“The members of Minamo (Keiichi Sugimoto and Tetsuro Yasunaga) have known Moskitoo (Sanae Yamasaki) for many, many years and have worked together in all sorts of ways. They have not, however, performed a live set or recorded together before what has become Superstition.
Superstition is a gathering of close friends creating music they love to create and exploring the small crevices and details of electric, electronic, and acoustic sounds. While the songs sound intentionally composed and arranged, the actual recording process was quite spontaneous and generative.
Minamo has a wonderful back catalogue of releases on 12k, Room 40 and the all-too-short-lived Apestaartje. Their music is known to incorporate a large amount of interesting instruments and sound-making objects. Dreamy and fractured, beautiful and slightly unsettling. Moskitoo adds a vocal element not heard before in Minamo’s music bringing an angelic air to the scattered earthen sound.”
The first of two stunning looking and sounding release from 12k on vinyl comes from these Japanese musicians. Vinyl seems to be the recent medium of choice for the label despite the odds against it in regards to shipping and expense. The pieces, with the exception of “Imperial Webster” have this dreamy acoustic meets electronic existence that is the musical equivalence of summer. The music has this ability to seem at times barely there, but also very much as if anything else where to be added it would make it quite cluttered. Experimental tones and arrangements abound with melodies and sounds being bent into new shapes. Flicker, glitches and flashes of tones ripple and disappear add a haze to the proceedings. Small moments of modern classical excursions are noted while a collection of sounds of mysterious origin cascade about.
The vocals of Moskitoo add a breathy innocence that makes you feel the mixture of naivety and frailty in equal measure. The piece I highlighted before, “Imperial Webster” is the odd selection amongst the album as it feels quite cavernous and experimental. The more childlike openness of the other material is replaced with a colder, slightly sterile environment that sounds like it is from a science fiction film. For this reason I find myself passing it over in favour of the two that precede it and the two that follow it. The next piece is “Palm Fable” which is everything that “Imperial Webster” isn’t and is probably the reason why it resonates more with me because of the way it conveys such an openness, light filled sound and delicate sonic pallet. Japanese musicians seem to have this innate way to make music that is ultra minimal, but also quite rich in their sounds of tones and placements within their pieces. You get a sense that the musicians possess knowledge of how to make an abstract form of music that does not feel like it is trying to be too cerebral, but also remains challenging while encompassing beauty.
“Superstition” is sold out on LP, but the Digital is still available.
“Alba is the Spanish word for the moment when the first light of day appears, before the sun rises, and all things appear magical. Argentinian Federico Durand returns to 12k with music for dawn listening. His small and humble sounds of everyday life are crafted with simplicity, stillness and repetition – making music how children play.”
If ever there was an artist whose music was as fragile as it is as beautiful and how barely there as it is present, it would be Federico Durand. With a back catalogue across labels like Spekk, Home Normal, Dauw, White Paddy Mountain, IKKI and of course 12k, Durand is one of those rare artists that can be identified by his tiny miniature oriented pieces. There is a certain child like innocence that is largely lost in today’s world that finds a home in Durand’s music. That is not to say that it it is immature, rather it strips away all the harshness of peoples existence once they listen to his music and them transforms them to a much better mindset. You could say that it is the soundtrack to mindfulness because of this quality.
At time you feel as if you have stumbled onto something lost and possibly damaged by the environment. An example of this is is the piece “Un pequeño bosque de lengas” aka
“A Small Forest of Lengas” which has tape static and hum, glitches and micro melodies which are manipulated and looped to give as much a dream like presence as one that is rather foreign. Amongst conventional instruments used on this album there are music boxes, cradle toys and toy piano. This array of instruments as well as Organelle, synth, piano and acoustic guitar are what adds to the mixture and blend of acoustic meets electronic that is noticed on the album. Add to the fact that not all the material sounds the same despite similar methods as shown on the more experimental “Tape-loop para Otti Berger” aka “Tape Loop For Otti Berger” or the drone stylings of “Té de jazmín” aka “Jasmin Tea”, highlights the diversity.
The material on “Alba” is different to that of his previous full length album “Pequeñas Melodias” on IIKKI. While “Pequeñas Melodias” had a richer, warmer, more melodic tone, on “Alba” Durand has the concept in mind of early dawn before the sun has risen and people have woken up. Fragility is noted throughout the album and possibly the warmth that was present in his previous album is removed due to the theme. At dawn before anything has happened is a time where possibilities seem endless and there is opportunity for a fresh start. This may exactly what Durand is trying to convey over the course of the fourteen tracks with the sense of wonder this time of day can engender.
“Alba” is sold out on LP at source, but Digital is still available.
“The Humble Bee & Offthesky come back with a second opus after their first one on IIKKI in 2019. Including Rin Howell for the voice and Cody Yantis for the sax like previously. This second opus is a perfect continuity with their first collaboration, a delicate and detailed piece with a dusty out of time atmosphere.”
Taking a step back from just reviewing the fourth Laaps release from Danny Clay and the forthcoming fifth one from Tomotsugu Nakemura which has pre-orders opening on the twenty second of June, I find myself taking in the latest collaboration from The Humble Bee and Offthesky. “We Were The Hum Of Dreams” follows on from their previous collaboration “All Other Voices Gone, Only Yours Remains” on the sister label IIKKI. This album is very much a dust soaked one with Corder (Offthesky) being responsible for the arrangements. Despite the smaller list of guest musicians it flows nicely on from their previous outing and feels like it is moving more away from their ambient roots to a more soundtrack orientated experience through an experimental lens.
Because of the nature of the dust soaked and hazy music it feels like it has been unearthed from a capsule and has over time deteriorated. The music runs the gamet of operatic styles meets drones as witnessed on “In the Last Life, We Were a Winter” and the smoky torch singer vocals of Rin Howell shine on “An Affair On Invisibility” which transforms the music exponentially and re-configures it in a different state. The soaring nature of “In the Last Light, We Were A Whisper” shows how inspired the duo are and the way in which their considerable musical background is channelled nicely together. Corder’s fellow Coloradoan Cody Yantis adds mournful sax on “Universe In the Palm Of The Dark” which is a rather noir-ish piece that fits in nicely with their soundtrack-esque stylings. The quality that stands out fro me is that their sound scapes are multidimensional and mature and as such offer a rewarding listen time after time as you detect subtle changes, extra instruments and textures which you may have missed first time around.
The beauty about this album is that it is not “All Other Voices… Pt2.”. In my last review I hoped the collaboration was not a mere one off and with this instalment you get a strong sense of the the musical language that the two musicians are creating and the exciting future that they are moving forward to. “We Were The Hum Of Dreams” is sold out on CD, but limited vinyl and Digital remain.
“After having lived in Vietnam for two years, moving back home to the West coast of Ireland provided enough inspiration for O’Muineachain to write and record this album in a little under three months. Surrounded by the Atlantic coast, familiar faces, and his old instruments, O’Muineachain began exploring ideas of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ through his music. The result is both his most experimental yet familiar release to date. Simple piano lines marry with quiet guitars, distant synths and rudimentary drums to create an otherworldly environment intended to soothe and ease the listener into a meditative state where they can explore their own connections to the themes expressed.”
Seamus O’Muineachain is an Irish artist with half a dozen releases and three previous full length albums under his belt. The tags on his bandcamp page are a little misleading as they state such genres as Ambient, New Age, Minimal and Piano. The pieces themselves feel more in line with a genre like Slow core such is the nature of their slow, melodic post rock influenced sound. Largely based on guitar, piano and drums, O’Muineachain’s intentions in the press release is to create meditative states. I personally don’t feel this meditative quality, instead I hear more of an introspective quality within the music, one which is of a positive nature. I find myself being entranced by the pieces as a track like “Rushlight The Factories” shows O’Muineachain has a wide scope, but there is and I hate sounding critical, something holding the music back from being great. One such things is the percussion. Whether it’s real drums or a programmed drum machine, their involvement does not do the music justice as they don’t sound right. Whether it is the tone or their intensity, something is lacking. If this is fixed up it would be instrumental (excuse the pun) with making the pieces that much better.
“Blue Moon Set” is available via Limited Cassette (20 copies) and Digital.
“Fabio Florido shifts his focus away from the dance floor, making his move on ambient terrain with a stunning seven-track LP which introduces his alias Disenthrall. Suffused with emotion and sincerity, his ambient project was born after his experiences participating in healing ceremonies and hosting a succession of his own, which saw him playing sessions of ambient and ancestral music. Encouraged to dig deeper with meditative sounds, Fabio would look to nature as a source of inspiration, the result being rich, organic and celestial compositions.”
One of the entry points to Ambient music is through electronic forms like Techno or House Music. Fabio Florido is one such artist who has a healthy discography going back to 2012. The Berlin based producer and DJ has introduced his Ambient alias Disenthrall as a means for him to explore the more meditative side of music. Although not strictly pure Ambient (as you can here with more club orientated piece “Back To Earth”) it is a far cry from the more dance floor orientated pounding of his Selcouth moniker.
The seven pieces that make up “Back To Earth” are very much viewed through the lens of a Techno musician. The textures and tones are very subtle but noticeable and the use of rhythms like on the track “Sinking Roots” show Florido’s combination of Head nod ambience and dance floor attraction. But on other tracks like “Dissolve” you see this mix of styles integrating with synth pads, walls of ambience, gritty textures and field recordings that you could imagine Florido propelling the piece with pounding beats. It would appear that Florido is attuned to more spiritual concerns and this shift towards Ambient based music is his way of moving on from the music that is more designed to get a crowd moving and instead focus on the more cerebral aspects of music. As this is a new direction for him it will be interesting to see if he pursues with it and whether it ventures further away from his club background as the initial offerings are very positive.
“Back To Earth” is the kind of release suited to those who have a background similar to Florido’s or are as much fans of dance related music as they are ambience. “Back To Earth” is available Digitally.
““The album gestated over a couple years or so, in which time a lot can happen. As one gets older, it’s natural to think about the time you’ve spent on this planet and what you will leave behind. This was only punctuated by the unexpected loss of my aunt. At some point while crafting these pieces, I also pulled Pablo Neruda’s book of poetry Residence on Earth off the shelf. The surreal imagery and emotions these works evoke felt connected to the music on many levels, and informed the course of the album until its completion. This album is dedicated to the memory of Mary V. Mannino.”
Michael Cottone aka The Green Kingdom is one of those artists who’s music has changed over the years, but the underlying feature is the consistency of his pieces. You know when you are listening to one of his works that you won’t be listening to something that is uninspired or one dimensional. Cottones music is as peaceful as it is rich, with an essence that is rather calming. With some of his releases revolving around field recordings, this particular one see him largely eschewing those sounds in favour for more guitar orientated pastoral ambience and shimmering drones. The field recordings that are included are found in the album’s book end pieces, “Dawn” and “Dusk”. There is a contrast in the title (which would be a direct reference to the passing of a loved one) and the track titles themselves which feel as more times or places.
One of the best features of Ambient music is it’s ability to show different moods and ways of expressing emotions. In some way it is one of the rare styles to convey so much. The pieces contained on “Residence On Earth” are of the more introspective manner than say melancholic. Cottone varies his techniques and textures as well as his weight within the pieces which allow for the variance in the material. Other musical influences like Post Rock, Dream Pop and an Alt Country twang find their way into the material which expands its sound palette and appeal. While listening to the album I started going back into his catalogue and seeing if I could tie it to another to give some point of reference and a joining thread, but while elements have seen the light of day through other releases, this is just another separate and unique album.
“Residence On Earth” is sold out physically, but is still available Digitally.