Monty Adkins – A Year At Ushers Hill.

The 59th Eilean Rec release aka Eilean 28 is Monty Adkins’ ” A Year In Ushers Hill”. According to the label: “Monty Adkins is experimental sound artist based in remote countryside of the north of England.  Inhabiting a post-acousmatic sensibility, Monty’s work draws together elements from ambient, acousmatic and microsound music producing a soundworld characterised by slow shifting organic textures derived from processed instrumental sounds”

He has been releasing music since 2009 with the majority coming out on the Audiobulb and Crónica labels. “A Year at Usher Hill” is his sixth solo album with his last solo full length coming out in 2015. He also is a Professor at the University of Huddlesfield in the UK.

Usher’s Hill is possibly geographically fictitious as the only mention of a place with this name is in Queensland, Australia. According to the artist (via his own blog) “A year at Ushers Hill is the final part of a trilogy of releases – following on from Rift Patterns (Audiobulb) and Residual Forms (Cronica), based on psychogeography and psychosonolgy. The album was started in July 2016 and completed in July 2017 and is highly autobiographical, charting events, places, and most importantly the people associated with these experiences. For me, the process of creating this album was a re-discovery of memories and the connections between them across time. Composing became a reflective and meditative process: teasing out the meaning of events, celebrating the happenstance, and the pleasure of the moment”.

Psychogeography refers to the study of the effects of geographical environment on the emotions of individuals, while Psychosonology is more like a visual image that may be evoked by the music. You can read more from a publication by Adkins, et al here.

“A Year in Usher’s Hill” is a collaborative release as it features Jonathan Best on Pianos , while Adkins plays Celesta, Organs and Electronics. The mixing is by Monty Adkins and Steven Halliday and mastering by Mathias Van Eecloo.

“Alone” is solo piano which has a muted fog covered sound that has a nice reverb to it which extends the notes. The playing is rather minimal and feels improvised as it does not fall a similar pattern other than ending sections on long notes. The nature of the fog or haze to the track lends that nostalgic feel because it gives an impression of looking back in the mists of time.

“An Eden Within” long granulated drones build up in wind-swept fashion with electronics meeting organ with the delicate pinky plonk of the Celestia giving it an innocent feel. The drones and organ fill the sound and provides space for the Celesta to weave between, but also letting each element take over from time to time to be the focus. Some of the organ sounds give it a “Sorcerer” era Tangerine Dream feel with an ever so slightly proggy touch.

“Shifting Ground” sees the return of Best’s emotive piano playing with a gentle style that is fluid and intimate with a ‘in the room” recording style. You get the feeling of reminiscing and nostalgia from this piece.

“Small Steps” heavy bass notes and starker keys welcome the start if this piece. The Organ drones cone in which add to the feeling of other-worldliness. The Drones have a strong church-like feel which could be natural to the instrument. An alien feel arrives in the form of grainy electronics which support the feel of the organ.

“Radiant Moon” shows delicate interplay with dust-covered glitch loops and celestial chimes. Quite like transmissions from a far outpost of Antarctica.

“In Memorium Jacques Hamel” is a piece dedicated to the French Catholic priest killed in Normandy by terrorists. Naturally with a track that is a tribute to someone murdered in horrific circumstances there has to be delicateness to it. The solo piano is quite minimal in its sound with long emotive, with a tinge of melancholy, notes that fill out the sound as the notes spread our to nothing, much like water ripples on a pond.

“Usher’s Hill” again the electronics give a feeling of a lost transmission, but this time there is a creaking sound to them which lends a nautical feel to them. Bass thuds delineate swirls of organ drones that is layered and also forms part of the electronic experimentalism while Celesta augments the electronics.

“Before Sleep” is shorter track that is full of emotion with its tone of piano playing, the speed and style of playing. Maybe with such a title the feeling convey relaxation, but for me it is of loss or of something that cannot be changed and the emotions surrounding that.

“Solstice” takes us in the proggy style with floating lines, bass sections, bass thuds and occasional hammering of piano keys The track full of melody and experimental leaning musician it is quite rhythmical. Celesta runs almost mimic those of the organ which gives the track big an organic and electronic feel to it. Thus is teach quire different to those in the album and feels a bit out-of-place, but in a good way.

“Burnt Sun” the familiar instruments return with experimental electronics, drones, celesta combing to give an Electroacoustic piece that for all intents and purposes seems to be like a collection of various tones as opposed following a musical pattern. For that reason I can pass on a piece like this.

“Under a Luna Sky” Best’s piano playing comes to bring the album home with playing that is both urgent at times and relaxed at others. There is hint of melancholy, but not morose.It’s like a journey has been undertaken and the music is a reflection of that – some joy, some despair and something in between. Much like this album its many things all at once.

I admit that there are parts to this album that I don’t get. You can easily get bored with music when there is no variation. This is not the problem here, it’s that you are not sure what type of album you are getting – experimental, modern classical or proggy electronics. Sometimes they work together well like in “Small Steps” or when they go more genre specific such “Solstice” which is the album’s highlight, but I personally don’t feel that it works together as a whole.

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Francesco Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci – Reframing.

We find ourselves with the 58th release from the French imprint Eilean Rec which comes from Francesco Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci. Considering the first release came out in April 2014 with 53 of those coming out in the first 3 years, that would mean the label (going at the same release rate) will be finished approximately 2 – 2.5 years from now.

This was released in an edition of 150 copies and is all sold out from the label, but limited copies are/will be available from Stashed Goods and Experimedia.

“Reframing” sees Italian artists Francesco Giannico and Giulio Aldinucci pair up again after the Dronarivm release “Agoraphonia” from 2016. Giannico has featured on labels such as Somehow, Oak Editions, Time Released Sound and Unknown Tone to name a few while Aldinucci has appeared on Home Normal, Time Released Sound, The Long Story Recording Company and others. The pair come across like well suited collaborators.

“Reframing” opens almost like a needle is placed mid track and the record player is turned on. Church organ like ethereal drones float below field recordings of street conversations between children with subtle electronics cutting in to the piece that provide delicate swathes of sound that make the track have depth, but also give a little bit of haze as well and as this was released towards the end of the Northern Hemispheres summer season, a summery feel.

“Encoding” blends Electroacoustic soundscapes with abstract drones, bells and chimes alongside a series of drones that vibrate with intensity and at times feel almost like proggy Synth progressions.

“Storage” is where the experimentation starts with an alien soundscape that cracks, pops, flickers in and out at times feeling like a subdued Merzbow outtake than a Drone piece. It feels like a transmission from some sort of SCI FI film that is about loneliness, abandonment and decay.

“Retrieval” has a similar tone, but not sound to “Reframing”. This is a pure Drone piece that slowly stars building up with multiple layers such as the glacial bottom layer, the muddle bass like layer and then the top melodic layer. Once it reaches the crescendo the main drone becomes a fusion of the glacial and melodic before a hive like electronic sound starts buzzing around. A darker piece starts building in the left hand side and comes on like a storm engulfing the whole piece with the drone sounding like a wind gale that pulses with intensity for several minutes before it is heard as a somewhat distant storm that is threatening to return before it fades to silence.

“Iconic” swirling winds, scatter of gun fire like sounds, looped water on a tin roof sound, modern classical piano, field recordings, ambient synths and looped decaying electronic sounds all come together to form a piece that has depth of sound for the listener to get hooked on. The blending of different tones and elements means that it is not one-dimensional. The artists let the elements come in and our, give them space, but also allow for them to compliment each other. The shortest of tracks on the album at 4 minutes and thirty-two seconds could easily go for a few more minutes.

“Echoic” sees a track where the elements that have been included in the preceding five tracks come together, but with subtle added other sections like a fast beating heart beat, walls of noise, the sound of contact mikes being played with. The piece comes like a fusion of a Electroacoustic artist and an ambient artist constructing a track that has a foot in both camps and seems balanced between the more ambient beginning and the Electroacoustic ending.

“Reframing” is a work that could be classified as Electroacoustic Ambience and has more than enough depth and variation for sustained listening. It is a perfect headphone listen to pick up all that is happening in the tracks. A mention should be made of the dynamic master of Ian Hawgood.

The Green Kingdom – The North Wind And The Sun.

After over a decade of releasing his dust soaked ambience, Michael Cottone aka The Green Kingdom finally sees his music released on the vinyl format courtesy of Lost Tribe Sound. His previous releases have come out on labels such as Nomadic Kids Republic, SEM, Dronarivm, Home Assembly and Disqan to name a few. This was originally scheduled for a cassette released, but so blown away by the music, Ryan Keane decided vinyl was the correct format.

A challenge was set to Cottone however, as Keane states “At headquarters we pondered what would happen if Cottone abandoned the majority of his electronic equipment and limited his arsenal to nearly all acoustic instrumentation? Asking kindly, Cottone obliged. After a number of months of trial and error TGK delivered us this experiment.We were floored, not only is the music still undeniably that of The Green Kingdom, it seems to exude a new sense of wonder and confidence.The North Wind… is the aural equivalent of the fondest, hazy memories gleamed from childhood days past. The melodies are playful and comforting like womb-filtered lullabies.”

“The North Wind” is the answer to the challenge in which Cottone fuses the more acoustic and Americana elements with his electronic / ambient influences to build a bridge between the two styles that exist as separate entities or as a cohesive piece.

“Signs and Wonders” starts with a string drone that has horn from a boat in a fog type feel to it that is joined by minimal Bowery Electric style beats and acoustic guitar, bass, chimes and what sounds like ukulele. The drone starts taking center stage, but the other elements such as the bass, beats and guitar provide layers as opposed to over powering the track with too many elements. The beats and bass are subtle, but form a foundation while the guitars and ukulele give the track a natural feel to it.

“The Singing River” after what sounds like a flute based drone (no instrumentation are listed) layers of acoustic guitar start over lapping. One has the feel of a natural pastoral loop, another has a more ‘twangy’ feel while there is some finger picking going on in a third. These are joined by shaker percussion, wood chimes, bass and field recordings of a stream which maybe is the origin or inspiration of this title. The feeling of the music is quite light and summery and this is highlighted in both the flute drones and the field recordings.

“Rusted Relic I” is a brief piece that pairs opposite elements of a frantically played string instrument which sounds like Bouzouki alongside toy piano that has a feel of water dropping, alongside shaker percussion and possibly kalimba which also has the same feel as the toy piano. A nice vignette of a track.

“Virescent” essentially means to ‘being green’ which is quite fitting in with Cottone’s nom de plume. The track features crystal clear acoustic guitars that shine with ambience. They become layered, one that goes from side to side and are joined by shimmering drones which for another artist would possibly be the track alone. Not knowing the array of instruments used its hard to get a handle on what is being played, but there is an element in the track that ends up leading the track to the end which sounds Synth like or even guitar driven that reminds me of “Loveless” era My Bloody Valentine.

“Unnamed Lands” is where the album goes cinematic, which may be a future career path for Cottone. Repetitive guitar, drones, minimal percussion, bass and field recordings lead into a Morricone sounding section that shimmers with tremelo, before a brief ukulele section with drones leads back to the pastoral section of the start. You get a strong Western feel from the track that is plaintive, but not heart-broken.

“Aventurine” rattling of coins or something metallic being sorted through alongside drone loops are joined by hand percussion, grainy recordings, layers of acoustic and guitars and flute which has a quality of both calm and alarm (which is almost replicated in the electric guitar). The feel of the piece is one of post rock with an alt-country influence. You get the feeling of a full band playing such is the depth of the track.

“The Beacon Tree” I get the feeling of both dawn and dusk with this track, like it is suited for the sun rising or retreating. It has that sort of feel of a new day or gratitude for the day that has just passed. There is the initial guitar motif that starts the track which is later buried in the mix before coming out again at the end that gives me this feeling. The way the other elements come in is very measured and when you listen you can see when the next element is coming in and there is at least 8 or 9 parts that come in like other guitar, banjo, kalimba, synth that come in to either compliment each other, or to give more light to the track.

“Rusted Relic II” reminds me of a criminally overlooked Australian project called The Townhouses whose music shares a similar childlike innocence to this track. Elements like Toy Piano and Kalimba from “Rusted Relic I” return, but this time joined by a haunting drone, a chime like instrument (not xylophone, but similar), accordion/ squeeze box and wooden sounding percussion (which may be zither). Unlike “I”, “II” has a more melodic, but yet subtly frantic feel.

“Silt” sounds more like an ambient track with the warm Synth drones and padded percussion that is taken in an acoustic direction, but still remains ambient. While other tracks the acoustic instrumentation is the focal point this one is where the elements become 50/50 partnership. You could take the feeling of the track either way, but for me it is Ambient Acoustic as opposed to Acoustic Ambience.

“From the Ashes of Industry” sees slowly strummed and measured acoustic guitar which shimmers mixed with picked pieces of percussive parts and tremelo guitar to the right of your headphones and slightly baritone guitar to the left. The tremelo guitar brings back that Morricone feel with its twangy feel that floats over the strumming acoustic. The layering of guitar gives it musculature without being too heavy. Shimmering synths that come I two-thirds of the way have a Mogwai like feel to them which tips the tracks theme on its head.

“Ramshacklet” guitar drones, oscillating sounds, vinyl dust form a bed for acoustic guitar, cello drones and very minimal and deep down in the mix, shuffling percussion to build upon. The thing about the track is that the elements not in a rush and are complimentary to each other. It is like with the possible exception of the acoustic guitar, all the elements are on the same level. There is a slightly ghostly quality to the music, that of regret and the past.

“Rusted Relic III” at times feels like reduction of the elements of the two parts of the trilogy, with the minimal kalimba being the focal point over dronescapes before the franticness of “I” returns, but not in the full way of the original. It is almost like the two original tracks have been deconstructed to create the third. There are other elements like the drones which give a counterpoint to all the fingerpicking instruments, but they are lower in the mix to make other elements the focus.

“Children of Light” an Asian theme comes to mind in the opening of this final track on the LP, penultimate on the digital version before low cello cuts through at the same time as gently played acoustic guitar and a Synth drone provide the rhythm that more layers of acoustic guitar and drones then occupy. The cello plus the layering bring to mind label mate William Ryan Fritch and the guitar another label mate in Western Skies Motel. A section of progy Synth gives it a bit of a different edge to the pure acoustics. Much like other tracks on the album there are many layers that provide different textures, colours and occupy different roles within the track, but still manages to naked claustrophobic in any way.

“Oval Beach” is pre-order bonus track which sees the various sides of Cottone’s music taking in the acoustics favored on this release and pairing it with more of his dust soaked ambience with the flute making a return, the beats, Accordion like drones, electronics, kalimba to create a track that balances out the elements but making it folktronica meets post rock meets dream pop.

The production, performing and mixing were all done by Michael Cottone. I can only assume that the recording was done at home as there is no information to where it was recorded. If this is the case Cottone has done an outstanding job with such time and care put into this album which was expertly mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k Mastering. If you have been a The Green Kingdom you will love this, if you are new to his work go back and get accustomed to his outstanding back catalog. Totally Recommended.

Jason van Wyk – Attachment.

Home Normal have brought about the re-release of Jason van Wyk’s “Attachment” that originally came out on the Eilean Rec label, alongside his new album “Opacity”. Jason van Wyk is a Cape Town, South Africa based electronic artist who has predominantly released Trance and IDM. The newly remastered album comes eighteen months after its original release, this time as a 500 run edition as opposed to the original 130 copies.

Home Normal boss Ian Hawgood had the job of mastering the original release. He had this to say: “One of the great joys of being a mastering engineer is when you come across a release so special, that you simply feel an innate privilege in the process, and unadulterated joy in helping something in the final stages of its fruition. Jason has been releasing electronic music since the tender age of just 14. Whilst he continues to be known for this work, his most recent output has seen him focus on his beautiful piano playing, intertwined this with his subtle sound design and wide open soundscapes.

’Attachment’ was his first foray into an ambient / post-classical piano cross-over, and it was met with acclaim, selling out of its limited edition immediately. Quite apart from being a breath of fresh air with its flowing and soulful piano elements, the sound design and lush melodious pads just had me absolutely hooked. After creating a very clean master of ‘Attachment’, I felt there was another layer to be told in the work, with its close recording techniques, dusty piano tones, and overall warmth. After inviting Jason to release his follow-up on Home Normal, we also agreed that a complete remaster using tapes would be a lovely way of approaching ‘Attachment’ again.”

“Kept” opens with a natural sounding recording of piano with the ambience of the room being recorded as well. The piano has a padding on the hammers which gives it a bristle like percussive sound as the keys are played. Walls of windscreen Synth drones slowly start creeping in the mix as the piano playing starts to have a sense of urgency and the drones start building up and vanquish the piano. Some clattering sounds like a flag blowing in the wind appear before a quick piano reprise is swamped by the drones and a slightly throbbing Synth line.

“Before” field recordings , airy drones, piano and acoustic guitar combined create a track that at the start has a Message to Bears like feel before the electronics and percussion arrive to take this in another direction that fuses folktronica and post rock influenced electronica, but then abruptly changes to a solo piano modern classical track. Circulating Synth drones compliment the piano till the tracks end.

“Coherence” cinematic drones gently ease the listener accompanied by the sound of decay before the music picks up in grandeur with medium paced piano and complimenting strings. The track feels like it is just getting started when it finishes. Being a little over two minutes, it could easily and gladly cover three times that length and be equally enjoyable.

“Unsaid” has a similar natural recording to kept, however this time the piano playing has more of a sense of romantic urgency as van Wyk fingers gently glide across the keys. With a length of one minute Abdi two seconds it is a nice vignette.

“Return” much like “Kept” and “Unsaid” features that ‘natural’ piano recording technique which gives it an authenticity sometimes missing in Modern Classical where it is more about the feel than the sound and the feel of the piano. The music has a slightly melancholic feel which ever so subtly paired with drones that make the sound feel fleshed out, but still make the piano the lead instrument.

“Stay” is where the electronics and drones come into focus create a tapestry of sound with some backwards effects and field recording like augmentation. The piano with its strident playing in a driven fashion provides the transition between the two drone sections, the second of which is accompanied by regular glitches, soaring sections and a more overall noisy feel than its predecessor.

“Red” deftly played solo piano that shares some of the same emotion as the others and the same style of recording.

“Found” a long spindly drone starts becoming joined with an almost accordion like drone before a single piano key signals them to retreat to the background before the quickly paced and complimenting piano is joined by a long haunting violin piece as the drones hover and attach themselves to the piano at certain times which expands the sound making it fully, but at no point taking it away and changing the feature of the track which is the playing if the piano. All the elements work well and thus shows van Wyk at his best in the way that the track is constructed and the placement in the constituent places work so well.

“Evanesce” Grainy static mixed with a funereal drone that shares an icy feel and church organ touch dominates the track. The track is mammoth with its drones that come across like Brian Eno’s classic “An Ending (Ascent)” in the way that they convey that floating on air ambience that when achieved results in a stunning listen.

“Outset” sees van Wyk return to his more trance based past with bubbly electronics with a Tangerine Dream feel roll around joined by string drones and minimal piano stabs. The sound builds up quickly and dramatically falls away to a distant drone version of the track, like it is buried deep in the ground. There is a feeling of experiencing the music from up high. The electronics bubble at low volume almost out of hearing while field recordings , the piano stabs and minimalist drones lead to another slightly less dramatic stop. It would have been great if the ending straight away brought back the intensity of the start with the electronics to make it come full circle.

“Away” starts off slowly with piano and matching drones before the theirs movement changes thirty seconds in and brings the intensity up in the playing. The mood changes slightly around the one minute, 7 second mark with turn to melancholy.

“Depart” takes the album to the end with an almost pure drone track that changes ever so slightly two thirds into the track with the addition of the piano. Up to this point you feel you will be taken away to the drone-scapes, which are as cinematic as they get augmented by field recordings of some sort of wind disturbance/static, before the focus is the desolate piano which is paired perfectly with the timbre of the drones.

“Attachment” is an enjoyable listen and for me works best when the songs are fuller, with the drones or electronics added. The solo piano pieces are enjoyable, but as the recording technique is the same, they can across as similar sounding on first pass. You can see why Home Normal saw fit to re-release it. Recommended.

Original 2016 master:

In Brief: Leonard Donat “Deer Traps”/ Channelers “Faces of Love”.

One of the goals of this blog was to attempt to cover everything sent. At times the song count has hit 170+ which makes it difficult especially with a lot of releases around the sane time. In Brief will be an occasional series to make sure I cover everything sent.

“Deer Traps” is a four track CD/Cassette (limited to 15 copies)/Digital release on German label Blackjack Illuminist Records. Alexander Leonard Donat records under a variety of aliases making music that goes across genres such as Indie Pop, Darkwave, Dream Punk and Oriental Krautrock (those last two are new ones to me).

The label has this to say about the album: “Deer Traps” is a 40-minute lucid veil of night that pulls itself over the body of the listeners until they are fully covered and unable to move. It’s carefully drizzled in anaesthetic which unfolds just fast enough for the listener to find a place to lie low. Donat uses classical instruments and occasional voices, then loops them and combines them with field recordings and synthetic sounds to create a hissing and crackling, rustling and creaking fever dream. The sounds are distant, ghostly, they melt into one another until they become a whole that’s either peaceful, menacing, or both – depending on the listener’s perspective and mood.”

“Fog Horn Deer Trap” if this is a modern classical track it is covered in a thick dose of ambient static, bird song field recordings and almost wind howling like drones. It feels like the recording of the piano was made several rooms away from where it was being played as it is distant in the mix. The playing of the piano is rather subtle and has a nice rhythm that reveals itself from time to time.

“…And Then It Materialized” features layers of static, howling drones, clanging sounds and dark ambience. It is like the sound of haunting and decay. Things are falling apart, a transmission signal is cutting in and out till just the drones remain as the city burns.

“Alteglofsheim Night Pedal” the decay continues, but not as claustrophobic as the previous track. Semi- melodic elements are off on the fringes while a drone with equal parts of melody and ominous sound rolls in under the static and wind recordings. As the track progresses this sound becomes more industrial – like with clanging rhythms and all the elements coming together to create a chugging motion. The one draw back is the sort of muddiness that while adds atmosphere, probably removes the intensity a clearer recording/mix could give.

“Forest Fire” brings in layers of looped metallic drones with a distant rumble of built up recordings creating noise that start taking over the sound as the track approaches the half way mark and lead the track into decay with the drones peaking through the noise before the track fades to the end.

Alexander Leonard Donat shows how he is capable of constructing layered drone music with additional influences from his other musical excursions. For me the static elements can be a little overpowering and could be used bit sparingly.

Channelers is the project of Sean Conrad, based in Oakland, CA (USA). This release comes out as a cassette (in an edition of 75 copies) on his label Inner Islands (not to be confused with the Canadian Inner Ocean label).

The label have the following to say about the release: “Faces of Love is the product of a practice of recording and improvising as a mindfulness practice, playing to listen to and be with the sound. Naturally, the rhythm of the sound follows the rhythm of the body and the pace of the breath. It is a simple mirror. It is music both as a practice and process, as well as for sharing and listening. The pieces are static in their mood and atmosphere, but could wander infinitely. Presence amidst the ever-changing. Solidity and freedom. “Always Been” focuses on the tidal undulations of the breath, while “Pressure Sigh” is a balance between two individual forces, weaving a conversation. The two pieces that comprise the album are from a series of sessions devoted to this practice. The pieces were recorded using harmonium, bowed bass, dulcimer, piano, and Juno-60.”

“Always Been” if you’ve ever done mindfulness training or meditation you would know that it’s all about being present and focusing on the breath. This is what happens in this track. A drone oscillates  in a constant measured loop underneath minimal playing on the dulcimer. There is not a lot going on in the track, which can have a drawback at nineteen and a half minutes in length, but it follows the intention of the artist. The use of the Dulcimer gives it a sort of Asian feel which also would fit in with the mindfulness/meditation intention.

“Pressure Sigh” the two opposing forces is the minimal piano and underlying field recording like drones which initially start of as if radiating from the piano to then inhabiting their own territory, but never over powering. Much like “Always Been” this track is over nineteen minutes in length and is minimal and slowly building. If you like stark slowly flowing minimal ambient/drone and possibly something to meditate to, this might be for you.

Hannu Karjalainen – A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert.

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“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” is the third Hannu album following on from “Worms In My Piano” (Osaka 2006), “Hintergarden” (Kesh 2009) and the “Harhailua” Ep (Kesh 2009). This is his first release to feature his full name. During the past eight years, Hannu has been keeping himself busy with his multimedia art explorations utilizing photography and film, more of which can be viewed here.

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” is released on the Berlin based Karaoke Kalk label (home to Hauschka, Dakota Suite, Senking and others) on vinyl /CD /Digital editions with physical pressings in editions of around 500 copies. Hannu Karjalainen’s association with Karaoke Kalk started with his remix of Dakota Suite’s “The End Of Trying Part III” on “The Night Just Keeps Coming In” in 2009, which also featured remixes by the likes of Hauschka, Deaf Center, Loscil and many more.

The label describes the album as “Instantly captivating and for lovers of ambient music, dream listening. As an artist who trained in photography and is mostly active in the world of visual art, Hannu Karjalainen clearly enjoys a great deal of creative freedom in his music. This is the kind of desert you won’t mind getting lost in and even take pleasure in roaming through the expansive sonic landscapes and horizons it embodies.”

“Angel” opens the album with lush affected swathes of ambient Synth with granular before the major hook of the track is introduced which takes on a variety of shapes as it is manipulated and twisted around. This is complimented by deep ambient Synth that give the track an almost dubby feel in relation to how thick they are as opposed to traditional dub techno like sounds. The synths and the granular sounds consistently change shape and position filtering in out of the soundscape providing contrast from the more nicer sounds to the grittier sounds. The ambient synths particular have a pulsing sound like they are waves crashing as they pound the coast. The label describes it as being reminiscent of Boards of Canada’s finest work, but I find it has more depth than BOC.

“The Emigrant” a slow paced rhythm starts off the track on Glockenspiel and Synth that has a highly melodic if subdued sound, mixed something a bit more ominous and also Sci-Fi as well. The Sci-Fi Synth waves come in layered loops, while the Glockenspiel has a percussive edge to it and a child like playfulness. Pulses of electronic sound splatter out like tentacles and synth ripples float out filling up every aspect of sound making the track aurally rich with the feature being the Glockenspiel rhythm.

“Love, Unconditional” mixes up dreamy ambient Synths with watery piano keys, static loops to create a pure ambient track where everything is flowing out and engulfing. The Synth is thick with weight, the piano keys ripple out and the static loops remind of field recordings of natural electricity.

“Meille” is a haunting drone meditation with string like sounds and subtle ambience that are low in tone and are mournful in their length. A flute like bird song comes into play and gives the melodic transition to a more darker territory where the synths have an austere sound to them and in way almost like the haunting sounds of whale songs. A nice comparison of elements.

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” has an intro reminiscent of one of those classic Richard D James or Aphex Twin albums (the label quote later period Susumo Yokota) with multi layered piano loops come in and out. The contrast is that one is more subdued than the others frantic rhythm. Despite the title track being 2:15 in length it is a nice counterpoint in that the album can oscillate between Ambient and IDM and this track covers both genres easily.

“A Year In The Day” starts with electronica style Synth pulses with crackled beats and looped handclap percussion. Just when you think you know the direction the track is heading in a melodic guitar that sounds almost Synth like comes in and changes the direction of the track. After a short break down the original electronica styled Synth returns with a shaker percussion accompanying it before the guitar returns and the handclaps lead the track out to the end. The track manages to cover the electronica side of things with a slight nod to post rock in the guitar department.

“Love Is A Black Lion” features a piano sample of the Dakota Suite tune “The End Of Trying Part III”, which is what brought Karjalainen to the label in the first place. The track opens with record groove dust sounds while a haunting drone cascades and a minimal section of morose piano is played. Other drones enter the mix with sounds seemingly lurking deep in the mix which build up the sound. Industrial like sounds cut in an out in a haunting desolate fashion with a dark ambient edge to it. Parts of additional piano sound like they are played on instruments that have been exposed to nature. This is a track that goes over several genres and is not easily pigeon holed.

“Breaks My Heart She Aria” is the epic and fitting finale. Layers of choral samples over granulated sound form a heavenly drone which is supported by synth drones. Train brake slamming like noises shudder in and out as a swirl of electronics swarm around the drones with sounds going in every possible direction. The layers cascade over each other and build up ever so slightly in intensity with storm like feel that settles down to center on the drones in the last two minutes of the track just leaving the choral ambience to take us to the end. The track never goes over the top and Karjalainen knows when to reign it in perfectly.

While his previous albums were more rooted in the Experimental/Electronica genre with Electroacoustic influences, “A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” finds itself more in the Ambient/Electronica field and is a much deeper ,epic, widescreen and lush album. Definitely one to listen to again and again and get repeated enjoyable listens.

HannuKarjalainen