trying to shape your own perception of everything in this fragile and ever-changing world.
“A Perception Of Everything” is a sublime album of wonderful soundscapes, carefully mastered by George Mastrokostas (aka Absent Without Leave) and highly recommended for devotees of ambient pioneers such as Brian Eno, Harold Budd and Steve Roach.”
Over a near decade long career Oleksiy Sakevych aka Endless Melancholy has been producing some fine music. Initially in the solo piano Modern Classical realm, his releases have encompassed different styles in more recent times. His latest on the Greek Sound In Silence label may be his most Ambient yet. Pieces like “Immersion” are filled with long flowing passages while the woozy static soaked sound of “Across the Barren Land” appears as a sort of motif throughout the album. In a way this album is the flip side to 2017’s “The Vacation”. That album featured a slightly darker edge, while this one is very much within the melodic framework, bar the noisy field recordings of “Cabo Da Roca”.
The album flows nicely together which makes you wonder if that’s the way it was constructed with each piece being a section from the larger whole, or the track listing was arranged in a way for crossover between pieces. Whatever the case, the end result is the type of album that is a soundtrack for lock down. It has a warm, if submerged sound as well as an openness (especially with the field recordings and the soaring ambience) and a density that invites closer listening in able to pull back the layers of instrumentation and sound. Traditionally you get this muddled sort of feeling when you listen an album that is centred around the themes of memory or the past and while it is quite similar to the sound scapes on this album, the mood is one which is quite different and almost exultant with joy. If you are looking for a very fine ambient album, then you should check out “A Perception Of Everything”. You will not be disappointed.
“A Perception Of Everything” is available on limited CD-R and Digital.
“Archipelago, Halftribe’s fifth full-length album and first for Sound In Silence, features eleven new compositions with a total duration of something less than 45 minutes. Bissett creates one of his best albums to date, skilfully blending together airy synths, soothing pads, hazy drones, delicate chimes, processed vocal samples, lo-fi plucked guitars, overlapping tones, looped crackles and calm field recordings.
Expertly mastered by George Mastrokostas (aka Absent Without Leave), Archipelago is a beautiful aural journey of blissful ambience, subtle textures, twinkling melodies and dreamy soundscapes which appeals to all fans of artists such as Fennesz, bvdub and The Green Kingdom.”
Like Endless Melancholy, Halftribe has a history with the Dronarivm label and this release highlights the fluidity between artists finding like minded homes for their music. Coming off two albums with Dronarivm and a pair for Archives, Ryan Bissett aka Halftribe has done just what the above press quote claimed. This particular album exists in some kind of nether world where it is largely devoid of genre classification. Sure, the obvious choice is Ambient music, but with this release you see Bissett further working on his material and refining his craft resulting in an album that can be interpreted differently by various viewpoints. Elements of decay, fractured electronics, lush synth pads, swooning drones, hazy loops, minimal guitar and snatches of vocals are just some of what makes up the pieces on Archipelago.
One thing for sure is that Bissett is creating his own sound which easily links his albums together. You can see over the course of “For The Summer, Or Forever” and “Backwater Revisted” where “Archipelago” nicely fits in, while still demonstrating variance between the three albums. If anything “Archipelago” is a further refinement of his style and shows the depth from the noisier title track through to the shimmeringly hypnotic “Two Teaspoons Of Wishful Thinking” and not forgetting the laid back and introspective closer “Imperfect”. The end result is a an album that feels deeply thought out, personal and one that would the perfect sort of soundtrack to reset your mood. As Sound In Silence likes to pair releases together they have chosen well with both Halftribe’s and Endless Melancholy’s albums complimenting each other nicely.
“Archipelago” is available on limited CD-R and Digital.
“It’s rare for an album title to be so completely on point like this one. In challenging times of climate change and political unrest, Rudjord’s initial goal with his new music was to bring the listeners hope, encouragement and faith in mankind during challenging times. But then the COVID19 pandemic made its impact on the world, and suddenly the album concept became more relevant than ever. Lars Jakob Rudjord has been compared to the likes of Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm and Max Richter. The pianist and composer from the windswept Lista peninsula on the Southwest coast of Norway is about to make a name for himself on the international neoclassical music scene. “Let Tomorrow Be Better” is his third studio album.
Rudjord (as well as cellist Katrine Schiøtt) has created an album designed to be uplifting in these times. While the titles of the pieces do not necessarily give off this feeling, the pieces with their light filled music and gentle, flowing playing certainly does so. My previous interaction with Rudjord’s work has been in the form of singles or very short EP’s so it is nice to be able to have an extended period of time with his works. There is a natural recording style which opens up the intimacy in his pieces. With the album’s theme and it’s title the pieces as you expect don’t wallow in melancholy. Sure there are some Cello parts of the single “When I Love In Fall” that could possibly be interpreted this way, but I tend to see it more in the way of complimenting the mood.
Throughout the album are electronic elements which on some albums like the Norvik one below make for a cross over sound. In this case, the album with the exception of the track “Rome” is very much rooted within the Modern Classical framework with the electronic elements being a supporting rather than co-existing style. Encompassing this mood of making people feel better the music uses medium paced playing which is an expressive form of playing, resulting in that connection of theme and feel. The slower paced pieces feel more like considered tracks rather than being overly introspective. They demonstrate the subtleties of using pace can change the feel of the pieces.
Self produced and recorded in his own studio with his array of vintage synthesizers Rudjord has captured his vision down nicely. The noticeable feature of the music is that nothing is forced. He has essentially stripped back his music to concentrate on just what he wants to convey. The soaring nature of a previous release like “Pharos” is absent, instead the pieces contained have a more direct feel of communication between artist and listener.
You can find “Let Tomorrow Be Better” Here.
There are releases that seem to come out of the blue without fanfare that deserve it more than the ones that do. Rumor Of Fires is the solo project of Jeff Anderson who is one third of Chicago Post Rock/Instrumentalists To Destroy A City who unleashed a trio of albums and a remix collection on one of this blog’s favourite labels, n5MD. I vaguely knew that this wasn’t Anderson’s first foray into music when I started listening, but instantly my attention was grabbed with the wide scale cinematic nature of the music and it all made sense.
This self titled seven track release mastered by Taylor Deupree is the type of release that you could see on the n5MD label as it ticks the many diverse boxes of that label’s style. The pieces nicely blend influences and styles from Post Rock, Ambient, Electronica and Modern Classical and are multi faceted. A piece like “Argot” encompasses some of these genres and offers retro touches as well as soaring drone spheres that assist in building the piece and definitely demonstrate the ear that Anderson has to creating pieces that could easily find placement within the film world. With a variety of styles used throughout the album it could be quite easy to make each track demonstrate each specific style, but instead Anderson finds a consistent approach to the album making it a captivating listen. He also makes it sound retro as well as contemporary which adds to the scope of the album. The end result is a satisfying album without a dud track amongst it.
“Rumor Of Fires” is available as a Pay What You Want Digital only release.
“The album is a tribute to the so called New Age on cassette era, to those old Harmony tapes that accompanied the childhood of some of us. There is a need to revive that self-discovery, knowing how to isolate oneself and believe in what makes us feel really good. That is why the tape version of the album L’abbaglio was multiplied or actually recycled, on old 90’s tape albums, so the whole nostalgic feeling, hauntology concept and cassette tribute cycle is complete.”
Carlo Giustini is a field recordings, tape manipulator, sound researcher and experimental musician based in Treviso, Italy. His music combines field recordings, warm organic drones and deep haunted sounds caught with contact microphones on micro-cassette recorders and other old audio gear. His previous albums have been released on the Lontano Series, Shimmering Moods, ACR, Purlieu, No Rent and Bad Cake Records labels. His latest release on North Macedonian label élan vital recordings shows that the label are unafraid to have a diverse catalogue, especially after the visceral Private Mountain release.
The three pieces on the album are the type of music that is pastoral in nature with texture and melody being central to their charm. There is a feeling of haziness, memory, melancholy and shimmering mature to the tracks without them being rooted within one particular feel or emotion. There is a noted subtlety to the elements within the pieces where none of them dominate over the others. Instead, the pieces feel as if there is an equality present with each part having it’s own reason for being there in the totality of the piece. The music is the type to get easily lost to and the fact that is not overly reliant on loops or repetition makes for an engaging listen as you follow Giustini’s musical journey. Recorded with the minimum of fuss and minimum of gear, this album is a real joy to listen to and let it envelop you.
“L’abbaglio” is available on limited CD, Cassette and Digital.
“Seabuckthorn is an alias used for the solo work of English acoustic guitarist & multi-instrumentalist Andy Cartwright since 2009. He uses finger picking & bowing techniques combined with various open tunings to form a mixture of approaches, often with layered accompaniments. Generally the songs lean towards to the experimental genre, whilst on the edge of the ambient and folk. “Through A Vulnerable Occur” is his 9th release.”
Some artists stand out in the various sub genres of ambient because of either their approach or their choice of instrumentation. Andy Cartwright aka Seabuckthorn is one of them. With a discography that has found homes with the likes of Dead Pilot, Lost Tribe Sound, Bookmaker, Eilean Rec and IIKKI to name a few, his works like those of his cello counterparts shows an artist that is experimenting and pushing the boundaries of sound with his chosen instrument. The interesting factor about his music is that if you were none the wiser on his tools of the trade you may be surprised by his sound sources. Then there are pieces like “And Bickers Into Colour” which is every part a drone piece as it is a near alt metal one.
At times the music can resemble aspects of Dark Ambient due the darker tone or the metallic nature that the music sometimes exhibits, but the main feature of Cartwright’s pieces for me is the way that a tensile feel. You feel this real stretching process within the music as it is taut at times and at others it bends corners. Cartwright is not afraid to experiment as well as sit in the pocket and drone away. A piece like “Or A Morning Blue In The East” shows Cartwright’s ambient credentials while still keeping within his style that he has crafted over the course of nine albums. When he drones like on the track “Clears” it’s not got the one dimensionality that some of this genre frequently exhibits, instead you get a piece that a real, visceral feeling. Cartwright is joined on the album by Clarinetist Gareth Davis who helps add an extra element to the pieces such as the title track and “Place Memory”, making them the more experimental of the pieces on the album. The thing about Seabuckthorn records is you are not going to digest the music in one sitting as you need multiple passes to puck it all up and sometimes certain pieces will suit certain moods better. This means that the you won’t grow out of the record easily.
“Through A Vulnerable Occur” is available on LP, CD and Digital.
“A Time For Storm – A beautiful contrast of Modern Classical and Ambient music, this album by Norvik celebrates the two genres equally with a perfectly balanced blend of both. Relaxing and beautiful, each track is a journey explored by Norvik and brought to life.”
In a way I kind of covered this ever so slightly in one of the posts I did about artists (and labels) a few weeks back. Norvik is Hong Kong musician Gabriel Chan who despite the various uprisings and turmoil in his country has been releasing music since 2018 with “A Time For Storm” being his sixth. Most of his releases have come my way so I have been able to see his development as an artist and the quality of his releases improve as he refines his style. This particular ten track release sees an increase in electronics into his sound as well as an emphasis on ambience. The music highlights just how far Chan has come with the sound of the pieces becoming richer and more varied. There are similarities that go back to his debut “Messages To No One” and other parts of his albums like “Echo Theory”, but with “A Time For Storm” it all comes together on a grander scale. If you haven’t previously checked out his releases “A Time For Storm” is a great place to start.
“A Time For Storm” is available Digitally.
“Hardware synth explorations from the Attic. The whole album is a collection of various improvisations using analog modular synths, tape loops, and various other sonic experiments throughout last year. The previously unreleased tracks from “Signals” have been used by the popular YouTube exploration channel, The Proper People, and they have graciously contributed the artwork and video footage to accompany the album.”
Jameson Nathan Jones is a Mississippi based musician who describes himself as a Neo Classical composer, synth and piano enthusiast. As this is the only release of his I have come across so far it is interesting as this album finds itself with the electronic realm more than it does the neo-classical one. Jones says in the above press quote that the music was used for videos on The Proper People’s You Tube channel which is one in which a pair of friends venture through abandoned spaces to see what they can find. Whether or not the music was created prior to or was influenced by these videos I am not sure, but what is apparent is how the music’s eerie qualities would provide a good soundtrack to such explorations.
Over the thirteen tracks Jones ventures through soundscapes from the more traditional electronic ones such as “Still Here” through to the more experimental ones like “Out Of Time” as well as the synth drone of “Monuments”. You get the sense that Science Fiction plays a part in Jones’ life whether it be books, films or music as the pieces on the album have that otherworldly feel which is not the same, but not too dissimilar to something like elements of the “Stranger Things” universe. A piece like “As You Were” sees him marry his neo-classical and electronic styles nicely while also demonstrating his strong sense of a cinematic vision (He has previously released a soundtrack to the short film “Violet” before, so he has experience in this realm). “Signals” is the type of release that could please the type of listener that might not be into the idea of Science Fiction orientated sounds as it has enough variation and depth for listeners to explore.
“Signals” is available Digitally.