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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Astrïd & Rachel Grimes – Through The Sparkle.

The latest release from Gizeh Records is a collaborative release from French quartet Astrïd and American pianist and former member of Rachel’s, Rachel Grimes. Grimes’ music I am familiar with when she was with Rachel’s, but I haven’t kept up to date with her releases on the likes of Temporary Residence, etc… Astrïd is a group I was familiar only in name with Cyril Secq having a collaborative release with Orla Wren on Dronarivm and three of the members being joined by Sylvain Chauveau as Butterfly in the Snowfall on Home Normal (as well as appearing on the “Elements” series of compilations as Astrïd). Astrïd have previously appeared on the Arbouse Recordings, Monotype and Rune Grammofon labels. They comprise of Vanina Andréani : violin, kalimba, metallophone, Yvan Ros : drums, percussions, Cyril Secq : guitars, harmonium, Juno, Rhodes, bass and Guillaume Wickel : clarinet, bass clarinet, Juno.

The album is the result of mail and email exchange that led to two lots of songwriting in France. Astrïd invited Rachel to come for a residency to make music together and play shows in France. They gathered for a few days, here and there, in 2012 and 2013 to write songs in Cyril and Vanina’s home studio in the countryside.

Gizeh Records describe the record as “The compositions found on Through the Sparkle glow with a unique, connected energy and a pure, instinctive musical understanding. Considered contributions from all sides allow the pieces to unfurl naturally. Each note and phrase feels like it simply couldn’t be placed anywhere else in the album. Charming, gentle and cinematic sounds are found here in abundance. Melodies circle and reveal themselves without force, allowing the listener to focus and explore the depths of what is on offer. Musically, Through the Sparkle is an expansive and evocative album.”

“The Herald en Masse” – Grimes’ piano is the first thing you hear before Violin, Brushed Percussion, Clarinet and other instruments combine to create a track that has elements of the almost Folky / Post Rock sea inspired music of Rachel’s “The Sea and the Bells” and the meandering feel of The Dirty Three (Ros’ brushed percussion also brings to mind Jim White). The elements build up nicely with each occupying their own space giving a feel of an orchestral recording rather than that of five musicians. The piano anchors the track while other elements like guitar and clarinet are able to color the sound and come screeching in or providing more depth.

“M5” – Secq’s tremelo guitar opens the track with long spindly chords that spread outwards before being joined by minimal piano lines and string based drones for the first half of the track with the guitar setting the dark mood. This all changes with briskly played piano with an urgent sound is joined by brushed percussion, kalimba, clarinet and guitar (which has changed from darker mood to a more melodic tone). The Clarinet builds up the melody in mirror like form to the guitar with the percussion keeping the pace with the piano. It is a track where the instruments are in sync with each other.

“The Theme” – Haunting Clarinet and chiming tremelo guitar combine with kalimba, piano, brushed percussion and violin in an almost improv style with the elements colliding at times while at others occupying their own space. It all comes together in the last minute of the track largely led by sparse drums which give the track a direction to go in.

“Mossgrove & Seaweed” – is a track that is purely about building tension between the instruments. What sounds like layering of piano and Rhodes keys hammered that build up on intensity with harmonium coming through and string drones. The instruments keep building to a crescendo where the strings and harmonium alongside the cymbals take over the track before it is paired back to the elements of the start and brings it all back to where it started.

“Hollis” – is the track featured on both Soundcloud and Spotify and it is easy to see why. It starts with a barely audible drone that piano is then added to before swinging jazz-style drumming comes in supported by bass, clarinet, metallophone and kalimba and has a jazz meets post rock and almost trip hop feel. There is a swing to the playing that is under pinned by the great drumming which drives the track along as well as the piano does in the start. The other elements add different textures and color to the track, with the clarinet adding a melodic is slightly melancholic feel.

“M1” – Secq’s prepared sounding guitar opens the track with a melody underneath it presumably from the Juno. The feeling of the guitar is almost Western in sound. As it unfurls the bass clarinet comes into sound and slowly other elements are added like percussion, Rhodes, Piano and the guitar drops out. It builds up after the Rhodes and Piano to become fully formed alt folk piece where the strings take the place that guitar once held and work well in tandem with the clarinet gives two different types of sound – the higher sound of the violin meets the bass tones of clarinet.

“Le Petit Salon” – is a stunning piece of cinematic music with mournful violin strings cutting above piano with a haunting feeling that would be well placed in a period movie about loss. Other instruments start to fill out the sound like bass clarinet and harmonium, prepared guitar playing screeches and off kilter urgent ramshackle drumming careens around. The extra instruments give the piece weight but don’t over power the two main instruments and the overall theme of the track.

The playing and compositions of this album give you the feeling of a long-standing band, not a band and a collaborator. The way Astrïd and Grimes fuse together is so seamless with each others influences forming together to create something their own. Elements of Grimes’ sounds developed in Rachel’s come through and fit nicely within the Astrïd framework to provide an enjoyable and cohesive piece of work. The label describes it perfectly : “Through the Sparkle is a record of miniature symphonies, of elegant restraint. A gracious and generous offering from a group of musicians at one with each other and at the top of their game.”

You can buy the album here.

Astrïd

Rachel Grimes

Gizeh Records

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.

Giulio Fagiolini – Dietro a un vetro.

Over the eight years and almost 103 releases, the Home Normal catalog has released a variety of music genres that are vaguely under the ambient umbrella. One related form that has not seen a lot of action on the label is solo Modern Classical. With the exception of Stefano Guzzetti and the first release on the label by Library Tapes, Modern Classical has not seen a footing until now with this release from Giulio Fagiolini.

According to label boss Ian Hawgood “most modern piano ‘music’ leaves me (personally) a bit cold and detached. I generally feel there is a huge lack of soul in the music.” Giulio’s album arrived when Ian was engineering a bunch of Noise artists and needed something calm to listen to. What Ian also needed was an entry point or reference and his reference for this album is the work for Studio Ghibli by Joe Hisaishi (aka Mamoru Fujisawa).

As Ian states “The music is so simple, so direct, and just so childlike, it imbues the films with a certain old-world (or at least, not of this modern world anyway) innocence. The line between sickly-sweet and this is very fine indeed, but Joe Hisaishi always matches the mood and gets just the right amount of innocence in such a beautifully restrained way. To say the music of Giulio Fagiolini strongly left me with the same feeling as Hisaishi-san’s music, says as much as you need to know.” For an overview of Hisaishi’s work check out the Pitchfork feature here.

“Libello nell’ aria” (“Libra in the air”) opens the album with a muted playful piano piece that is slow-paced, minimal and not overly melancholic as some solo piano can be. The recording is not stark and has a warm edge to it. The music fuses high lighter notes with darker bass notes using them in tandem and then combining them. The lighter notes have a melodic almost whimsical feel to them, while the bass notes give the track depth.

“Vivere allo stato liquid” (“Live in the liquid state”) the first thing I think of when listening to this is that it reminds me of German/British Pianist/Composer Max Richter and it would fit perfectly on an album of his such as “Infra”. It is large-scale Modern Classical solo piano that is gently paced and registered in lower keys that builds up a more frantic motif in juxtaposition to the original introductory section. After a brief burst it returns to the more sedate speed and then starts up the layered section once more, this time adding a melodic section on top. The feeling for this sort of track is one for soundtrack using the piece alongside some drone or Go-pro footage taken high in the sky.

“Mentre nuoti” (“While Swimming”) there is something romantic going on with the recording. There is a distance to the recording in where it doesn’t sound right on top of the listener. You get a sense that Giulio is quietly in control of his playing and there is no need to rush, just letting the music flow. There are moments of minimal pace at the beginning and at the end. The pace starts picking up, but with a relaxed gentleness as the sections flow together. It is almost bittersweet as well, as if it’s about lost love.

“Magneti” (“Magnets”) the feel of this piece to me, feels of regret. The chords feel like that are well thought out and chosen with the utmost care and to relate the feeling that they will convey. Much like the tone to the rest of the tracks, the piano with its minor reverberation gives a warmth and melody that comes across earnestly.

“Dietro a un vetro” (“Behind a Glass”) sees a similar style to that of “Vivere allo stato liquid” where the chords are quite strident and epic. While other tracks you feel that Guilio is gently caressing the keys, you get the feeling this time around that his playing has more urgency and drive to it. This is best illustrated in the runs of keys that pick up speed that are paired with the slowly caressing style to emphasize the urgency and epicness of the piece.

“L’attesa” (“The Wait”) we return to the romantic modern classical style exhibited previously on “Mentre nuoti” where the opening section sets the tone and provides a hook or anchor for the track to return to. The pace is slow and minimal with use of light and heavier playing of the keys that help build up the mood and in a way at the end with the final section gives it a sort of resigned feel of something that is over.

“Suprema” (“Supreme”) sees a more strident opening and an initially different feel of recording, a bit more intimate, like you are in the room. This is a slight ominous feeling of dread mixed with equal portions of hope and resignation. After a brief section of silence the tone and playing of the piano change to a more quieter one before the hope briefly comes in an a melodic section before the strident playing (even more so than at the beginning) returns and leads the track back to the grounds of resignation once more.

“Dietro a un vetro” is quite a stunning record especially as debut’s go. There is a great range of material and the fact that Giulio shows great restraint in his playing shows that he is in total control. The field of Modern Classical solo piano is one that is full to the brim, but Giulio easily adds to the field without it being simply ‘another piano album’. Totally recommended.

Alaskan Tapes – In Distance We’re Losing.

I have to admit being unaware of Brady Kendall aka Alaskan Tapes. For whatever reason his name has not come across my radar. Over the years he has released a series of singles and three self released vinyl lps, the latest being “In Distance We’re Losing” which came out on August 10 in an edition of 100 clear vinyl and 50 Digipak CD copies (alongside Digital).

According to the press release “In Distance We’re Losing shows the fragile, and isolated side to Alaskan Tapes’ music. Focusing on evolving layers of instrumentation throughout long pieces, showcasing the textures of cello played by Raphael Weinroth-Browne, minimal guitar melodies, as well as incorporating vocals from Jay Rodger and Chantal Ouellette, In Distance We’re Losing combines the intricate melodic elements of modern classical composition, with the classic ambient techniques Alaskan Tapes’ is known for.”

I have a soft spot for artists who don’t rely on someone else to release their music. It shows in their dedication to what they are doing with their art and also in their belief in themselves. The album was prefaced by two single releases in “Maybe (feat. Jay Rodger)” and “Blue, In Script ” alongside a video for the former.

The album starts with the before mentioned “Maybe (feat. Jay Rodger)” which combines London-based Rodger’s double tracked vocals alongside plaintive piano. Normally vocals are not my thing, but Rodger has a great voice and one that is probably suited for a mainstream audience such as its quality. The piano leads into an ambient section which combines gritty static alongside drones, guitar and Rodger’s harmonizing vocals before the piano returns to the fold. An impressive start to the record.

“Paths” starts with a slow drone that evolves and sounds like some sort of squeezebox/bagpipe, but is more likely Weinroth-Browne’s cello which is slowly played and stretched out to a long drone and manipulated and layered alongside subtle guitar playing that takes more of a lead in the second half of the track to which it becomes the more dominant motif as the drones retreat further in the mix.

“In Distance We’re Losing” the title track combines Field Recordings that evoke a port or central city area while a squall like sound with static like glitches alongside Kendal’s Post Rock like guitar and swathes of ambient synths. The elements fuse together smoothly with the guitars being layered to give texture and rhythm and the ambience to give light. As the track continues the balance of elements changes to the point where the field recordings dominate to a point of almost noise.

“Blue, In Script” centers around minimalist piano while spindly drones and forlorn cello form the base for ethereal vocals by Heather Mcalendin to float above. The majority of elements drop out to reveal a short guitar section that was largely hidden before the piano takes center stage, until dark ambience like an impending storm with the occasional bird chatter and loops sees a return of the guitar lines alongside piano played in a choppy style. In the almost six and half-minute duration there is a lot of sonic territory is covered.

“Hours (feat. Chantal)” static, field recordings, drones and (presumably) the voice of Chantal Ouellette open this track before Eno-esque ambience, chiming guitars and cello come together with the cello taking center stage as the vocals get swallowed up in the mix only to fight back to front and center. The sound then becomes uncluttered with the guitars playing alongside Ouellette’s harmonies as for the first time on the record beats enter the fold alongside field recordings and male harmony vocals (possibly Kendall himself?) to a point where the phrase “This Can’t be the End” is repeated. The field recordings which appear to be manipulated water sounds build up in volume and lead into the intro for “We’re the Only Ones Here” which also uses the distorted/manipulated field recordings alongside before contemplative guitar is joined by short sections of looped distant percussion, bass guitar and drones which threaten to turn into a full-on post rock track only to subside to focus on the bass and field recordings. If this had become a full-on track in the direction it (in my opinion) looked to be heading it would have worked very well.

“Because Finally It’s Everything” spindly guitar based drones coalesce and grow with additional drones from cello fusing with haunting ghost like recordings to form a grand modern classical drone track. The recordings of the cello (made by Kendall) are vibrant and are layered over the other elements in way that brings them to the fore without drowning out the other elements. With the final two minutes returning to a quieter tone, it gives a sense of melancholy or despair as slightly muted piano comes in giving the track an extra emotional feel to it, which is similar to that of the cello.

“Tomorrow’s Song” found sound like field recordings of things being moved, taken away are joined by two drones in with different timbres that are joined by a third. They grow in intensity slowly building up, oscillating while the distant field recordings creak and clang. The drones disappear with one and a half minutes left to go and the shuffling of things, the moving around a room, openings doors continues with accompaniment of muted piano.

When artists make albums sometimes they can end up with material that is very familiar sounding to each track. With this album Alaskan Tapes has used a variety of different sounds and subsequently there is enough of a difference to each track so that it doesn’t fall into the ‘samey’ category (although sometimes there can be a slight over reliance on the same sort of drones). Kendall has followed the goals set out in the press release of evolving layers and showcasing the various vocalists and the cellist. It would be interesting to see more of the guitar and beats enter the mix (ala Lowercase Noises) as combined with the ambience, the piano and cello I think they would complement Alaskan Tapes’ music. Overall an enjoyable release with credit going to Kendall, the guest artists and the fabulous mastering from the ever-present Taylor Deupree.