Eilean Rec x5: Śruti/ Benjamin Finger/ Emmanuel Whitzthum/ Aries Mond/ Amuleto.

For this second part of Eilean Rec release catch up, I get up to speed on the Class of 2018 (minus the previously reviewed Ljerke release). Again, some fine works of various colors and musical styles for listeners to dive right into.

Śruti is the collaboration between Egyptian experimental musicians Omar El Abd (Omrr) & Mohammed Ashraf (Pie Are Squared). “Heard, Unspoken” is their debut. The album was created over the past two years between Cairo, Egypt & Ravenna, Italy. El Abd has appeared before on Eilean Rec with “Music For The Anxious” while Ashraf has appeared on labels such as Records DK, *Handstitched and others.

The album is paired into two tracks of each part of the album’s title eg: “Heard (Pt.1)” and “Heard (Pt.2)”.

“Heard (Pt.1)” begins with cut up electronics that sound like something breaking down. The textures range from crisp sounds through to more submerged sounds. Drones, field recordings, loops, broken electronics come together in an aurally rich sound scape which is fluctuating with depth and intensity, but doesn’t sound cluttered. The music takes a darker turn with heavier drones mixing in with glitches and noise to create a storm like environment that threatens to, but never wholly enters the maelstrom. Snatches of minimalist piano change the mood of the piece, which still remains intense, but with a different edge to it. Towards the end organ sounding drones mixed with static saturated synth pulses give a fractured feel to the track not too dissimilar to its beginnings.

“Heard (Pt.2)” picks up were part one finished before moving into a mixture of field recordings, acoustic guitar and thought out and well spaced minimal piano. Granular pulses of electronics add a gritty edge before strings take the track to more cinematic places before fading to an almost unheard level. They continue with a melancholic edge alongside broken electronics, before the music swells with intensity and various guitar sections come in such and a post rock/ambient influenced style and a more twangy section. The music becomes more forceful seeking out more of the listener as it threatens to and borders on noise in brief parts. The swell of the track is such as once it has reached its crescendo, it slowly dissipates with breathy drones to its completion.

“Unspoken (Pt. 1)” feels like a mysterious soundtrack composed of snatches of electronics, backwards dialogue, floating ominous synths and foreign sounds. There is a strong Space theme. A tunnel like sounding drone comes in with its almost echoing presence before turning into a lighter, but still intense soundscapes, just with a bit of light to the ominous sound generated. The sound feels like it’s constructing of many layers that are not totally discernible, but can be slowly picked out at glances. With three minutes left in the track the music takes on a more electronic feel to it with swathes of ambient coating Oval-esque sounds.

“Unspoken (Pt.2)” continues with the glitchy electronics added to with field recordings, drones, piano, and other tones to create a track that falls across genres like electroacoustic, sound art, quasi film soundtrack and modern classical flirtations. The sound comes across as full, but the way the components come together allows for depth in the piece. The track has the ability, much like the others on the album, to flow easily from section to section without sounding clunky.

Hopefully not the last collaboration between these artists, it would be great to hear how they would react to stripping back the layers and focusing on an individual style. I would imagine it would be as impressive as this debut.

Benjamin Finger follows up his “For Those About to Love” album on Flaming Pines with “Scale of Blindness”. Finger, based in Oslo, Norway has been composing music since 2005 and active since 2009 and is a composer, electronic music producer, DJ and photographer. His music has graced labels like Time Released Sound, Shimmering Moods Records, Oak Editions and many more.

This is his second release on the label with this previous “Pleasurably Lost” in 2015. The label describes the work as “an unknown territory, dense and unpredictable, without musical styles, a deep dive, well-managed, into his own world.”

“Halogen Flux” welcomes you to the album with squelchy sounds, loops, gritty sounds, haunting female vocals, broken circuitry and scattershot electronics. Sounding more like an experimental piece that is a song collage, rather a standard piece, though it must be noted that it does have a sense of composition about it rather than the ‘kitchen sink form of experimentation. “Anxiety Blues” follows in the similar sound landscape with bubbling electronics, female vocals (by Lynn Fister), washes of synchs and percussive elements. You can visually picture Finger with a bunch of analogue retro instruments plugging away and turning knobs.

“If Memory Serves” utilizes some American dialogue about a plane jacking (DB Cooper) alongside layered retro synth lines that remind of Mogwai’s post “Rave Tapes” sounds that have a hint of menace about them coupled with melody and a retro feel. “Vagabond Void” begins with loops of squelchy sounds alongside a Morse code like scratchy synth and a kakiedescopic carousel sounding synth section with minimal percussion. The track feels like hyperactive synth lines that are then broken up by an ambient section before a darker sound enters the field and becomes part of the frantic feel you get. The track has an almost claustrophobic and schizophrenic sound to it.

“Fragrant Darkness” warped oscillating tones that fluctuate with frequency and intent, coming across in a way of a broken transmission are paired with an emotive vocal/synth drone with dub like qualities. The music has a looping quality to it that changes as the track goes through several moods and expands with additional instrumentation of mainly the synth kind. “Earview Map” starts with a more traditional synth drone of long proportions with choppy synth stabs that than ripple out creating quite a moody submerged piece. You get the feeling of alien world such are the low subdued tones. The drones grow with a slight static to them in the last-minute with blips and blops keeping that alien feel alive.

“Falling Asleep” oscillating synth lines with a partial drone attached meet dubby synth lines, percussive elements, vocals. Elements come in loop forms, but also in building up and breaking down of the sounds. What sounds like treated guitar comes in and adds something else as well as the clicking sticks percussion.

“Vanishing Faces” is the album’s epic clocking in at just over 12 minutes in length. It is quite different to the previous tracks before it in that the music is more laid back, less frenetic. It is given time to unfurl the drones and the bass line holds it all together. The drones are both melodic and metallic. The feel of an alien like environment is still sonically there but the initial feeling is of dawn with the sun coming up. The bass line melody (which sounds like an ominous organ) gets more flesh to it as the track also builds around it. Drones and rumbling synth with flashes of synthetic strings finish off the track, which until the last moments, was a change from the majority of the album.

This album would suit those that like a touch of experimental music mixed with a healthy dose of retro feel. In comparison to the Flaming Pines release, which will be reviewed at some point, you can see an artist that while there is something that ties his work together, it appears not to be too similar.

Emmanuel Witzthum is an Israeli musician, multidisciplinary artist, and lecturer. He has been on labels such as Cotton Goods and has appeared on Eilean Rec with his collaboration with Craig Tattersall as E & I on the”The Color of Sound” album. This album has 4 tracks, 4 haikus, like 4 seasons, two tracks of which are long and the other two are normal length.

“Eyes shut, Leaves. Lift in winds across. Autumn Skies” is an emotive piece that utilizes Whitzhum’s viola and electronics to compose a piece of sweeping music that has obvious dronal elements, but to label it just drone would be to undersell it. It feels like a grand classical piece that has elements that flow and ebb with an undercurrent that forms the body of the track. The use of layering and repeated motifs helps build the track and gives it more than one dimension.

“Soft rain falls. Winter Solitude. At night, still” a fusion of short passages of viola over which layered long sections can glide with a occassional minimal bass drum beat opens the track. If the title gives anything away it is the word solitude. The music feels rather mournful and it feels that it tells a story of loss with the two viola styles being ‘sobbing’ the short loop like passages and the deep melancholy of the longer sections, mixed with reflection.

“Shy Flowers. Cloud Sighs, Clear Blue Sky. Breeze turns warm”. In a way this feels like the flipside of the previous track as the elements are connected and in a similar style – short and long viola passages with a minimal occasional beat. However, the tone is different. It is lighter, still lyrical and emotive, but this time with head held high looking into the sun. The pace of the track accentuates the feel with a relaxed speed.

“Against Tree. Eyes look to Sunset. In summer.” continues with the similar stark instrumentation that the three preceding tracks have used with each track managing to convey z different mood which, given the timbre of the viola is not that easy to do. This particular track utilizes more of drone than the short sections of viola than before. The main sections of viola have the familiar long form bows, but conjure up a feeling of reminiscing. The visual representation would be looking over an open field to a body of water that stretches out with nothing on the horizon. A nice addition to the sound palate are brief moments of wordless vocals to the end which add another element.

Whitzhum’s album is a joy for those that like music that conveys human emotions.

Boris Billier is a french musician based in the Pyrénées mountains in southern France. He started to compose with environmental sound recordings in 2002. He toured with different solo projects, playing “acousmatic” concerts. He often collaborated with contemporary theatre.

From 2013, he started to focus on instrumental music, with a particular interest for piano, and to share tracks under Aries Mond pseudonym.

“Come” the opener starts with flickering sounds and muted piano that comes across as both distant and up close. Electronics scatter around the piano breaking up the sound but also adding queues for the next section. A hum arrives adding a different long melody which holds and brings forth a new section of piano largely unfettered by the electronics (though they are still present). For a three-minute track you feel that it is almost an intro than a stand alone piece and it gives you a feeling of a thematic album, that you will or will not discover is the case, as it unfolds.

“Again” close records piano meets some swirling static sound, electronics and snatches of breathy noises that sound collaged as they have a cut and paste feel. The track is rather brief and sounds an exercise in texture and minimalism rather than a song.

“Come on lets wait” fuses field recordings, experiments with the piano itself, glitches, random tones to create a fractured piano/glitch track that turns ever so ominous with the tone getting heavier and the glitches and tones increasing in their coverage. There is an echoey tone to the glitches which sound like machines breaking down. The repetitive loop section mid way through the track gives it a major motif to hang onto. Things clatter and clang, melodies ring out and for want a better word, a groove is found. After this section an introspective feel comes over the track with the piano being slightly moody.

“Please” close capture recorded minimal piano with all the sound and imperfections of the piano leads this track in a thoughtful mood. Each note is played intentionally with no accompaniment leaving the piano sounding a bit fragile. The pace is relaxed which enables the mood to be easily read. A nice well thought out piece.

“Relentlessly” follows some of the cues that were introduced on “Again” with the vocal glitches having a sound of frustration in there little snatches of sound. There are metallic scraping sounds, possibly the wires from the inside of the piano. The scraping maintains a rhythm which is also produced by the bouncy tones as well.

“Sure” a metronomic sound welcomes lightly played piano and electronics that bounce out and circulate around field recordings. The piano is the center of piece as it holds its place and pace, while other elements float around it including field recordings and more breathy vocals. The piano and tones at times mimic reach other with their repetitive tones.

“So Long” frantic keys, bells and glitchy tones set the stage for this track which holds onto melody while still being experimental in its playing and combination with organic and non organic sounds. The feeling is not too dissimilar to that of the music of Nobukazu Takemura, but with a more humane touch. The mirroring of piano and tones works well.

“Once again” ventures into glitch territory almost exclusively with moody ambiance breaking up the loop sections with a percussive feel – in a like a pinball machine, included in the track. While having pulses of melodic touches, there is an element of noisiness due to the slightly storm like distorted sound.

This albm includes piano, vocals, glitches, field recordings, but is more the sum of the parts with its willingness to experiment and play with sound. The music is consistent in its sound, but without being repetitive and boring.

“Amuleto is Francesco Dillon (cello, prepared cello, feedbacks, other strings, objects) and Riccardo Wanke (guitars,keyboards, electronics, synths, harmonium). The duo takes its name from Roberto Bolaño’s novel and seeks to trace invisible links among distant geographical and cultural spaces, words and sounds. Good part of the inspiration comes from literature, sounds, images coming from various sides of the world. Their music emerges as a combination between contemporary, experimental and electronic music with influences of folk and classical traditions and improvisation.”

As a duo their work has previously come out on the Mazagran label, while separately they have appeared on labels such as Sedimental, Stradivarius, Glistening Examples and Three:Four records. As a level you could make a strong argument that Electroacoustic forms a large part of their oeuvre. This side is shown with Amuleto.

“Las Hojas Mineralizadas De la Árboles” aka “The mineralized leaves of trees” fuses field recordings – crackling noises, electronics, with guitar, harmonium, cello to create a drone piece which results in long sustained tones being coated in a sonic detritus. The drones and other elements travel the various depths of sound and texture, using the instruments for their primary and secondary sound sources. This is best demonstrated by the use of the various guitar tones and the sound of the lead being inserted and removed from the guitar.

“Sumaj Orcko” frequencies and loops seem to be the heart of this piece which definitely rests in the experimental field. Sounds buzz, gurgle, scrape, scatter in a kitchen sink manner where everything appears to be constructed using instruments of alternative means. The track ranges from purely electronic experimentation to more organic sound source experimentation through to left field ambient/drone.

“Bajo la Lluvia Casa Silenciosa” aka “Under the rain silent house” features voice recordings, cello, electronics to create a piece that is hard to get a handle on in regards to what it is trying to convert. Field recordings of conversations give it an eavesdropping feel, but then the noisy prepared strings take in a completely different direction, although it should be noted a variation of this appears at the start of the track.

“Los Naufragios De Cabeza de Vaca” aka “The Cow Head Shipwrecks” fuses field recordings, dark electronics and looped string instruments, giving an almost conventional feel to the track as it builds up the intensity and suspense, before elements drop out and the electronics are what remains. The next section returns to the experimental of before with wild guitar bashings over electronics. Interestingly this leads into more traditional guitar sound with an accompanying humming rhythm, before going into a traditional/ experimental hybrid section. This section builds suspense due to the bashing, the strings that are screeching and the constant humming electronics.

“Una Aventura Nocturna” aka “A Nighttime Adventure” taking the title literally, the duo construct a sound pallet of metallic screeches and string drones that reverberate and extend seemingly forever. The mood is dark and field recordings of dialogue are used, but without understanding the language I cannot ascertain if they fit mood. The feeling is thick but without being claustrophobic, but also suspenseful.

“Máquina Para Fabricar Santos” aka “Machine to Make Saints” fuses the noisy experiments with prepared strings alongside electronics which creates a nice balance of the two styles that while different compliment each other. After a breakdown section, cello that is being roughly played joins electronic beats before another section of joins in and the electronics start to lead the track once more. With the track having around a minute left the cello goes into overdrive in its intensity and its sound of harsh tones that slash and grind to the end.

If you like to more free form experimental Electroacoustic side of music (and Eilean Rec), this may be right up your alley.

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Eilean Recs x 3: Jacek Doroszenko/ Sonmi451/ Various Artists.

When the emails for Eilean Rec arrive in my inbox, the Minor Threat classic “Out of Step” rings in my ears. Not for the Straight Edge mantra that dominates the classic slice of US HC, but the simple refrain of “I can’t keep up..” These are my thoughts on the regular submissions of this ridiculously prolific and regularly mind-blowing French label run by Mathias Van Eecloo (formerly recording as Monolyth & Cobalt). Two thirds into it’s 100 release existence, the quality hasn’t dipped and they keep putting out music by artists you have not heard of before as well as familiar artists and those in new collaborations and configurations.

This is an attempt to play catch up and get the 2017 releases up to date. The next part will cover the 2018 releases. As is the Eilean Rec way, these releases sold out on pre-order or very close after release date. As they have a 75% off discount for their full (at time of writing) 67 digital releases, what better time to investigate one of the most popular labels of recent times.

“Jacek Doroszenko is an audio-visual artist, treating sound phenomena as a legitimate material of visual art and highlighting listening as a practice. The artist engages with contemporary soundscape to select and rephrase the notion of noise as a redundant element. “

This album was recorded in 2016/17 at artist in residence programs in Norway and Greece utilising field recordings as a basis for the music which is all about the juxtaposition of various sounds.

The music rests in the Experimental/ Electroacoustic field in music with certain tracks such as “Vague Obtrusion” being a sound collage of textures, frequencies, sonic detritus and drones bringing to mind some of Anthony Patteras’ electronic works. The following track “Stream” feels like a more conventional piano and strings track that has a slight feeling of claustrophobia while the return to experimentalism returns with “Glue” and its metallic cyclic sounds. “Be Right Back” is a plaintive piece of solo piano that feels likes it has a haziness to it. “Alvik” has ominous drones and futuristic sounds which are bathed by waterside field recordings which give the piece a feeling of isolation and desolation.

“Achromatic Component” uses loops, field recordings, snatches of sounds and drones to construct a piece of decay that feels like several machines are breaking down and are in their final throes of life. The apocalypse is brought on by the end of the track with its warping noises. If ever a title accurately described a piece of music then it is “Dense” which appears to be cello or acoustic guitar dominated using the bow or plectrum to conjure up a variety of sounds and textures, utilizing speed and effects. Broken electronics, field recordings, piano, bells, random instruments and objects flesh out the sound. “Resochords” sounds like something by another artist and would fit in perfectly on the Vienna based former Ukraine label Kvitnu with it glitchy, warped and experimental electronics. For the reason that it is quite different to the previous material, this track doesn’t fit that well on the album.

If the darker, more experimental sounds are what you crave, then this could be for you.

 

 

For close to a decade and a half Belgium based musician has been recording under the Sonmi451 moniker with a variety of releases on labels such as Time Released Sound, U-cover and Slaapwel to name a few.

“His music is best described as a hybrid between subtle, shimmering electronica and delicate soundscapes. Every Sonmi451 track is a sort of mini universe where field revordibgs and lovingly crafted samples are combined with carefully chosen atmospheric ambiances. Sonmi451 likes to explore the inner aspects of sound and stillness, the cracks and loopholes that exist between sounds.

The album was dedicated to the rivers an streams crossing the exquisite mountain landscapes of the Alps and Dolomites in the beautiful region of Southern Tirol. This explains the titles of the tracks referring to rivers.

“Adige” pairs aquatic bubbling sounds alongside electronics, ambience and acoustic instrumentation to give a feeling of floating and tranquility. The pace is laid back with enough going on to engage the listener. “Piave” is a combination of low drones that introduced a progressive piano melody that becomes the centerpiece of the track alongside chimes, electronics and soaring string drones to create quite a cinematic piece of light flowing wonder.

“Passiro” combines fragile sounds alongside glitches and humming tones to create an analogue warmth like feel to the track. The haziness that is constructed gives off a submerged, but distanced feel with a touch of fading memories as if the gentle fractured tones are like fragments of a person’s life. “Sarca” sees bouncing tones over flashes of sound, plucked instrument reminiscent of kalimba and occasional field recordings. It feels like an environmental recording that has been giving a slight sci-fi feel but with a traditional indigenous sound as well.

“Brenta” starts with sharp tones paired with looped melodic tones that anchor the piece and provide the high-end notes. Scattering and clanging percussive like field recordings and a mournful tone which takes over the sharp tones enter the sound scape alongside some cut up dialog and static like storm sounds. The melodic tones become the hero if the piece and give it a center for the other elements to flow around.

“Rienza” glitches, wobbly tones and melodic chimes lead through to an ambient soaked section with acoustic guitar that has a swirling feel to it. The sonic detritus, the way things cut in and out, as well as the general murkiness of the piece makes you feel in a tropical storm. The track is quite hypnotic with the guitar and the chimes acting as a counterpoint to the swirling loops, but also complimenting them as well.

“Gadera” the beginnings of oscillating tones, chimes, field recordings feel innocent enough at the beginning, but they then over a period of time rising and falling grow into something more. With additional field recordings and an increase in intensity, the music starts to threaten to become a full on cinematic piece. Just as you are expecting it to tip over into a big drone piece, elements subtly fade in and out of the sound scape keeping the material flowing.

“Avisio” long, deep, layered droning cello welcomes a haunting wind instrument, chimes, field recordings and a plucking sound. The music is maximal with the sound being full and expansive. The material balances equally the darker tones alongside the melodic element with each having their own style that works as well individually as it does together.

“Panta Rei” is an album that works well in that it is not musically pigeon holed. It has flashes of electronica, experimentalism, organic and electronic, cinematic and drifting. It shows Zwijzen as an artist that is musically imaginative and adept at construction of sounds.

As is the annual tradition of Eilean Rec, their Various Artist release contains new and exclusive tracks from the twenty-one artists released during 2017. The physical edition came in a metal box limited to 175 copies with sixteen tracks from the likes of 9t Antiope / Ben Rath / Bill Seaman / Cicely Irvine / Daniel WJ Mackenzie / Danny Clay / Francesco Giannico / Giulio Aldinucci / Jacek Doroszenko / Josco / Josh Mason / Jura Laiva / Monolyth & Cobalt / Monty Adkins / Nathan Mc Laughlin /Sonmi451 / Sound Meccano / Spheruleus / Stijn Hüwels / Tatsuro Kojima / Toàn

As this release includes artists that were originally featured on the label prior to the beginning of this blog, it gives me a chance to check out artists like 9T Antiope with their classical styled female vocals alongside experimental electronica sound collages with “Lemniscate”. Before this is tracks by Cicely Irvine and Ben Rath. Irvine’s “Intro” is a pump organ drone piece with whispering vocals, field recordings and sharp tones that gentle oscillates and serves as a good opening tack to the collection. Ben Rath’s “Ego Death” is a darker Sci Fi-ish take on granular drone with flickering tones appearing to come from a distant place. Stijn Hüwels and Danny Clay fuse fragile soundscapes with sine wave-like tones that flow in a wave-like fashion embedded with melodic chimes. Francesco Giannico and Giulio Aldinucci follow on from their stunning album with a static soaked buried drone piece “Pangea” that soars to great heights. Sonmi451’s “Maè” features piano loops alongside short flashes of sound, static and melodic, but haunting drones that delicately unfurl with a slight jazz feel to them.

Toàn’s cinematic “L’Érèbe” is a stunning piece that nicely follows Sonmi451. Mixing strings with warm ambience, Electroacoustic flourishes and a moody almost Jazz feel, clearly shows Toàn as an artist to watch. Sound Meccano|Jura Laiva take the moody ambient approach with “P.s.IX” with its oscillated tones, cascading static, melodic glitches, creaking wood and flashes of harp like ambience. The track is slow-moving, but over time reveals more and more.

Jacek Doroszenko’s “Ignorance” is similar to the final track of his album in the sense its more electronic than experimental, with synth lines bubbling in tandem alongside sounds like cymbals, harsh drones, piano and other percussive devices. The track is the story of two half’s and I would guess Doroszenko’s musical style – the experimental meets the electronic approaches.

Unlike their one track album, Josh Mason and Nathan McClaughlin create a single track “Lost Data” that pairs treated guitar with ambient and experimental touches that moves away from the freeform guitar tines to a more ominous territory with shuffling percussive sounds, swirling and scraping sounds to give a rustic feel to the track. Bill Seaman on his “(Re) Erasures and Displacements” takes his reconstructing to a slightly ominous at times, but in others, relaxed place. There are different textures from the industrial- esque pulses of sound to the piano tones to the buried feeling of the music. There is a certain melancholy to the piece, but it’s not the standard feel of melancholy.

Label Boss aka Monolyth & Cobalt weighs in with “Le Territoire” possibly sees the last of this project. The track utilizes field recordings to enhance the ominous feeling of unease that the music generates. It is cinematic, but at the same time due to its constant flowing parts, an ambient/drone piece.

Daniel W J Mackenzie formerly known as Ecka Liena creates a travelogue piece called “Untitled (28th 10th)” that changes from what feels like you are experiencing an environment at the start of the track to a more moodier piece in the second half brought about by the variety of strings, the buried minimalist piano and field recordings. Josco and Spheruleus fuse scanner recordings with thick, but sharp drones on “Passau” to create a wall of sound that with the recordings feels like an interrupted transmission during a storm.

Monty Adkins’s piano on “Entwined” is delicately fragile and fits well with the fractured glitchy tones and the icy tones with their wisps of ambience. You get the feeling of a desolate place that a wind storm is swirling around kicking up sand. Tatsuro Kojima ends the collection with “White or Grey” which has an element of light, sharp noise mixed in field recordings and a humming drone to create a piece that feels like a battle between nature and noise.

This is a nice sampler and one that perfectly shows the variation with the label’s catalog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forthcoming : Will Samson – A Baleia.

Will Samson_A Baleia_by Desiree Rousseau.jpg

Most recently seen as part of the Illuminine “#2 Reworks” release on Dauw, Brussels based English Musician Will Samson (12k, Karaoke Kalk, Talitres) returns to the label with “A Baleia” which translates to “The Whale” in Portuguese. This 22 minute album of tape manipulations focusing on wordless ambient works, was inspired by time spent in a sound proof flotation tank. The album, released in two limited tape combinations of 125 copies and an edition of 20 copies that also include the previously digital only “Lua” (12k) and includes like minded collaborators such as Beatris De Klerk (violin), Matt Resovich (The Album Leaf), Brumes and Benoit Piolard.

The release will be available on May 18 and the teaser below with entice you to investigate further.

Will Samson - A Baleia (artwork)

 

Alapastel – Hidden For The Eyes.

Alapastel is the recording name of Slovakian composer Lukáš Bulko with his debut release being the first release in the series from Slowcraft label called Slowcraft Presents. Each release will be limited to a first edition of 150 copies with heavyweight custom sleeve which is hand stamped and includes other personal hand-made elements. For this particular release Bulko is joined by Alex Lukáčová and Marián Hrdina on vocals and mastering by Adam Dekan.

According to the label “This treasure trove of neo-classical grandeur, electric-acoustic production and subtle folk tones was eight years in the making and clearly signals the arrival of a unique and original new talent. Lukáš speaks with spirited and assured musical voice in an ambitious, pastoral and otherworldly collection…”

“Encounter” opens with an electronica like feel with bells, field recordings of birds, drones, flickering sounds to create this slightly dark neo-classical inspired drone piece. The track has a static feel to it and the short sections of drones that cut across add to this feel. After a fraction of silences string section cones in elevating the sound to become more grandeur. The way the music comes across in surges or washes is reflected in the choice of field recordings of nature. The track has the feel of an introductory piece to the album as it sets more of a groundwork rather than maintain a specific narrative. This is noted by the snatches of vocals at the end of it.

“Seashell” chiming, toy like instruments alongside chimes, vocals (presumably sung in Slovenian) , guitars, violins, static haze, piano create a hybrid track that feels like a mixture of classical meets electroacoustic with a slight folk element. Bass horn instruments add a lower element while violin which is buried low in the mix adds to the feel alongside the percussive piano. The music towards the end flows more into the experimental realm with distorted bass motifs and affects laden vocals that are used more as a musical element than as just singing.

“Bride of the Mountains” male and female vocals intertwine with drones to give a choral and icy feel. Soaring strings place the track firmly in the modern classical field with some ominous sound scapes creating a otherworldliness. The vocals (female only now) become less clear and distant while the strings float around while dark heavy drones create a sound  aurally similar to a dark snow-covered area. The vocals return front and center and without an understanding of the language you feel just by the singing that it comes across like a traditional folk song.

“Frozen Lakes, Fog and Snow” an icy foghorn like sound alongside staccato violin, plucked strings, field recordings, piano, accordion and drones starts forming a clicky rhythm with pulsing accordian and snatches of a variety of sounds coming in and out at almost random intervals. There is a certain comforting mood to the piece that in a way despite being quite electroacoustic in its construction, is quite meditative. The sounds pulse and scatter, quickly shine and fade away, all to do it over again but not feel repetitive.

“Solar System for Nina”opening with plucked strings and long drones the piece moves on to minimal piano with long flowing violin drones and granular electronics with a male narrator giving the feel of a cinematic piece rather than a ‘song’. Repeating chime tones adds a melody to music that has a certain weight and feel before the male voice changes to torch song quality meets opera. The music has retreated back to the shadow thanks in part to the strings, plus the dark bass hums which give an almost dread like feeling. At the half way point the track is turned on its head with frantic strings, pounding keys, swirling sounds and full-blown operatic singing. This change brings a feeling of intensity and of frantic despair which again is felt through the vocals. The track once more changes back to a similar tone to the first movement, but not as dark as before thanks to the flowing piano and the water like sounds, plus the hand percussion lightens the music. For the first time since the intro of “Bride of the Mountain” are the female and male vocals combined.

“Tousled” solo piano with an improv feel of experimenting with the instrument is the basis of the track. The playing changes from soft and tentative to frantic and intense. With a name like “Tousled” you are led to believe that the messy, disordered piano is to reflect the title.

“Demon” long heavy layered drones are paired with some sort of animal like growling which has a guttural feel to it. The drones change from section to section, some cutting through the darkness, while others add to it. As the track progresses the darker elements take more of a focal point in the music and the music is firmly in the neo-classical canon. Glitchy, crunchy textures are introduced alongside arching strings and slight melodic motifs, but the music remains firmly in the darker territory.

“Peaceful Soul in Calm Ocean” wind-blown horn sounds, flickering electronics, pulsing sounds and drones give off a feeling that is contrary to the title. This is no gentle flowing and ebbing piece. There are elements like the horn sounds which you could identify as being calm, but its the other elements that are in stark contrast. Just over half way a piano melody enters in which for the most part has relaxed playing with occasional increase in intensity. The electroacoustic sound scapes start to shower the music with static sounds and washes of distortion. You get the feeling of music that has been exposed to the elements where decay has set in and original sounds have been modified.

This is an album were you leave you expectations at the door. I was thinking it would be more Modern Classical, but it feels like an electroacoustic album that uses Modern Classical and to a lesser extent Folk as its source of inspiration and then manipulates them into a totally different context. If music has become a bit predictable for you and you like it a bit on the darker, more experimental side of the fence then Alapastel’s debut may just be right for you.

Clarice Jensen – For this from that will be filled.

On April 6 the Miasmah imprint releases the debut from US cellist Clarice Jensen called “For this from that will be filled” on CD/Vinyl/Download. Usually a debut would mean a new artist, but this is not the case with Jensen who is the artistic director of ACME (American Contemporary Musical Ensemble) appearing on releases with them on releases on labels such as New Amsterdam Records, also as part of the Wordless Music Orchestra (and configurations there of) and as a collaborator and touring musician for the late Icelandic composer Jóhan Jóhannsson. On addition to this Jensen is a Julliard graduate who has also collaborated with the likes of Stars of the Lid, Max Richter and Tyondai Braxton to name a few.

The four track album includes pieces Co-composed with Jóhannsson, Michael Harrison and two self composed pieces. Jensen is a cellist who utilizes multi tracking, effects pedals, tape loops to highlight the sound of the cello, but to also experiment and confuse the sound of the cello. For this album the music has been composed either for the artist, such as Harrison’s “Cello Constellations” or composed as an audiovisual collaboration, such as the two-part title track that was composed as a collaboration with artist Jonathan Turner and exhibited at The Kitchen in NYC in 2017. A visual representation of the performance was used in the album’s artwork.

As I have zero musical knowledge in composition, I will be quoting the notes supplied to help describe the pieces.

The album opens with “bc” with its description stating that “the work displays the startling effect subtle changes have on conventional elements across repetitions, employing the simple devices of a two-octave c-major scale and a three chord loop.” The piece uses looped sections of cello drones that work together in a tandem situation where they enter and exit in an overlappping fashion which highlights the difference in the sounds generated. You have one which has a deeper, darker, grittier tone that cuts through, while the other has a more mournful and heartfelt tone that provides the emotional heft to the piece. There is a certain degree of light to the piece that is most noticeable with second section of cello. The pace is maintained throughout the piece which allows for intensity to build, but also provide consistency.

For Harrison’s “Cello Constellations” the music is an “exploration of the harmonic series scored for solo and cello and 25 multi-tracked cellos and sine tones. The work is divided into three sections, each a constellation of pitchers tare sustained at very specific Hertz numbers. The effect of these precise pitches interacting with each others such that harmonic beating occurs as an incidental, but deliberate component of the work.” Slow rumbling cello sounds emerge from silence vibrating away get thicker and denser as the waves of more cello tones start to enter into the sound scape. There is a real throbbing bass like tone reminiscent of the didgeridoo while short fractured pieces of cello sound like cut up transmissions. The harmonic beating mentioned previously gives a slight piano sound. Sections of cello drop out removing the throbbing bass sound to reveal a more experimental feel and higher tones section that revels in suspenseful sound. This then makes way for a fashion of melodic minimal tones, long harp like cello and an underlying buzz. The melodic tones sound like a hand percussion instrument like the kalimba. The tones start to get longer and more foreign sounding, almost like decay and desolation have set in. As the piece continues the music become more ominous with thick bassy tones alongside the sped up cut up tones as experienced at the building. It’s quite a transition from the low long tones to the final flurry of extreme activity that threatens to collapse at the end, bringing the listener to the precipice, dangling them over, but just bringing them back before they plunge into an abyss.

“For this from that will be filled (a)” the first of Jensen’s composed audiovisual pieces utilises a cello sound “that evokes a strange organ that is both grand and deteriorating, at times rich and at times brittle “. The music sounds indeed like a wound up organ alongside dark metallic drones that together with the ‘organ sounds’ create a slightly claustrophobic and nightmarish feel. The music is built up in a way that is pure soundtrack material in the way that it can conjure moods and feelings with the listener. The short repetitive sections that emerge slightly early on, start to become the center of the second half with their off kilter sounds giving off a sense of unease. The deterioration mentioned before does not mean that the music goes all glitchy, but in turn refers (for me) the feeling in the music as it slightly gets warped throughout the piece.

“For this from that will be filled (b)” is composed of “drones, long loops, and a field recording from New York’s Grand Central Terminal interweave with acoustic and heavily processed cello, which conjures the sound of machinery.” The epic piece of the album starts of with loop based cello with both a hum and screech to it. It’s almost like a switch has been flipped and the machinery roars into life, spinning around in deafening noise, before long bass heavy cello drones start to creep out, some darker than others. There is also a slight static, dusty feel to the track which may or not be the field recordings. The cello drones start to become clearer with the ‘machinery’ still holding an important part in the sound scape, but just not as forceful as before. The cello exhibits a haunting quality as it resonates with high notes and drones attached to it that radiate out. The machinery by this stage has disappeared leaving the cellos to traverse in layered fashion covering the sonic landscape. The cello music then changes the focus to a single cello which sounds like it is wrestling with emotions. At times its frantic and at others emotive, but scattered in both instances. Field recordings of the Terminal filter through on looped fashion with the manipulated recording of the word “Attention” being the focal point. The music towards the end still feels a bit scattered, but less frantic giving the feeling of some control has been retained.

Clarice Jensen has created a dark, but deep album that on repeat listens will reveal more to the listener. According to Jensen in an interview with NPR that the album is “Meditative and Disorienting” which is true. The use of loops and effects provides both these processes with Part b of the title track clearly demonstrating the disorienting part as well as penultimate section of “Cello Constellations”. While the meditative part is clearly seen in the opener. Solo instrument albums don’t have to be one-dimensional and this proves it. If you liked Otto Lindholm’s “Alter” (released last year on Gizeh) you will definitely like Jensen’s album too.

OKADA – Misery.

“Misery”, the latest album from OKADA aka Gregory Pappas is his sixth album with the last four appearing on the venerable n5MD imprint, who are having a stellar year so far with the recently released Winterlight album and the forthcoming Porya Hatami & Arovane reissue. Pappas has been around since the late ’00’s originally under the ZXYZXY moniker, but primarily recording as OKADA since 2014. The album originally was designed as a double, but then scaled back to a single to form a more cohesive work. The two titles excised (“Your Love” and “Deeper”) have been issued as a digital release called “B-Sides of Misery” which can be streamed/purchased below.

According to the label “while its title may hint at hardship and/or anguish, “Misery” is not all sturm and drang. There is an underlying hope in the album’s epic yet pertinent 80-minute run-time…Pappas has always been adept at displaying his current head-space in his music and “Misery” displays him in a fairly deep well of melancholy… Simply put, “Misery” has put a big exclamation point on OKADA’S creative ethos and has given us a remarkable look into Pappas’ translation of such emotions.”

“Bury Me” lush waves of synths with a bubbling undercurrent meet a sound that sounds like an opera singer put through vocoder before fragile female vocals enter the sound scape. The music gets progressively louder and denser with elements interplaying with each other. The slow build up brings the track closer to the precipice and allows Pappas to create the mood. Fractures snippets of vocals cut in and out alongside fragments of percussion as the elements start to dissipate and the first clear vocal line of “I’ve been waiting for you” brings in a beat heavy section which brings to mind n5MD label mate Brock Van Wey aka bvdub. The percussion is layered to give an almost breakbeat like feel to it with all the different beats and cymbals coming together and propelling the track forward. The beats disappear while the synths start skittering about before getting epic and adorned with the wordless vocals once more before a rush of noise and the vocal cue of “I’ve been waiting for you” returns in loop form teasing the listener expecting for a drop or the next propulsive section. Minimal piano stabs breaks up the suspense with a staticy break beat rearing its head super low in the mix. The piano brings about a complete change and feeling of the track and would indicate the melancholy as mentioned above by the label. The last two minutes see the electronics become more like a slightly claustrophobic sound scape with no clear discernible instruments easily picked out, but a heavy mood is created, which is as thick as the initial synths of the beginning and middle, but just more murky and all most impenetrable.

“Unclothe” dark, synths drones pulse out with clanging electronics swirling in and out that are joined by melodic dubby synths lines and air like sounds. Crunchy beats and indecipherable female vocals enter which provide a focus to the track and bring the elements in together. Additional percussion with a sprinkler like feel join in as well as more layered vocals and an Indian sounding guitar line (although without a list of instrumentation I could be wrong) alongside another melodic and dubby synth line. The thing about Pappas’ construction is that he is not afraid to have so many elements going on at the same time because he is able to construct tracks without overloading them with unnecessary filler. While almost glacial choral ambiance floats around adorned by pulses of air, repetitive piano motifs build up a reflective mood. The piano is later joined by a complementary bass line which leads the crunchy, staticy and woodblock sounding percussion to re-enter the sound scape as well as the wordless vocals and dubby synths. With a title like “Unclothe” you get the feeling about the track is stripping oneself back and starting over again. The other thing about this particular track is how circular it feels. The elements come in and around in more than a loop fashion, but as parallel circles of sound going round and around.

“Bruised and Bleeding” sees affected piano lines covered in a cloak radiate out with a reverberating feel to them. If this is melancholy on display, it feels that what ever as the cause of the melancholy is being left behind. A chime like drone comes in like a fork in the road leading the track down a new road with lighter and more intently playing further enforcing this feel of moving on. Pappas brings in the broken beats alongside those chiming drones which have gone from being a signpost to part of the track’s landscape. Big swathes of orchestral drones sounding like an epic string section further increase that soaring feeling of moving on. Mid track the beats subside leaving layered piano and fractured sound textures, field recordings, static, cutting drones to create a fairly desolate sound scape before crashing, broken sounding noises lead the track to the end with just the piano holding on to melody as decay surrounds it.

“Interstellar” rumbling field recordings like an early morning city just starring to wake are accompanied by shuffling sounds and woodblock percussion with delay on it. Kaliedescopic synths bring in a sci-fi feel alongside a xylophone giving the track a melodic percussive feel under the retro synth washes. Glitches, Industrial sounds, backwards phasing and a military style electronic drum beat take the track in a new territory. The track is more ‘out there’ in the use of its elements. Gone are the vocals (although fragments of some sort of voice/vocals can be heard buried in the mix) and lushness, replace with a more stripped back collection of sounds such as the metallic thin frantic breakbeats and long synth drones. Pappas continues to make sure there is a lot going on, just that it is not as full sonicly as previous tracks.

“Transient Lovers” long linear drones slowly get more intense, one being more melodic and the other being more a bass drone. Slow paced piano lines break through in loop form before a build up of drones swell bringing forth bass heavy beats with hand claps which are joined by skittered percussion, lush synths and the vocal styling heard previously. The use of orchestral style drones to cut across the track, illuminating it, but also at times being counter point to the vocals, but also complimenting the piano. The track starts breaking down, being stripped back to where just the drones and vocals remain. Utilizing just drones and vocals sets the feel for the piece which is rather naked. A synth line that is the same as the piano brings forth the next section which is beat driven without being four on floor, focusing once more on the skittering percussion to create texture and propel the track forward.

“Guarded” moody synth drones welcome a thoughtful piano motif that is dripping in melancholy. A surge of ambient synth sees the introduction of female vocals (from a different singer than before) which have a torch song quality to them. The piano increases intensity alongside skittering circular fractured beats and the vocals singing something along the lines of “We be in love….no it wont hurt you”. The synth drones become more orchestral as the track progresses which is most notable when, for when the vocals and beats drop out, they alongside the piano really excel. A pure Ambient section evolves out of the piano/drones with icy synth tones giving up celestial sounds alongside what sounds like manipulated string recordings giving off kilter sounds that act as a pathway to the vocals returning. The vocals and the icy ambient tones lead the track to its completion and finish the album of in a nice chilled fashion.

For an artist who has successfully released an album every year since 2014, each with epic long tracks, Pappas has certainly found his niche in creating deep, full down tempo music. I don’t really feel the melancholy hinted at in the press release (it is there but the music is not too melancholic), but definitely agree with the mention of “underlying hope” that you feel through out the album. If you love epic tracks that unfold in their own time with plenty going on , but not enough to strangle the music then “Misery” is for you.

Illuminine – Reworks #2.

In the four years since the release of Olan Mill’s “Kimale” (d1) , the Gent based label Dauw run by Pieter Dudal with art by Femke Stijbol, has certainly gone onto stake out their own little piece of Ambient territory. With a consistent design aesthetic that has only really changed from the initial 10 releases in felt bags, the label has managed to release known artists such as Dag Rosenqvist, The Humble Bee, Benoît Pioulard alongside newer artists.

Illumine’s “Reworks #2” is their first venture into the vinyl world, but with their typically hand-made design aesthetic still entrenched. The record, a seven track affair, contains seven remixes or reworks from the likes of Benoît Pioulard, Stijn Huwels, Message to Bears and others.

“Almost one year ago, Illuminine released “#2”, the hollow up of their highly acclaimed debut album “#1″. This second album offered listeners a consistent set of songs with a highly emotional character. Both albums clearly showed the distinctive language of their founding member, Kevin Imbrechts, who came to the fore as a master of melancholia. His interpretation of melancholia is one of coherence: often soothing and with smooth edges, but also varied in its execution, allowing for shifting temperaments and rearranged combinations of instruments. It’s almost like each song can be discovered again and again and each listen can give form to a new constellation.”

“Dualisms #2 (Studnitzky Rework)” is reworked by Berlin trumpeter and pianist Sebastian Studnitzky and focuses on multiple level instrumentation from subtle skipping percussion, beats, repetitive piano loops, radio like recordings, electronics, drones and others that are added and subtracted like layers building up and then stripping back. Hand percussion adds a different feel to it giving it an almost ethno feel with hand claps and shaker sounds. The track is quote hypnotic with the way the bass beats drop in and out and the propel the track forward alongside an instrument like a xylophone. At times it feels purely electronic, then more organic. This is best shown towards the end as the handclaps lead the track to its conclusion. Of the original recording it’s really the piano and drone elements that remain with hints of the original melody being reworked in this version.

“Atlas, Eyes ft. Will Samson (Alex Somers Rework)” Alex Somers is an American artist living in Iceland who has collaborated with his partner Jonsi of Sigur Rós. The track opens with a muted explosion, low-level humming and fractured acoustics coming through static and disrupted sound. Drones swirl around before layered vocals come in, one that sounds submerged, while another is a lot clearer. The music feels decayed and affected by being buried and dug up. It is warped, a bit gritty and grainy, but also with a certain level of beauty that you can glimpse in snatches, mainly brought about by the feel of the vocals. Musically this is quite faithful to the original track, but this reworking as mentioned before, submerges the track, which was originally clear with a warm tone to it.

“Dear, Dolores (Julien Marchal Rework)” reworked by French pianist, composer and Whales Records boss features delicate close recorded piano that features all the sounds of the piano from the keys to the pedals, the hammers being heard, but not overpowering the piano sound itself. The music has a certain feeling of reflection, but not melancholy. The pace picks up as does the intensity which transitions the piece into a more forceful one that demands of the listener’s attention. As the tone of the music changes so does the narrative before returning to the early reflective sound. The original track while it features a crystalline piano accompanying acoustic guitar, string section and drones, it’s the acoustic guitar which is the focal point. The change in instrumentation for this rework, as well as the way it was recorded, sheds new light on the track and a nice stripes back re-interpretation.

“Be Wise, Take Care (Benoît Pioulard Rework)” Pioulard who traditionally records for the Kranky label and who had the “Slow Spark, Soft Spoke” release on Dauw comes in with this epic eight plus minute reworking. A hazy constellation of drones saturated in static and sounding light like a summer rain storm, bend and twist unfurling with light and distorted tones. The original version has string drones composed of cello and violin plus horns, piano and scraping bass guitar, guitar and is a glacial ambient meets neo classical meets post rock. For this rework Pioulard has focused on the string section and distressed them.

“Wander, Rise (Message to Bears Rework)” is UK’s Jerome Alexander aka Message to Bears who is known for his organic folktronica meets electronic meets ambient. For his rework the track starts slowly with long linear drones with melodic glitches added and his trademark cut up beats alongside piano, electronics to create an organic piece of fluttering electronics that is the sum of its parts and more. The original track focuses on acoustic guitar with a slight glitch sound to it that slowly grows in texture with the addition of a thick swell of drones constructed by cello, violin, horn and trumpet that overwhelm the acoustic guitar. The drones create this symphonic sound which is the centre point of the rework.

“Wander, Rise (Wouter Dewit Rework)” Dewit, a Belgium based pianist who released the “Still” album late last year on Zeal Records. Interestingly, while he appeared on three of the tracks of the original album, he did not appear on the original version of this track. His version is piano driven, as you would expect, but has an almost jaunty feel which is coupled with a fast section of piano that provides the rhythm and in a way replicates the drones. The track utilizes multiple layers of piano which heightens the mood of the track and shows off the Dewit’s talent in construction and thought in the reworking.

“Dualisms #2 (Stijn Hüwels Rework)” is a minimalist musician from Belgium who has appeared on Dauw as well as labels such as Eilean Rec and curates the Slaapwel label. His reworking starts with long slightly discordant drones that sound like treated guitar drones that resonate with an air of, well not decay, but of the process of metal being rusted. There is a slight sharp edge to the top-level drones, while there is a horn like feel to the lower drones. Some sort of staticy field recordings infiltrate the track towards the end. This is quite the most abstract reworking on the album as it appears to have totally reduced the original elements down and reconstituted them in a completely different way.

This album is a success. For the majority of the album the reworkers have been faithful to the original works, but have also added their own touches to create utterly new pieces that work in tandem with the original works. The record comes in an edition of 200 standard copies, with a special edition of 50 copies featuring an additional cassette album “#2 Reworks Addendum” (which contains a collection of B sides, live versions and rarities) and a tote bag. The cassette can also be purchased separately as a digital download only. I recommend getting both this and the original work. Both are quite stunning.