“The score to Jennifer Rainsford’s short film of the same name, ‘Lake On Fire’ sees Stockholm-based pianist/ composer Shida Shahabi follow up last year’s “Shifts” EP and her 2018 debut LP “Homes” with a new release that expands her repertoire via a move away from the piano, with three of its four tracks being played on organ and analogue synth. 

Despite its brevity, ‘Lake On Fire Is’ a gorgeous, atmospheric gem. It was written and recorded in Shida’s Stockholm studio in Spring 2020, having been commissioned by her friend and fellow Stockholm-based artist Jennifer Rainsford (who had previously directed a quartet of short, nature-based videos for ‘Homes’). Described by the director as “a subtle science fiction short about regret and an AI only interested in humans for giving love advice”, the fifteen-minute film tells a story from a distant future of two former lovers who are reunited in a virtual forest. Within this AI-created landscape, “flowers talk, the forest is animated by subtly, yet continually shifting colours while fighting virtual wars and the former couple come to realise they can’t change the past”.

It’s always a little bit of a challenge to review pieces of music where the music clearly makes up one half of it’s scope. This missing component is the film. Judging by the fact that the film has a running length of fifteen minutes and this EP has the same length, the assumption could be made that this is the complete score. Whether or not it is used in it’s entirety is unknown, but what is known is that the music can be described using one of Shahabi’s release titles in “Shifts”. The music relies, for the most part, on glacial plates of sound that drift and shift over each other with tones that move from the more angelic “Prolog” which uses space between notes and elongated passages to full affect, through to the naturally piano driven “Main Theme (Piano Version)”. For me the first three pieces have more of a visceral effect as there is more of a weight and emotion to them. It’s quite possibly a reaction to being ever so slightly burnt out by piano based music that tips me in this direction.

The beauty of the pieces is that they are not all sweet. Take for instance the haunting and dissonant “Interlude” which sounds a wall of synths holding a drone together before they implode into tiny little pieces. The second half of “Interlude” is “Main Theme” which has quite a different feel to it’s piano cousin. The music has a rolling quality as if Shahabi’s fingers are barely glancing the keys. There is a subtly and spaciousness to the music that you can easily find yourself lost in, as the more you concentrate, the deeper you venture.

You can link back some of the qualities of this material to a track like “Sea Ear” on “Shifts” minus the Modern Classical accoutrements which makes it an intriguing listen and also makes you wonder or hope that she will venture into the more textural and soundscaping worlds in the future. “Lake On Fire” is available Digitally through 130701.

 

“Intervals is the eighth album from Tim Arndt’s Near the Parenthesis. For Intervals, Arndt’s chose the family piano to begin the creative process. By placing less importance on the skittering rhythms, which propelled previous Near the Parenthesis collections, Arndt was able to focus more on the instant gratification of sitting down and just playing. These ideas became the backbone in which he then composed eight tidal tracks, mostly in the early morning hours in his East San Francisco Bay creek side home. In these sessions, Arndt utilized various synths, and percussion to provide additional depth and atmosphere to the tracks’ original skeletal structures. Arndt says of Intervals, “The title has a dual meaning as there has been a decent period of time between my previous album Helical and the release of Intervals, Four years to be exact. This concept of time and the spaces between gives the title its other connotation, which is a nod to musical intervals and the spaces between notes. I think this becomes evident in my use of arpeggiation, which I feel is a grounding motif across the album.” As with many of Arndt’s Near The Parenthesis works, there is a gentile hopefulness sewn through “Intervals” forty-minute runtime that provides much-needed solace in such unsettling times.”

2020 has seem a nice balance in the release schedule of n5MD with releases coming from new artists to the label like Gimmik, worriedaboutsatan and Darren McGagh alongside alumni such as Bvdub, Ocoeur and now Near The Parenthesis. I have to admit being a newbie to Arndt’s music so rather than compare it to previous works, which I can’t, I can just focus on the music herein. There has been a trend over years to have a hybrid Electronica and Modern Classical sound which in some occasions just feels like two styles bolted together without any sympathetic integration. With “Intervals” that issue is, well a non issue. Arndt as clearly show in the press quote above has a strong understanding in regards to composition. A track like the album’s title piece is one which Arndt demonstrates this so well by integrating piano, walls of synths, lush ambience and a rhythm not too dissimilar to slowed down drum n bass.

Sometimes music can be swept up into emotional responses, whether it be nostalgia, melancholia, inspiration or anger. The quality that stands out for me is a relaxed feel. There are moments of introspection like on “Only The Ocean” with it’s lulling electronics and light and airy swathe of ambience, but on a piece like the retro-ish “Oslo” or the second half of “Silhouette” there is this strong feeling of unencumbered joy that seeps from the music. Sometimes the sadder feelings are hard to shake from music that centres around the piano as an instrument, but with electronics and an a joy that comes from creating pieces where the artist is clearly in a positive mindset, it really shows throughout this album. One of the qualities that is less obvious initially is the layers of ambient synth which really add atmosphere, colour and light to the pieces. In some way they are the meat on the bones (or skeletal structures) as alluded to in the press quote above. No clearer is this demonstrated on the uplifting “Muse” which uses many layers of sound as well as the most minimalist, but propulsive beats on the whole record.

“Intervals” will likely appeal to those that have followed Arndt’s journey and for those like me who are novices will find a definite appeal to the eight tracks contained herein. “Intervals” is available on limited edition white vinyl (200 copies) and digital from the ever reliable n5MD.

“anthéne follows-up 2019’s ‘weightless’ with his gorgeous new collection of analog-ambient suites, ‘collide’.

Brad Deschamps project as anthéne has quietly gained critical acclaim within the field. His releases have shown an artist perfectly at home in creating dusty ambient guitar and synth led works that feel refreshing in their open use of melody and hazy textures. ‘collide’ is no exception in this regard and indeed feels like another highlight in his growing oeuvre.”

Brad Deschamps has ever so, but consistently quietly been establishing his name within the ambient cognoscenti. With releases on labels such as Sound In Silence, Assembly Field, Shimmering Moods, Past Inside The Present and his own Polar Seas Recordings. “Collide” is his Home Normal follow up to “Weightless” and sees Deschamps continue to push his music out through his hazy, but melodic vision.

Deschamps creates pieces which are meditative in nature without heading into the new age or saccharine territory. Glacial shifts of sound and colour move over each other revealing texture. tone and fragments of instrumentation. Loops roll with a soothing nature lulling the listener in and then bathing them in symphonic drones.

One of the highlights of the pieces are the riches. With Ambient music (as much as with other forms I guess), it is quite easy to spot the artists whose work purely on a surface level and also quite uninspired. With Deschamps music you are treated to a deep dive of rich, full, vibrant music which you can easily find yourself lost in. Deschamps also likes to vary his sonic approach in terms of intensity, which is a term that can sometimes be mistaken for volume. He demonstrates this on a piece like “Light Shade” which shows a multi layered approach to composition. My only quibble about this record is that in some pieces the length for me is a little short. I would love to see him take on a piece and push it to it’s long form conclusion, as I feel he is very much adept at making this work.

“Collide” is available on CD (limited to 200 copies) and Digital via Home Normal.

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