This post is a snapshot of releases that came out on the fourth and fifth of June. It shows the diversity of material received and also the amount of submissions which may indicate why some releases take a while to be covered.
“The somewhat blunt and remote title ‘Strängar’ (meaning Strings) was an intentional choice made to avoid going down the route of ‘conceptronica’. While this approach works perfectly for some releases and adds convenience for listeners and reviewers when trying to decipher or add meaning to abstract and instrumental music, on occasion it can feel somewhat forced and a bit of an afterthought.”
The latest release from the Berlin based For/wind label, home to the likes of Seasons (pre-din), Erik Levander, Benjamin Finger, etc…. comes from the Italian sound artist Attilio Novellino who has appeared on imprints such as Small Doses, Midira and Crónica to name a few. This four track release nicely balances experimentation with accessibility. Novellino works within the sound art sphere to create pieces that act as a soundtrack by virtue of the moods and textures that he creates. Having an almost metallic edge, the pieces explore depth and tonality as well as flitting between genre styles like drone or possibly even Modern Classical due to the occasional austere sound sources. The personal highlight for me is “Strängar IV” which tends to embody the entirety of the album in the longest piece of the album.
“Strängar” suits those that like their music to challenge but not alienate the listener and is available on CD and Digital.
“Danny Clay is a composer / general noise maker from Ohio, now living in San Francisco. Chamber music, open forms, found objects, analogue media, digital errata, toy instruments, and everything in between are his artistic guidance. Whose work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things with people of all ages and levels of artistic experience. He builds worlds of inquiry, play, and perpetual discovery that integrate elements of sound, movement, theatre, and visual design. Children’s games, speculative systems, cognitive puzzles, invented notation, found objects, imaginary archives, repurposed media, micro-improvisations, and happy accidents all make frequent appearances in his projects.”
Between 2015 and 2017 US composer Danny Clay was quite busy with an array of releases on labels such as Eilean Rec, IIKKI, Hibernate, and others. His output has slowed down the last few years with his most recent works being “Periphery” (Slaapwel, 2018) and “An Index Of Treasures” (tsss tapes, 2019 with Matthew Atkins). “Ocean Park” sees his return to a familiar, if slightly different home on Eilean Rec successor Laaps. Part of the “exquisite corpse” project that is Laaps, “Ocean Park” like “Periphery” sees Clay supported by a small ensemble of artists such as Ian Scarfe – harmonium, Philip Brezina – violin, Christina Simpson – viola and James Jaffe – cello. The music is quite different to the more experimental works he has explored in the past with a definite nod to more drone orientated sounds this time ’round. There are moments where Clay returns to his more exploratory works, but it feels like on “Ocean Park” he has opted to revel in beauty (albeit through a little bit of decay and static).
Pieces like “Ocean Park I” have a hypnotic, swirling sound that swoons under the decay. There is a shimmering quality to the music that evokes a mirage. You get the feeling of music that may, on paper, be a little conventional, but once it has been put through the Danny Clay treatment it has been transformed into something else. The epic “Ocean Park” which would encompass a whole side of the vinyl version sees Clay and his cohorts expand on what they have done on the previous two tracks. It has the elements of static and glitched cuts, but the drone works elevates it into a majestic piece full of weighty, hung emotion.
“Ocean Park” is the sort of release that would satisfy those interested in more accessible forms of experimentation combined with a sense of beauty. “Ocean Park” is available on LP, CD and Digital.
“Drowning In The Light was created using the recorded sounds of a loved one crying and screaming in the throes of a mental breakdown to trigger melodies on a modular synthesizer. Large swells of distorted notes were also triggered by screaming the words “I love you” into a microphone – casting a lifeline in an attempt to turn darkness into beauty.”
Steve Swartz is SWARTZ et, a Detroit based Ambient sound artist. He uses the latin motto on the city of Detroit’s official seal “Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus” on his release pages. This translates to “We hope for better things” and “It will rise from the ashes” which could essentially be a reference to his home city or as a form of influence in his adventures in music. The two releases featured here are his most recent single “Drowning In Light” and his album “Light Leaks”. Traditionally a guitarist Swartz utilises Modular synthesizer on both releases.
Reading the above quote may lead you to think how harrowing the music might sound, but thankfully that is not the case. Throughout the piece it does approach the darker, noisier end of the Ambient/Drone spectrum, but rather than tip over into total darkness the piece takes an ebb and flow feel consistent with the rhythms you would expect when someone is distraught. Much like the flow of emotion can ride in waves an troughs, so to does this particular piece as swathes of drones and distortion crash over each other. One thing I like about the piece is the way that the sound source inspiration is part of it, but is not wholly audible which makes it less obvious and more intriguing.
“Light Leaks explores how we see and interpret the world, how our experience of it is shaped by the giving and receiving of light and how being alive, in itself, is to be a fathomless and complex anomaly.”
“Light Leaks” shows Swartz take his music in diverse areas. All are synth based pieces that demonstrate different sides to the music. Some like “A World of Subtext” and “Inward and Outward” are more drone orientated, while a piece like “Phosphorenes” is propelled by pulsing synths and “Pain Prism” evokes some of the darker elements of “Drowning In Light”. My personal preference is more for the tracks of a drone nature as they have that balance of colour and light that I prefer.
Both “Drowning In Light” and “Light Leaks” are available Digitally.
“Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek needs no introduction – a hugely prolific Electronic Experimenter who has recorded for labels such as Type, Digitalis, Dekorder, Western Vinyl, and many many more, Where To Now Records are truly humbled to handle his latest collaborative work ‘Oehoe’. Produced in collaboration with viola/violinist Anne Bakker, a classically trained solo artist in her own right, and currently performing strings as part of Agnes Obel’s band, Machinefabriek here has sown a landscape of Anna’s raw violin, viola, and vocal improvisations into a stirring body of work which merges tradition, experimentation, and whimsical curiosity to create a distinctively unique album which is both deeply moving and playfully dissonant in equal measure.”
Machinefabriek should be no stranger to readers of this blog as possibly would Anne Bakker who has worked on half a dozen releases with Rutger as well as having an accomplished solo and collaborative career herself. It would appear that this particular release is more a a distant work than a together collaboration with Bakker recording her own vocals, viola and violin and Zuydervelt constructing the pieces. How exactly does one describe these pieces? Electroacoustic? Modern Composition? Experimental? They are all these and some more. Of all the releases I have heard this year, this has the most otherworldly, alien like sound I have experienced. The pieces are free form explorations of sound with fragments of structure that sneak in from time to time. The pieces vary each artists contribution making sure that neither are the dominant force with the way that they are woven together making for a cohesive collaboration and not a one sided release. Some pieces like “Voorwarts” approach more structural styles which teases the audience, but then you realise it’s Machinefabriek and you are not going to get music that is too accessible.
“OEHOE” is available on LP, CD and Digital.
“After having released several albums under his Oaktree moniker, de Roover decided to continue under his own name. New name, new music. Where Oaktree combined electronic music with neo-classical elements, his new direction is more centered around abstract, yet playful, sound design. His new EP continues in the same vein but offers a more minimal and quiet approach compared to his first full-length album Leaves which saw the light last year. “Voor Anderen” is a collection of commissioned pieces that were created in 2015-2018. They were made with the intention of being part of specific projects by Thomas Thai and Damiaan Jacobs.”
“Voor Anderen” which translates to “For Others” naturally collects one piece for Damiaan and four pieces for Thomas with two pieces being unused. Following on from his 2019 LP “Leaves”, “Voor Anderen” is a collection of ultra minimal pieces that move through various styles from the more melodic side of “Voor Thomas” through to the rather abstract “Voor Thomas 2.3” and the more glitchy Mego-isms of “Voor Thomas 1.0”. de Roover on all the pieces is in no rush with the pieces taking their time to evolve naturally which makes for a relaxed listen (possibly with the exception of “Voor Thomas 2.3”). In some way the pieces feel barely there and in others you can sense his musical background creeping in ever so slightly. Listening yo this release because of it’s minimal nature you want to be using headphones with very little else happening around you to distract you. Otherwise you my miss all the subtleties that de Roover infuses into his pieces.
“Voor Anderen” is available on Cassette and Digital and is well worth checking out.
“Downstream Blue is the Slowcraft debut from multi award-winning film composer Mathieu Karsenti. This lushly meditative collection navigates exotic, uncharted waters, guiding the listener through four tenderly disarming movements to a place of solace and safe haven.”
The tradition continues with Karsenti following his early release of the year with his mid year release. This time has found himself as part of the Slowcraft digital series, Lifelines. If you want to check out his history please look at the last lot of releases that I have covered over the last few years. Suffice to say that I am happy to see his music being picked up by a label and enabling it to get a greater audience. The second in the Lifelines series Karsenti possibly offers his most Ambient themed release. Karsenti still works within his classical and score background which gives the four pieces their differing sound to most Ambient works. The music relies on subtleties where Karsenti doesn’t feel the need to over emphasise certain parts of pieces. An example being the track “Only Light” which could easily be re-focused into a more epic piece, but by holding back he infuses the material with an extra warmth and a soundscape that beckons the listener closer. He also doesn’t abandon his more Classical orientated roots as heard on “Loosen”. Instead he furthers his musical exploration. Each release I have heard from this artist I have loved and this is no exception. Hopefully the exposure this release provides will propel him onto bigger things.
“Downstream Blue” is available Digitally.
“Oceanography” by Lauge is the latest release from the Archives label offshoot Faint. The previous release was the yet to be cover “Isolation” compilation of which Lauge was included. That track “Barents Sea” is not too dissimilar to the works on this album, possibly slightly warmer. Lauge is a Danish Ambient project by Henrik Laugesen and has released works on labels such as Fallen Metropolis and GS Productions. According to label boss Agus Mena “from the beginning was to focus Faint on darker sounds and even bring it closer to Dub and Techno.”. This is where Lauge comes in with a background in Chillout and Downtempo music as well as Ambient. You can hear this influence throughout the release even though in some occasions it is quite slight.
The ten pieces on this album are on average over seven and a half minutes long which gives Laugesen time to set out the territory he wants to explore within each piece and weave his low level sounds in. There is a strong glacial feel to the pieces which reflects the pace of the music, the colours and the textures. At times it ventures to darker territory (see “King Christian X Land”) and slightly of the experimental side of ambience, but for the most part it could also find itself on Mena’s other label Archives. Naturally the two final pieces “8 DM (With Fallen Metropolis)” and “Oceanography (Rhythmic Pulse Edit)” take it into electronica territory, but on the whole the album is an ambient one that straddles the various genre influences and sounds and does it quite nicely.
“Oceaography” is available on limited CD-R and Digital.