For the second round up of releases from the month of May we have a diverse assortment of artists.
“The Last Best Place’ sees Minneapolis- based pianist, John Hayes, return with his second full-length release. Inspired by the unexpected loss of a friend along with moving into a new studio space, ‘The Last Best Place’ captures a range of emotions as well as Hayes’ intimate recording process. What began as a single solo piano piece, written to calm his nerves after the loss of his friend, quickly evolved. New spaces led to new compositions and finally, the album was born. Each piece was written softly, late at night, wanting to tell their own story, yet all finding a way to remain connected to the same narrative.”
Some times grief change change the tone of an artists work to reflect how they feel. Coupled with the loss of a friend, the moving into a new studio can add a level of anxiety as well as new open possibilities. With John Hayes newest release “The Last Best Place” the Minneapolis artist issues a collection of subdued, introspective pieces of ambient tinged solo piano. I suspect that the sound of the album is as much inspired by events as it is the process of recording at night. Hayes fingers gently roll over the keys with a graceful presence, but also one that is powered by the emotions and the stories behind each piece.
The opener “My Two Cents” sets the tone for the rest of the record with the gentleness on the key strikes, the space between the notes and the intimacy of the recording. The track could easily be played with a more forceful presence, but the way that Hayes approaches it lets you know that it is being played with a somewhat heavy heart. As shown on the following track, the album’s title, Hayes is not going for the heavy emotional hit. This piece is about hope as much it is about memory. There is a flowing confidence to the playing with a slight melancholic and ambient edge noted. The ambient nature of the music is noted on the track “Eights” where the notes seem to hang in the air between each other, creating this sort of ethereal glow between key strokes. This is also the case on the following piece “The Less You Know”, but with a darker richer tone of the notes which gives off this ambience a ghostly presence.
Minimalism is the hallmark of “Be”, a piece where space is used to advantage to heighten the emotion, while “Anonymous” has a delightful nostalgic edge. With a title like “The Things That End” you know there is a good chance that the music will be one that is quite emotional and that is the case on this introspective slice of tonally rich piano. The album closes with “The Controller” a piece that has quite a unique sound when placed alongside the other pieces. My musical knowledge is practically zero, but it sounds like the notes are slightly off key. There is a certain feel to them which makes them stand out and gives the track a unique feel with a mood that I cannot quite grasp.
The last time I heard the works of John Hayes it was through the enjoyable remix collection “By The Woods (Reworks)” so it was great to hear just him and his own compositions as how they are intended to be. “The Last Best Place” is the type of album that is suited towards fans of a more honest and intimate form of music. “The Last Best Place” is available on LP and Digital.
“Polar Seas is excited to welcome Stockholm’s Havenaire with a limited edition cassette. Havenaire (John Roger Olsson) has released 2 beautiful albums on Constellation Tatsu and Glacial Movements.”
Listening to this eight track release you can see why John Roger Olsson appeared on the Glacial Movements label in the past. The music has a slow pace befitting that particular labels output, but rather than just relying on this feature Olsson nicely balances the cold feeling with a light, vibrant touch. In fact Olsson offers up many different facets of the Ambient genre resulting in the creation of a well rounded and diverse album. At times the material feels symphonic in nature with a piece like “Movement” mixing in a bouncing rhythm alongside long drones that have a vocal quality and lush beds of synths that float along. On “Ponder” he explores synth sounds mixing in moving passages of slightly ominous, but linear synth lines and on “Deviation” we are treated to a freeze cold minimalist soundscape that conjures images (from a person far, far away) a particular cold snow covered environment in the peak of winter.
Olsson is not afraid to stray away from the light and create pieces which embrace a form of engulfed darkness. On “Once” it can be of the stormy gale like slow moving monolithic sound or on “Blocker” where the sound is generated from a dirty sounding oscillating synth sound. Both approaches offer different takes on this particular style which opens up the variance in the music. I personally lean more towards a track like “Once” as it, for me, is a purer representation of Ambience.
With “Movement” Polar Seas have released the type of release which you could confidently use as a faithful representation of ambient to someone who is new to this genre. The music has heart, soul, empathy and is the kind of music that you need from time to time to re-set your mood. “Movement” is available on limited cassette (50 copies) and Digital. It is very much recommended.
“”Moonflowers” is an exploration of repetition and organic sounds. Fragments of delicate melody and harmony are decayed and obscured over time. Emotions frozen in the present. Flower and expand in the silhouette of the full moon.”
Sinerider is the alias for Norwood, Massachusetts artist Devin Powers. Over the years he has produced music ranging from ambient and electronica to shoegaze and post-rock, having released many albums and EPs, either on labels such as Sun Sea Sky, Archives, BFW Recordings and Silk Music, or self-released. He has also recorded instrumental music of a variety of genres like indie, slowcore, lo-fi, dubstep and 8-bit, under many different aliases such as Senseed, Bleepy Bloopy, Hooting Everywhere and Reanu Keeves, while he is also one half of the projects Lakewaves and Introspecter, along with Graham Marlowe and Brian Stegmann. “Moonflowers” is his first physical release since 2018’s “Four Years Away” on the Sound In Silence label.
The ten pieces on the album are named after various plants with the tracks themselves being blurry pieces of lost sounds. The pieces have a very minimal, barely there feel which can mean you can overlook them at first pass. I find you need to get yourself in the right mood and with volume to embrace the pieces as their fragility can be understated. A track like “Hydrangea” is possibly the piece with the most going on in it with layered, cut up guitar parts and blurred loops in the background, while one such as “Balsam” is a monolithic slow linear drone and the title track feeling like a blurred lost image that you can only pick out tiny fragments with the rest lost in time.
I have to admit that “Moonflowers” is probably not the kind of release for me, but that is not to say that it won’t be appreciated by others. If the more distant, submerged and blurred sound appeals to you, then “Moonflowers” will suit your taste nicely. “Moonflowers” is released on limited cassette (50 copies) and Digital.
“Growing up in this world, I found my refuge in nature. Lost among trees, meandering across meadows, resting in the sounds of birds, of the wind and of rivers and brooks, forgetting about everything except the beauty that surrounded me. Nature reflected something deep within myself that I had lost touch with—the perennial joy that is the foundation of all existence. I found the name Purl for the music that was flowing through me—a tribute to the sounds of nature that had given me so much. The intention behind Purl is to be a channel through which our true nature can express and be felt as patterns of sound.”
Purl is one of the alias’ of Swedish musician Ludvig Cimbrelius who also records as Eternell, Illuvia and many more guises. Purl is his longest project with releases appearing on such fine imprints as Dronarivm, Databloem, Silent Season and of course the sister labels Archives and Faint. His most recent album “Renovatio” for Archives is already into it’s second edition. This hour long album features eight tracks which demonstrate that even though Cimbrelius is quite the prolific artist, he is simply not dialling it in. The pieces are as much about the Ambient sound and style as they are Dub Techno and IDM. That said, there is a definite blurring of the lines happening in their sounds making for a mixing pot of music. One feature noted is that the music still has a sense of mystery and intrigue.
A piece like “Suskind” is very much one that does not get stuck in conventional song structures with it having an off kilter and shuffling feel through out. Cimbrelius has a knack for creating a feel to the pieces on “Renovatio” that are not of an obvious nature. You get the influence and feel of IDM and Dub Techno as well as Ambient, but put through a blender of sorts to reveal different structures and movement which lead the listener down different paths. You get the feeling that the music he produces as Alveol and Illuvia are in a battle with the more traditional meditative ambient that he produces under his own name and the end result is a sort of compromise between these various styles. The music isn’t pure ambient, but neither is club orientated.
The end result with an album such as “Renovatio” is one which you can sink into an explore because there is so much going on. It is also the kind of album which challenges you because it’s more than just skin deep. Cimbrelius likes to mix it up as too keep the listener on their toes by using such a large canvas of sounds and ideas. A piece like “Melicent” is the perfect example in which the listener can pick up that many styles that I won’t spoil it for you. The second edition of “Renovatio” is available on CD (limited to 80 copies) and Digital.
“Hot on the ethereal heels of the “Sub” EP (released last fall of 2019) and after 2017’s “Aether Alcoves”, arrives HYPNODIAL’s brand new full-length sonic outburst. “Good Times End Times” (also Goodtimesendtimes, or Goodtimes Endtimes) conceptually ventures forth into more abstract, stream-of-consciousness terrain. The music follows suit by further gravitating towards a beat-less, static form of ambience, albeit one that still preserves streaks of colourful, hallucinogenic inner motion. HYPNODIAL is the project of Ilia Rodríguez, who’s been involved in music in various guises for 25 years, with releases on labels such as Profound Lore, Dark Descent, Weird Truth or Iron Pegazus. He also scored the OST for the Spanish thriller Half an hour. All his solo work is available digitally via bandcamp and other channels.”
“Good Times End Times” is the latest work from Palma based Ilia Rodríguez who has crafted a seven track, forty six minute album that combines a retro aesthetic with one that blurs the line between New Age and Ambient styles. The music ranges from the more lush chilled pieces through to a more aggressive form of electronics. The pieces that are of the former style include the likes of the opening duo “Exxit” and “Summerine” and the closer “Futurust” and these are the pieces that I find more of an affinity with. “Exxit” is definitely within the New Age realm due to the purity of the synth stabs that cast light at angles across the piece, but it also balances this with a darker synth bass throb which will be explored further throughout other tracks.
“Summerine” is the standout track for me as it has an enveloping and welcoming lush ambient feel without being wishy washy. The pace of the piece is slow and it engulfs you. You can see in the waveform below for the Soundcloud track that there are no real peaks and troughs and that is because all you need is contained within the short width of sounds. Bubbling, ever moving, melodic and meditative features makes this piece such an enjoyable listen. The tone of the album starts to change around “Brokelyn” with the music moving to a slightly darker, colder and menacing feel, which is noted with the trio of “Scarfields”, “Pyramidalofte” and “Cloopseend” before coming back into the light with the previously mentioned “Futurust”.
This change of sounds shows that Rodríguez is not wholly fixed on a particular feel and is content in exploring contrasting textures and styles. “Good Times End Times” is available as a pay what you want digital release.