Dronarivm x 2: Sven Laux “Paper Streets”/ Aaron Martin and Machinefabriek “Seeker”.

The Russian Dronarivm label have been somewhat quietly, in the sense that they don’t make a big song and dance about it, constructing a catalogue of releases that woould make most label bosses green with envy. These two releases are from the end of 2017 (with a fresh release from Bruno Sanfilippo due out this week) are no exception. They are also quite different which keeps listeners engaged to what the label is putting out.

German artist Sven Laux has released nine albums, for the most part digitally only and some in the Techno and House genres. “Paper Streets” sees him go Neo Classical and reveals a new talent in this particular field.

The label state that “Sven paints minimal landscapes with water colours in shades of violin, cello & piano; stripped bare & soaked in memory. The artist’s work bares a sense of detachment & reflection that usually occurs with the passing of time. Forlorn irony shows itself as it reminds you what feels like to fall in love for the first time., while conjuring ghosts from the last time you shared a gaze. A departure from Sven’s earlier work, “Paper Streets” is an organic, neo-classical journey heard through a cinematic lens. Orchestral notes surge like tides and resonate like heartache. Nostalgia echoes and dissolves with a disarming vulnerability.”

“Are You Still With Me?” straight from the beginning we are introduced to sweeping soundscapes of soaring drones that sound like you are floating through clouds. Sounding orchestral and wind-swept, the layering keeps in the central plains – not too high or too low in their sounds and fluctuating enough as not to be stagnant and boring. The track is reminiscent of classic Eno and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

“A Glimpse of Memory” shuffling field recordings, piano and strings brings in the neo classical direction. The piano has soft glassy tones, the lyrics hello and violin have an edge to them as if they are cutting through the sound like a saw. Fragments of sound flutter about alongside deep lush sections of drones as the music sort of feels like being on a boat pounded by waves as it has that cascading feel.

“Out of the Blue” takes a glacial cold drone alongside violin drones and delicate minimal muted piano tones and field recordings to create a slow, meditative loop like piece that unfurls slowly, ever so creeping up in intensity. There is a definite dark feel to the track which is highlighted by cello progressions, but what gives it color amongst the darkness are the delicate piano tones that ripple out – sometimes in a highlighted section, other times buried under other elements.

“Paper Streets” starts with clashing field recordings before the music goes large-scale with the piano, violin and cello all coming together to create a vast layered sound reminiscent of an orchestra and sounding like something out of a Hollywood movie. There is a strong filmic quality that inspires scenes of an important part of a movie such as a setting sealing intro or an action transition setting. The way the instruments fuse and flow together is instrumental in the feeling you get from the track. The repetition also helps build the mood and maintain the intensity.

“From Sadness To You” the first track on the album where the piano is front and center. Slightly melancholic, it is joined by violin and drones that resonate and are looped at a speed slightly faster than the consistent piano playing. Some backwards electronics and the track changes its direction with an almost jazz feel of haunting broken trumpet sounds and soaring strings sections that are embedded with a layer of drones that also feature synth stabs. For me it’s a tale of two halves of which my preference as the first one.

“There’s Still Hope” field recordings, dusty sounds, church like organ, electronics that swirl and sound affected are joined by sweeping drones reminiscent of the albums opener and return once more to Neo classical and widescreen sounds previously enjoyed before. The pace on this piece is deliberate, slow and has had the time and care to construct. Not everything is crammed into it. It just slowly takes it time to unwind and reveal itself. Much like the title track, this has a strong Hollywood feel to it.

“The Lost Violin” begins like it’s a second part of a track with haunting drones, granular sounds, violin arcs, field recordings and synths. The synths add a rich sound to the track and come across as having both a Neo classical feel but one with a tinge of a proggy sci-fi feel. Like other tracks repetition is used, but unlike others, for me, it is not as successful as before. Possibly this could by the variation on the sound with the synth’s influence.

“I Wish I Could Sleep” long form Neo classical bellowing drones with flickering sounds on ever second section fill up the sound with metallic sounding violin sections that travel off into the distance. Creaking field recordings add to the violin sounds which are now joined by low bowed cello sections that give the track its bottom edge. With the last few minutes left in the track the strings start to dominate with long flowing orchestral drones that fill out the track and elevate it up making the sound full and dense, but not overpowering or making it claustrophobic. There is a “Disintegration Loops” feel to the way the track loops.

Sven Laux has constructed an impressive album that is full, considered and an enjoyable listen with highlights being “Paper Streets” and “There’s Still Hope”. The only slight and this is very slight negative, is the occasional sameness which is not over powering in any way but is noticeable to a certain extent. Recommended listening.

Rutger Zuydervelt  (Machinefabriek) was invited to work on a score for a dance with Choreographer Iván Pérez called “Hide And Seek” in collaboration with American musician and all round collaborator Aaron Martin (with whom Pérez had previously worked with on the piece called “Kick the Bucket”).

As Rutger states “I don’t think he knew at that point that Aaron and I had worked together previously (on “Cello Drowning,” an EP released on Type in 2007). Living in the US, Aaron started recording parts and sending them to Iván and me. Then, I would use his recordings to build the score: processing them, editing them, adding sounds, etc..

The tracks on the “Seeker” album are basically the refined versions of the first sketches we made, trying out how our sounds would blend, and what directions and atmospheres could be used in the dance performance. After that, these tracks were morphed into one long collage, tailored to the choreography. This final score is added to the album as a digital bonus.”

The dance performance includes six dancers who find themselves in a space, not knowing each other, but relying on each other. The audience is described as being “drawn into an atmospheric trip, where desires, frustrations, madness, and humour are slowly revealed.Hide and Seek is a game that not everyone will wish to play.”

“Wake” sounds like electronic rhythm slowly disintegrating, like a signal that is breaking down and mutating which is paired after a while with Martin’s cello which is playing a similar rhythm and also at times sounds affected. The tones generated in the electronics are markedly different to that of the violin, but both work well together. Towards the end of the track the music changes with the electronics sounded distant and fragmented, while the violin also shares in the distant feel, but that could possibly be due to mixing.

“Wings in the Glass” static building up scatters around with flashes of noise before an all-conquering low cello drone that has the bass feel of the didgeridoo rumbles into the pieces to submerge the electronics underneath it before they start to flicker above and take control. More sections of cello are layered on with one baring low drones while two to three deeply melancholic sections wrap around each other while the electronics scattered about and a noisy ,but sweet melody joins in. In the end the swarm of electronics engulfs everything before all elements drop out to reveal Raster Noton style glitches.

“Arms Turn Slowly” a percussive sound of something clacking it put through effects giving it a sound reminiscent off something bouncing off a surface. More electronics in an off kilter melody which turns to be a plucked instrument like kalimba and bass thumps are joined by swirling strings and more juxtaposing instruments and layered hummed vocals. If the piece involves six dancers then this track comes across as featuring an instrument for each dancer.

“Leaves are Swimming” brightly strummed string instrument like ukulele is accompanied by similar wordless vocals to that of the preceding track with rustic harmonica like tones and electroacoustic electronics. The electronics splutter and retreat while swirling noisy loops career over the layered strummed instruments created a storm like squall before fading to reveal the initial start of the piece.

“Hidden” haunting drones with field recordings and electronics swirl in circular fashion moving around, ebbing and flowing. While not going particularly dark, the music travels in that direction but has enough light to it as not to overpower. It feels like a fusion of Ambiance and electroacoustic experimentalisation without being wholly one or the other.

“Seeker” Martin’s low bowed Cello sets the tone of the piece with layered sections creating emotive almost distraught music for mourning. The music flows, cadcades and wails before Zuydervelt’s touch is noticed with slight electroacoustic touches of static and effects.

“A Small Crowd Points” electronic tones bounced around like static on an electrical wire. A distant oscillating sound is unwinding to reveal a drone which is short and looped with a similar feeling origin to the original tones. This oscillating sound becomes the central part of this track as the sound scatters around before a cello drone joins in as well as other elements of the instrument such as scraping of the strings, plucking the strings and striking of the body. The cello part is like an organic version of the tones that Zuydervelt was constructing at the beginning and it is almost like a baton has been passed between the artists.

“Close To Dark” a distant dark rumble like a storm with the beginnings of a drone are cut by a sharp section of electronic pulses that act like progressions or like a measurement for the drone. They sound crisp and vibrant with a hint of compressed air, crackles and disintegration. They sound very foreign and almost out of the world like a transmission. They scatter, click, roar and pop and just when they reach the peak buzzing cello enters the picture alongside someone panting and more sonic detritus. There is a slightly claustrophobic feel to the music which is heightened by the panting as if the person is under the cloak of darkness trying to get free.

“Buried Cloth” breathy vibrato vocals are layered with occasional bass motifs that act as a slight percussive device. The vocals cover the range from more haunting to almost weeping through to rich almost vocal drones. This track is quite different to what has preceded it without the cello and electronics. Presumably watching the dance might give it the context that I am unaware of and its importance in the score.

The album finishes with the digital only bonus track of the full score of the performance of the piece as “Hide and Seek (Music)”. For this track the music was collaged to be tailored to the choreography.

As an album it stands up, let alone as a soundtrack to a dance piece. I have checked out a few of the videos of the performance and as I have no knowledge about contemporary dance I can’t comment on the movements, the music’s experimental nature suits the performances. Martin and Zuydervelt prove to be great collaborators with the results being cohesive and not a case of two artists adding their sections to each others music.

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Naviar Records x 2 – Gomel, 1986 / Sōzuproject “Breathe Slowly”.

Naviar Records is London Based label who describe themselves as “a community and label that explores the intersection between music and traditional Japanese poetry.” They have been releasing music since March 2014 and these two releases are their latest.

“Gomel, 1986” is an extension of the “Clouded Lands” show (in conjunction with the art collective Food of War) about the 31st anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster and was “a show which aimed to raise awareness on the consequences that such catastrophic events bring in people’s culture and everyday life. For this event, Naviar’s community had to recreate sounds, atmospheres and moods of one of the areas which were mostly affected by the disaster: the region of Gomel, in Belarus

Each artist had to re-imagine the atmospheres and moods of the time and the recordings were made within a two-week period. The release is available as a limited Cd-r (50 copies) and digital.

“Black Rain” by Dirigent opens the album. Dirigent is San Francisco classically trained composer Chris Christensen who is drawn toward analog electronics and classic tape-studio techniques. The track starts with echoing percussion, water like sounds, electronics, the chiming of clocks, dark ambient drones and recordings of phone calls and media reports in Russian. I haves no idea of what is being said, but there is a certain amount of alarm in the voices, but not overly distraught. The music borders Dark Ambient and Industrial and has an unsettling edge to it. Electronics come in and or in a wave-like fashion possibly inspired by waves of radiation.

“Tjernobyl” by Robert Rizzi. Rizzi is a Danish/American Composer and Sound artist, Master of Electronic Music Composition from DIEM, Aarhus. Robert teaches Electronic Music and Sound art at SDMK Music Conservatoire in Esbjerg, Denmark. He works primarily with field recordings, found scores and improvised instrumental pieces, very often in collaborative site specific installations and compositions with visual artists. Field recordings of rain/ a storm with scattershot sounds are joined by a siren like drone, bass, minimal piano and electronics. The focus is on the field recordings, but the minimal nature of the bass and piano alongside the electronics really brings out the post apocalyptic feel of the music.

“Black Clouds” by Earthborn Visions. Earthborn Visions is a project born out of wide-ranging influences, with a particular affinity for any music that positively influences perception and thinking. They explore juxtapositions of sounds and styles, melodies and noise, planned and random acts, field recordings and electronics, analog and digital. Synth drones slowly unfurl melodically before picking up a darker wind-blown edge and giving a feeling that compliments the title. There is a subtlety to the track, so it’s not too literal in its intentions.

“Cage of Obscured Rain” by IF. IF is Matteo Gazzolo an actor, director, musician, sound designer (founder of Soundethers). He’s been teaching theatrical techniques and text analysis since 1999. He organizes trainings and lectures on acting styles. Matteo lives in Sardinia (Italy) where he plays his stage productions, focusing on the relationship between music, sound technologies (live electronics) and speech. The use of rain sounds return with a more obvious use of weather sourced field recordings. The drones that join are fractured as if they are too also affected by the weather. The drones start to build in intensity and the tone tends to go in a more screechy noise affected way. The track heads into a mix of dark ambient and more melodic fusion with the two opposing styles mixing up in layers and alternating in dominance. The ending of the track is where the field recordings and dark ambience takes hold.

“I Forgot Everything” by In die Ferne. In die Ferne’s first musical experiences date back to the late 80s — playing the guitar in an utterly forgotten noise combo that only recorded 2 tracks. He started making electronic music in the early 2000s. Minimal drones and tones are central to this track. Repetition or loops sees the motif replayed as the drones, while noisy have that classical Eno style to them. The rough / noisy is to the tracks detriment and stands out against the clearer recordings.

“Aftermath” by Jesús Lastra. Lastra aka Jalastram/Flat Stone is a Madrid-based self-taught artist from Maracaibo, Venezuela. He began to experiment with audio editing software in 2007. Then, he started composing ambient music, or more specifically, soundscape, drone and experimental music within the electronic genre. Slow drawn out drones are joined by string drones and a low rumble. The sound is full, but also mournful.With a title like “Aftermath” the artist is clearly trying to convey the post disaster desolation of the area with the heaviness of the drones, the fusion of the elements (strings, piano) and the mood of the times.

With a compilation that comes with a theme or an inspiration there are bound to be cross over of source inspiration eg: field recordings of rain, that said while there are similarities, the artists are able to put their own touches to give a little variation to each piece. The two final tracks probably act as the weaker and stronger pieces on the album. If you like thematic albums this may be for you.

Paolo Mascolini records as sōzuproject. He has released a handful of albums and ep’s. This release on cassette (edition of 59 copies) and digital is his latest. This is the first time he has come across my radar.

The label states that this was “Recorded between December 2016 and February 2017, Breath Slowly describes the composer’s experience while cycling off-road in the mysterious Italian Dolomites in 2016. Divided into two acts, the album depicts an imaginary journey of self-discovery inspired by these desolate and overwhelming mountain landscapes.

“Ascent” starts off with eerie rumbling, echoing recordings of some sort before layered and occasionally fractured drones arc across the soundscape. Staccato strings cut across before a deep Bassoon like bass drone enters and vibrates out. The music starts to fill out with the strings and the bass thump being joined by noisier sections. The music oscillates with looped electronics joining the fray. As the track continues on the intensity is lifted. If the intention is to convey the intensity of ascending mountains on bicycle and also the desolation of the area, then it is succeeded with the slow build up which dissipates to a more electronica like ending.

“Descent” the drones that start this track have a slightly croaky sound to them as if they are made of field recordings of frogs. A buzzing drone enters the picture and loops with a low-level electronic section barely audible underneath. The electronics start to build up in the mix and their fast paced nature is at odds with the slow intense drones, before they start to challenge the drones which are getting noisier and distorted. There is a subtle wall of noise/ orchestral nature to the drones in the way they sound. The end of the track is like reprise of the beginning with some of the elements featuring again with the electronics still fighting for position.

I have to admit having an expectation to how the tracks would sound in relation to the theme which was completely opposite to the end result. I expected “Ascent” to be intense , which it was, in relation to climbing a mountain by bicycle and ‘Descent” being a more laidback enjoying the scenery feel, which it wasn’t. If you like long form noisy layered drone, then this release might be your cup of tea.

Otto Lindholm – Alter.

On October 13 (Friday the 13th in certain places) Gizeh Records releases the second album from Belgium based Double Bassist/Electronic musician Otto Lindholm. Lindholm’s self titled debut came out on Icarus Records /Vynila Vinyls in 2015 and gained critical appraisal from the likes of Fact Magazine and influential broadcaster Mary Anne Hobbs.

Lindholm had this to say about the album’s genesis “My original idea was to work on the melody and the play of the arco (ed note: Arco being the returning to playing bowed after pizzicato), looking for expressive music from this combination. To do it, I first decided to work on ‘modes’ and their specific color. With these modes I could work on tensions, frictions and color shading. Working on the melody aspect, I was looking to go beyond the romantic, easy listening or sentimentalizing, trying to suggest more than an expression of concrete emotions.

The album contains four tracks with a consistent length with times ranging from just over eight minutes up to ten and a half minutes. The record comes in a vinyl edition of five hundred copies on 180g vinyl with download code and bonus 12″ x 12″ print if purchased via the labels store. It was mastered by Lawrence English of the Room40 label.

“Fauve” (a Fauve is a type of artist from the Fauvism movement that featured the “radical use of unnatural colors that separated color from its usual representative and realistic role, giving new emotional meaning to colors”). On this track slow bowed strings and monolithic bass swells are the first thing you hear, pulsing and throbbing. There is a deep dark sound to the track, but also room for melodic touches. Layers of double bass come in an out with low-level electronics and manipulated bass sounds. The more the track moves on, the more elements are added with the electronics mimicking the bass swells, but also being off rhythm to them. The tracks fluidity enables it to cover the genres of modern classical and certain elements of post rock. With the use of tones and manipulated organic and electronic sounds you could state the Lindholm has started he aim for the album straight off with the opening track.

“Lehena” (which in African names means one who refuses) arcs of bass vibrate across with a swarm like sound underneath that build up before a violin like section takes the focus before an electronic section of pulsing loops, ambience and squelchy beats provides a counterpoint to the organic sounds created by the double bass. The electronics threaten to take over the track and lead it in a more dance/electronica based vein, but while they lead the track to its finish they remain as one of the elements of the sound palate.

“Alyscamps” a deep dark drone is joined by ghostly electronics and glacial ambience. The drones intertwine with the electronics combing the acoustic with the electronic. Flickering sections lead to the feeling of a broken transmission from a deserted outpost. The flickering remains a constant while scattershot sounds with haunting presence form like a storm which is subdued just before the end for some distinct double bass. The “Alyscamps” is a Roman section in Arles, France and was the burial ground for nearly 1,500 years. The haunting music could be easily influenced by this landmark.

“Heliotrope” a Heliotrope is a popular flowering plant that happens to be a toxic plant. On this particular track the double bass recordings are deep and are used under a bed of higher at times bordering on screeching drones. While tracks like “Alyscamps” utilized the electronics in a different way, “Heliotrope” relies more on the ambient and drone elements that can be coaxed from the double bass. There are effects in the piece with juddering sounds, sounds that cut in an out, degradation of sounds, etc…. which gives it a more experimental / cut up feel.

On “Alter” Lindholm expands on what he started with on his self titled debut, but comes across more as focusing on the qualities of his chosen instrument than the electronic component of his debut. Don’t get me wrong, the electronics are still there but appear to be more of a tool of his experimentalism than as a feature. For those who checked out the recently reviewed Alder & Ash should also check out this album.

Otto Lindholm

Gizeh Records

Alder & Ash – Psalms for the Sunder.

Lost Tribe Sound sought to expose Alder & Ash to a greater audience. The first of the two releases they put out was “Psalms for the Sunder”. This originally came out self released in 2016. Lost Tribe Sound decided to re-issue in physical form alongside the latest album “Clutched in the Maw of the World”.

The label had the following to say: “Psalms for the Sunder thrives in opposing extremes. As the title suggests, Psalms for the Sunder is a study of downfall and collapse. The work explores the boundaries, the desolation and despair, among the edges of things come undone. In that tension and space it finds not only cacophony, violence and decay, but also bittersweetness and calm.”

Alder & Ash is Adrian Copeland from Montreal, Quebec, Canada and is a solo cellist and only uses Cello to compose these pieces. He uses such techniques as legato (“musical notes are played smoothly and connected. That is, the player transitions from note to note with no intervening silence”), pizzicato (plucking of the strings), but also extended techniques like percussion against various parts of the cello, scordatura (detuning strings), string scratching, col legno (striking strings with bow) and ponticello (metallic and shrill overtones). Making full use of the instrument results in the music made by Alder and Ash.

“A Prelude To The Decline” slow drones are accompanied by minimal picking before the mournful quality of the cello cuts through with a melodic touch. The main cello piece alternates in tone and intensity giving the track both the mournful part, but also an angry intensity. The range of tones gives the cello a vocal-like feel in that it is conveying an unsung narrative.

“At Night in the Slaughterhouse” a distorted beat and slapping of the body of the instrument give the track its percussive feel while layers of cello combine to give both rhythm and lead parts. The press release gives mention of Dirty Three and Bad Seed’s Warren Ellis violin playing and this comes through early in this track with similar frantic playing. Just when you feel the track is settling down, the distorted percussion comes thumping back in industrial style while affected cello screeches above it roaring in intensity until the more emotive sections take control.

“Black Salt” starts with occasional strumming of the cello as if the player or person is finding their feet or rhythm before the percussive part starts to form something more. The strumming picks up speed, joined by buzzsaw sounds cutting left to right and some distant distorted rumble sounds. The melodic cello part that becomes the central focus lends a modern classic feel which is at odds with its more rustic beginning. After an ebb the strumming starts up again with both the distorted rumble sounds and a percussive beat. After a short period it fades to low-level drones and cutting sounds while the strumming slowly fades to the end.

“Seen Through the Cedar Smoke” multi layered picking and percussion are joined by the briefest bursts of sounds similar to that of a horn. The picking rhythmically becomes dense and woven and is covered with stabs of sound. The affected cello comes back into play sounding like the guitar sounds of Big Black – like distorted that it removes the original sound of the instrument. The quiet/loud dynamic comes into play when elements drop out and the picking starts up again, with both a feature element and the rhythmic base. There is quite a post industrial feel to the track, almost like post war desolation and decay.

“Ikejime” bizarrely the title refers of a method of paralyzing fish to preserve the meat. I am not sure what preservation is going on in this track but it has a jaunty rhythm over which slow bowed cello hangs over utilizing the screech noises that can be apparent with the cello. There are several layers the recording with each holding its own position from rhythm to melodic parts , those that are designed to add color, while others become the lead and yet others add the emotive depth to the pieces. All the levels don’t make it claustrophobic in any way and they are complimentary.

“Children of Gomorrah” has an ominous bluest feel with the starting percussive bit and distorted strings before sad sections are added and the track returns to the distortion of earlier tracks and has a vibe of seedyness as if it would suit as a soundtrack piece for show like “Peaky Blinders” or something where there is little light, grime, decay, etc….

“Triage” acoustic strumming with a drone that is long and emotive that slowly evolves, with the rhythm staying the same pace before dropping out altogether and allowing the drone to be accompanied by Warren Ellis style strings which posses an Americana feel that is almost improv like, before the strumming re-emerges. With Triage meaning to assess the importance of things, this could be represented in the layers of the piece and the way they build up and how they are structured.

On “Psalms for the Sunder” Alder & Ash utilize their chosen instrument to the fullest and create music that cuts through genres such as Drone, Americana, Industrial and others without being bogged down in one set genre. The music contained could easily be featured on a soundtrack or just enjoyed with a pair of headphones on.

The last physical copies are still available now.