Ben Rath – Black Heart Music.

It is a little hard to review Eilean Rec releases. Such is the demand for the music they put out and the limited edition nature (this particular release was limited to 130 copies) that they regularly sell out in pre-order. You may find them at Stashed Goods or Experimedia, but on the whole the physical editions are long gone.

“Ben Rath is an amateur musician currently based in Manchester, UK. He makes experimental, ambient music using original recordings of guitar, keyboard and piano, as well as samples and field recordings. He has been recording and releasing music through a variety of labels since 2014 and has also released a short EP of improvised acoustic guitar tracks under the name Slow Heart Music in 2017”.
Ben Rath has been building up a catalog via a series of great labels such as Triple Moon, Cathedral Transmissions, Unknown Tone and now Eilean Rec.

His “Black Heart Music” album contains ten tracks of differing material such as the ghostly and noisy opener “I see you demon” with its icy electronics, howling wind like drones and slightly ominous electronics that are joined by an organ like drones, field recordings and what sounds like a guitar quartet to the scratchy field recordings, drones and almost classical guitar of “Hidden Contract” which has a drone meets acoustic post rock meets orchestral drone feel to it.

“Devotion” takes the listener on a loop based psychedelic electronic drone journey while the follow-up “Reasonable Doubt” sees acoustic guitar return to the fore with a hypnotic disjointed loop feel and a whistling drone gradually building to hold a similar degree of attention in the track, complimenting the guitar playing.

“Know thy Shadow” is a pure drone piece with an orchestral choral feel to it which makes it quite haunting. There is a shuffling feel before darker pulsing elements take over with flashes of electronics which altogether give a wide-screen feel to the sound. “Boiling Point” has pulsing static covered electronics that have a drill like quality with orchestral probes which sound like a bed of church organs. As the title suggests, the music builds up with a fractured cut up selection of electronics and sound to build a frantic base for the organs to sit upon. As the track finishes up the elements start to drop out with a static off-kilter buzz taking the piece to silence.

“Winter Blues” has looped samples and submerged drones with distortion. Such is the distance felt in the recording, the drones feel buried underneath the samples and it gives a claustrophobic feel to the track.

“The Devil in Disguise” opens with slightly shimmering drones that are layered and occupy different levels on the sound palate. There is no need for urgency, but they are not stationery in any way. The build slowly and swirl around. Field recordings of an unknown nature scatter about and a glacial drone joins the fray as these two elements become dominant before a heavier drone that slowly varies in pitch takes over.

“Hesitation” looped cut up drone elements with a slight chugging feel are joined by a spindly guitar style drone and a fog horn sounding one. A melodic element takes its place and initially it is buried in the mix, but starts taking prominence in piece.

“Visit to the other side” starts with a looped distortion drone that throbs while a granular and a bowed like haunting element joins in. The haunting element has a ghostly sing-song feel to it with an orchestral like touch. The medic ebbs sad flows, but probably needs another element to complete it.

With “Black Heart Music” Rath shows he can create wide-screen music with impressive elements and the like of “Reasonable Doubt” show he is heading in the right direction. I look forward to seeing where he can next take his music.

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Ljerke – Ljerke.

The first Eilean Rec release for the new year may just be their most ambitious one yet. The debut album by Ljerke, a collective of like minds artists comes as a multi media package with a DVD included that is a visual realization of the album from Netherlands and Icelandic artists Marco Douma + Haraldur Karlsson.

“Ljerke is a multidisciplinary live project which took form in the Frisian landscape as as source of inspiration. (which on a tourist website is described as “as Dutch as it gets. Blue skies with impressive cloudscapes. Vast meadows, in which cows graze amid narrow ditches. Sheep dotting an old dike with a village church on a hillock in the distance”). The project includes some music artists from Netherlands (Romke Kleefstra on guitar and effects, Jan Kleefstra on poetry and voice, Sytze Pruiksma on percussion, dulcimer and guitar with effects ) and Norway (Alexander Rishaug on electronics, Hilde Marie Holsen on trumpet and effects, Michael Duch on contrabass) completed with the video artists Marco Douma (NL) and Haraldur Karlsson from Iceland. A new project of live impro music, poetry and film, in the same context of former projects as Seeljocht (Piiptsjilling) and Skeylja (The Alvaret Ensemble).”

“Muurv” which translates to the project umber three can mean a variety of things. From wisdom, harmony and understanding to the number of time; beginning, middle and end, birth, life, death, past and present and death. The track opens with what sounds like a bass drum beaten (but could be the contrabass), before scattered electronics, manipulated guitar recordings, drones and fragments of sound are joined by the narration / poetry of Jan Kleefstra. Sounding like a pure electroacoustic piece that seems in a way a collage work, with the intention, I think, to create a sense of unease. There is no real consistent structure. Sounds enter and leave, quiet-ish narration and warped parts like guitar, that depart as quickly as they arrived. In the last-minute and a half the track goes as conventional as it will with feverish guitar and contrabass being strummed quickly building up a rhythm while also sounding quite random in their playing. As there is sparseness to the track it is hard to discern what is going on, but it hints at the direction the music will take over the album.

“Tsjilland” starts with a distant explosion like beat alongside scorching electronics and trumpet. The trumpet has a touch of melancholy alongside the metallic sounding electronics that have an electrical storm quality about them. Contrabass, scratches of guitar and dulcimer give a more noisy sound scape. The press release mentions the “Frision Landscape” as a source of inspiration, but for me this is like an alien transmission. Unless that particular landcsape is still, but with a sense of menace or unease to it, then I don’t get the influence. That said, it is not my environment, so that could be my lack of recognizing the influence. A large part of this alien feel is the electronics, which are early Mego-esque with their feel of splattering sounds. The contrabass lends a more mournful tone, along with the fast strumming of what sounds similar to violin, but possibly manipulated guitar, gives it a certain, dare I say, structure to the piece. Again, towards the end the track starts to take more of a shape than the preceding six plus minutes.

“Waarbekkasin” low contrabass rumbles with a Godflesh like intensity are joined by a squall of stormy noise before a high guitar drone and Kleeftra’s narration enters the picture.A metallic noisey drone is introduced before it departs almost as quickly as it entered. The sound of the track is cloaked in a fog, but you can sense elements building up which they start doing four minutes into the piece with what sounds like bells, but probably dulcimer ushering in the next phase which has the contrabass quickly strummed, guitar lines rippling out, bass drum beats and electronics adding to the mix. the final section is the most musical with the dulcimer giving the brightest shade to a predominantly dark piece.

“Skiermunk” begins rather subdued with a pulsing sound with smatterings of percussion, static, low-frequency electronics, trumpet, guitar manipulations building a subterranean soundtrack of fractured music. a bit like musical detritus in that the parts seems to decay in your ears. As the notes say mixed and edited by Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) you are not sure if this is one combined improv piece of one that has been edited or constructed together. You get elements of Jazz Fusion meets Mego fuckery meets out-and-out electroacoustic experimentalism.

“Hettekobe” droning contrabass sounding didgeridoo like welcomes the listener with its manipulated deep low playing and scraping. Bells and Kleeftra’s narration enter alongside a swirling drone. The contrabass disappears to leave the drones alongside trumpet and table top electronics changing the texture of the track to a slightly lighter one before bashing percussion takes the piece into a third section which the percussion and trumpet lead the way. The Contrabass and electronics return alongside a searing drone, more percussion, trumpet and guitar manipulation to create an almost impenetrable wall of sound that swarms tp the tracks completion and crashes like a wave.

“Skjegfuggl” looping distant trumpet, long presumably guitar drones fuse together with electronics entering the fray and low bashed guitar creating a jazzy soundtrack-esque piece of noir which adds an extra level of noir with Kleeftra’s poetry narration. The music changes more to a drone piece, but not a traditional one as you would usually expect, but one that has a definite more experimental approach to it. Elements come across, enter and disappear, flash in and out and probably is the most controlled piece of the album.

The album was recorded as part of a tour in  November 2016 at the Landscape studio te Gauw, recorded by Jan Switters and later mastered by Norwegian Noise legend Lasse Marhaug. The recording is clear and there is enough space for the instruments to occupy various levels of the sound scape and be audible at any level. That said, If I am being honest, I probably wouldn’t listen to this a lot. This is primarily my desire for more structure and less improvisation. Improvised music relies largely on flashes of brilliance, while a more constructed piece can work more on building mood, texture, rhythms as the musicians are on the same page. With improvised music the musicians are in a way reacting to each other, so there is more chance encounters at something different as opposed to constructing something in a singular fashion. That said, if improv is your thing, this may be for you.

 

 

2017 : Twenty of the Best List.

 

TWENTY GREAT RELEASES OF 2017

I have to admit a sense of dread in compiling this list. These lists can be seen as from arbiters of taste and start well before the year ends. Sometimes it seems in competition to be the first to decree which album/label etc to be the finest of the year. I am not an arbiter of taste at all by any stretch of the imagination. This is a simple list of twenty releases I liked this year. There is no ranking, no breakdown into genres or sub groups (sorry, no best Winter albums as well, it’s not winter everywhere). Just a plain old list. My apologies go to those that had sent across material that has yet to be reviewed, but I endeavor to review them all. There is a supplementary list of three re-issues that also caught my attention this year. Without further ado and in no particular order….

 

Lorenzo Masotto “Aeloian Preocesses” (Dronarivm)

“Although I have not heard Masotto’s two previous releases and cannot compare this release to them (nor ascertain if the music matches the title of the album), what is striking is the use of electronic elements and instrumentation that compliment the solo piano. Such is the skill that this could sit comfortably in the Erased Tapes catalog.”

Toàn “Histós Lusis” (Eilean Rec)

“The album has a feel of a well crafted cinematic mix of elements like every single structure, instrument and style was carefully thought out and executed well. This is not an album rushed or one to rush through. The pace of the album is very gentle and it flows smoothly.”

Emilìa “Down To The Sadness River” (Rottenman Editions)

“Yi and Peh construct the album using only bowed guitar and piano to stunning effect. Recently I have been listening to music composed with lots of different elements and instruments, so it is quite a refreshing change to listen to something constructed with such few instruments that is so rich in sound.”

Giulio Fagiolini “Dietro a un Vetro” (Home Normal)

““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.”

The Green Kingdom “The North Wind and Sun” (Lost Tribe Sound)

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

Francesca Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci “Reframing” (Eilean Rec)

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

Sontag Shogun and Moskitoo “The Things We Let Fall Apart” (Home Normal)

“On this single Sontag Shogun and Moskitoo have ably demonstrated how to collaborate. The way they have been able to fuse their music together and construct it results in an enjoyable listen. Hopefully this is not the only collaboration that the four of them come up with. Totally Recommended.”

From The Mouth Of The Sun “Hymn Binding” (Lost Tribe Sound)

“From The Mouth Of The Sun have delivered a stunning album and have carried on Lost Tribe Sound’s outstanding the Prelude to the Decline series. They show how to make deeply textured music seem effortless and reward the listener with an album to enjoy endlessly. Totally recommended.”

Roberto Attanasio “Behind Those Eyes I Rest” (1631 Recordings)

“As Roberto mentioned in our email exchange in regards to his method of writing /recording his music “The only thing I had to do was transcribe I had in mind, and that was incredible because what you listen to is exactly the song I played in my mind. I didn’t do any change respect to my music thoughts and maybe this is the beauty of the Ep : spontaneous and intimate.”

I think the last word of that quote best sums it up this Ep and the recording style of it. – intimate.”

Bruno Sanfilippo “Lost And Found” (AD21music)

““Lost & Found” sees a collection of material from a wide span of time be collected to form a cohesive album. Some work better than others, my personal preference would be “Soltario” to be shorter, but the album is an enjoyable listen for people looking for more than just a solo piano album.”

Crisopa “Transhumante” (Sound in Silence)

“There are no standouts on the album for me. That is because it is consistently good. There are elements that appear several times over (like the affected vocals) which can make the music a bit samey, but that can attributed to a fair amount artists. What Lizón has created here is an enjoyable, bright listen. It’s the aural equivalent of opening the curtains and letting the light shine in. If you like the artist references at the start of the review, then you will enjoy this album.”

Aidan Baker/ Thor Harris/ Simon Goff “No Place” (Gizeh)

“It is quite amazing to think that this was recorded in a short period of time on one day, edited and re-assembled and then some six months later sounding like a fully formed album from an established group. Aiden Baker, Simon Goff and Thor Harris have produced a very enjoyable, rich album that thanks to Gizeh Records we are able to appreciate.”

Adrian Lane “Playing With Ghosts” (Preserved Sound)

“To say he has achieved something jaw dropping is an understatement. Any concern you have of it being derivative of The Caretaker are easily forgotten.A special mention should go to his collaborators especially Bryan Styles’ Clarinet, which helps formulate many of the albums tracks. This album was released on August 18 in an edition of 150 copies, I urge you to check it out.”

Ghost and Tape “Var” (Home Normal)

“Over the course of four albums in seven years, with the others appearing on Schole  and Slaapwel as well as Ep’s on Rural Colours and Hibernate, Heine Christensen has created his own place in the ambient scene with his thought out minimalistic, micro glitches and melodic tones. Expertly mastered by the former experimental grindcore practitioner Plotkin, “Vár” is a trip down the sun soaked dappled miniatures of Ghost and Tape and lives up to both his history and that of Home Normal’s class of 2017. Recommended.”

Jason van Wyk “Opacity” (Home Normal)

““Opacity” refers to the lacking of transparency or translucency which can be compared to the pieces on the album where there are multiple elements. One of the synonyms of Opacity is haziness which can be occasionally heard in tracks like “Clouds” and the beginning of “For Now” for example. For “Opacity” van Wyk has taken on some of the elements of “Attachment” added some from his previous work and taken it further. The shorter pieces that come across as Soundtrack-esque is a something that would be interesting to see van Wyk detour into as I think he would pull it off with aplomb. A mention should be made of the cello and violin of Brittany Dilkes, Gavin Clayton and Lynn Donson for their important contributions to the album. Recommended.”

Polaroid Notes “Unsung Memories” (Whitelab Rec)

“A thoroughly enjoy album from someone who would easily craft a great soundtrack in the future.”

The Prairie Lines “Eyes Down Slowdown” (Whitelab Rec)

“A thoroughly enjoyable release especially if you like your ambience coated in thick haze with layers to peel back and investigate.”

Astrïd & Rachel Grimes “Through The Sparkle” (Gizeh)

“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.””

Dominique Charpentier “Esquisses” (Self released)

“It would be easy to see this ep as something more than it is. It could easily be part of a soundtrack to a feature film. The length of the tracks are perfect and make great little vignettes. For an artist that is used to being self released, he could easily slot into the roster of say 1631 Recordings.”

Totally Recommended.

Akira Kosemura  “In The Dark Woods” (Schole)

“Throughout the album Kosemura has demonstrated why he has such a following. For some a strictly solo piano album could be too much of a same thing, but for Kosemura he knows how to construct an album that can sound familiar but you look back to the other tracks you cannot pin point which track it is. Naturally with a genre like Modern Classical /Solo piano that is fast becoming a saturated one, it helps to be a great composer and this is what Kosemura has on his side. Add to the fact that Kosemura doesn’t just rely on Piano and you have an artist that sustains the listeners interest and keeps them engaged.”

 

THREE GREAT RE-ISSUES OF 2017

 

Vargkvint “Brus” (Soft Recordings)

“It is fairly easy to see why Soft re-issued this and fits in well with their stable of releases that have included Darren Harper, Kate Carr, EUS and of course Linear Bells. This release is just simply one of those that come along and captivate you from the start and you hope that more than a limited audience gets to experience it.”

William Ryan Fritch “The Sum Of The Parts” (Lost Tribe Sound)

“Throughout these albums Fritch shows his musical chops in the form of composer, musician and recorder. His strength lies in his ability to construct multi layered pieces with an attention to, structure and how the instruments work together. If I were to chose between these two albums Would pick “The Sum of the Parts” purely because my taste leans more to the cinematic feel than the more rustic Alt-Folk that his is familiar with. However, both albums are recommended.”

Jakob Lindhagan “Skorheten” (1631 Recordings)

“Overall this is an impressive album with miniatures that would be great if expanded. It shows of Lindhagen’s talent and flexibility and a composer to use different elements to the tracks so it’s not a case of “same same”. I look forward to what he brings us on his next release. Totally recommended.”

Cicely Irvine – Excavation.

The latest Eilean Rec release (the 60th) comes from new artist Cicely Irvine called “Excavation”. Irvine (b. 1990) is a musician and sound artist based in Stockholm, Sweden. She has been making music and sound design for film, radio and performance art. “Excavation” is her debut release and the recordings were made between 2007 and 2017.

With such a broad time for the completion of the album you would be thinking that it would be a compilation and with the difference in the material it could lead you to different points in the decade of its genesis. However, as a reviewer you don’t know the age of the individual recordings nor their autobiographical meanings (if indeed they are there).

“Bow” is the opener with oscillating drones, field recordings, beats, haunting vocals which are built-in harmony with each other and give a dream like feel to the music.

“Sans” long drones punctuated by the glockenspiel giving glitch like sound is accompanied by the musical saw and melodica. Unfortunately it doesn’t really go anywhere, which is a shame.

“Hjärtat” (translates to “Heart”) industrial like heart beats welcome drones, presumably from pump organ alongside minor field recordings. Much like the previous track, this is more of a sketch or intro for a full piece.

“Come Around” features Irvine’s layered vocals over a buzzing drone section which ebbs and flows, but towards the end the vocals start to manipulated to glitching alongside synths as if they are spluttering, before drones bring the decay to the end.

“Eftertanken” (After the Tank) sees the introduction of minimal piano, which is probably the first track that give you the feel of the recording locations (in bedroom studios in Gotthenburg and Stockholm).

“Organ” sees the pump organ front and central. The tones generated and the relaxed pace of the music work well together and give a feeling of rebirth.

“Takten” (“The Pace”) sees Irvine demonstrate her virtuosity on guitar with a frantic section layered over the original section which has a more picked feeling. After a brief interlude the piece changes in tone and intensity and becomes almost a facsimile of itself.

“The Deer” sees slow acoustic guitar gentle pickings matched with field recordings of squalls and Irvine’s vocals, bells and drones combining in a rich sounding track.

“Genom Skogen” (“Through the Forest”) is a whimsical piece of childlike melodies of backwards loops, field recordings, pump organ, bells. Together they give an almost nursery rhyme like feel that has both innocence and a slight sinister touch.

“Heavy” affected vocal loops, field recordings, fog like drones, bells, bass thumps come together in a loop based piece that has a sound collage effect.

“Natt” (“Night”) glitchy bells with sound effects and musical of ox sounds acts as an intro of sorts for “Slutet” (“End”) which has a bell-like sound from the glockenspiel as well as long drones, field recordings of wind, distant guitar. The slow drones combine with the field recordings to give a feeling of loneliness, while the snatches of guitar sound like transmissions from a broken radio.

“Right” sees percussive guitar beating with a rippling rhythm that sounds like cassette tape that has been chewed out rewound and replayed resulting in a warped sound.

“4.38 AM” multilayered vocals each with different melodies start of this track with drones bringing in light before the vocals return over scraping field recordings and bird song as if she is welcoming in the morning and the sun is starting to rise.

“Ljudland” drones that sound like a rusty gate screaming as it is opened are joined by what sounds like melodica which has a long breathy drones, field recordings of water and bird song which lead the track out.

“Your Eyes” drones and then beats with cut up Synth sections make this the most electronica track. Synth drones buzz in and our, bell-like loops provide a counterpoint to this beats, which increase with intensity before retreating to a Dubby section. The Dubby section leads to the end and as it reaches its end the beats have a static noise feel.

I have read a couple of very positive reviews for this release, but I am not hearing what others are. There are elements that work, but the overall feeling I have of the release is one of confusion. You are not sure what sort of album you are listening to and the feeling is of sketches that are not fully fleshed out. Tracks like “Bow”, “Cone Around” and “Your Eyes” work well, while some other don’t. I think if the ideas for the pieces be more focused and narrowed down, then the future shows some promise.

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.

Francesco Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci – Reframing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josco & Spheruleus – Folded Distance.

If you are a fan of Ambient/Drone (you probably wouldn’t be here if you weren’t) the name Harry Towell would be one you were quite familiar with. Harry records as Spheruleus (and also Magnofon) and has appeared on labels such as Home Normal, Hibernate, Analogpath and Time Released Sound to name a few. He also runs the Audio Gourmet, Tessellate, Whitelabrecs and Warehouse Decay labels and started the Irregular Crates blog/label.

Josco (aka Gerard McDermott) is a writer, photographer, curator and sound designer from the Republic of Ireland. He is currently based in China. He has previously released on the Somehow Recordings label and has created compilations devoted to Irish music.

“Folded Distance” which was recorded between March 2011 to March 2016 “is a record about travel, but it is also about staying where you are and staying where you feel you belong. One of us moved around a lot and the other stayed relatively still; although we were geographically separated, we could communicate instantly across the incredible land mass between us -the more we set about weaving Josco’s drones and the exotic sounds of Asia with the sleepy rustic fields of Lincolnshire and Spheruleus’ instruments, the more the concept of “Folding Distance” became apparent to us, and the more it became realised by us.” The album was influenced by distance and the artists ability to communicate and collaborate weaving their sound recordings (from Turkey, Ireland, UK, Morocco and Thailand) to their own experiences. The album was mastered by Home Normal boss Ian Hawgood.

“Samila” presumably influenced by the beach in Thailand opens with the squall of a storm with static billowing and wind like drones that emerge from the dying storm. The drones are layered giving different tones and are looped with an almost exhaling like sound. The field recordings of the environment return as the storm/wind pans from side to side with granular sound before acoustic guitar comes in gives the track a different feel, one of contemplation. By the end of the track the ebbing storm has taken over and it fades to silence.

“Kilis” presumably after the small town on the Turkey / Syria border features acoustic guitar over field recordings of conversations (possibly workers at a market?) while Synth drones soar above and below. The elements pan from side to side with the occasional field recorded music entering the mix. The drones dominate the track but don’t convey the tortured recent and past history of the place. That said there is a mournful quality to them.

“Tungsao” containing field recordings of the market place of the same name is an environmental sounding drone piece, with wind like drones that are cut up, utilization of field recordings to form sounds, recorded traditional percussion, delicate piano, cooking sounds like glitches all thrown into the mix. You get the feeling of something similar to the Freeform albums that came out on the Quartermass label back in 2001/2, like this piece is an audio diary to a specific experience.

“Praterstern” named after a station on the line U1 and line U2 of the Vienna U-bahn is the noisiest track on the album thus far. Opening with low-frequency noises, static, some sort of indefinable noise like things being dragged (but with effects), vinyl crackle, short intertwined drones, a very low bass noises and electronic rubble noises.

“Kru Ze” the longest track on the album starts of with what sounds like an airplane getting ready to take off, joined by sounds of decay, electronic bells, guitar like feedback drones, static dissonance, jarring drone. But while there is a darker element to the track, it is not too bleak.

“Solva” a fishing town is on the lower west coast of Wales and this track is a welcome respite to the ferocity of “Kru Ze”. It contains looped vocal drones alongside traditional ones. There is almost warped pastoral feel, like if a piano accordion that was broken was being played in short bursts of sound. As the track progresses there is a wash of noisier environmental degradation with the looped vocal being the counterpoint to the growing storm and clattering noises.

This album is different to one that I was expecting. I was expecting a rather straight forward pairing of two distinct sound sources in a more ambient fashion. What we get is a more environmentally born album that is open to the interpretation of each listener. There is a lot of depth to the tracks and the density is apparent. For listeners who prefer the noisier end of the Ambient/Drone spectrum.