Category: Album/EP Reviews


Savaran brings together a collection of ten new tracks recorded between 2012 – 2014 for the album The Spaces In Between. This is his first full album release on the Ember Music label although previous tracks have been included on the compilation Ember Music Vol.1, on Ember Music mixcasts and in collaborative works with other Ember Music artists including Slaphappy Mortician and TraiSkin.

The album has dual layers of meaning that intertwine. On the one hand this is a personal interpretation of daily interactions with sounds heard and unheard that are fused with processed digital, analog and modular electronics. On the other hand the music reflects the artists emotional response to unfolding events taking place worldwide as a result of the 2008 recession, the rise of religious fundamentalism, the dramatic effects of climate change and the disconnection of humans from nature. Sound and emotion both combine on this album at the spaces in between.

Cover photography by: Mark Walters

All tracks produced, mixed and mastered by: Mark Walters

Acknowledgements: Luftrum for field recorded sounds on Glade, Kurt Lorenz at Ember Music

Ember Music – EMBRlp007

Released 01 September 2014

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There are 19 tracks of superb remixes here by a phenomenal lineup of artists including Fieldhead, Bryan Ruhe, Loscil, The Remote Viewer, Field Rotation, Pioulard himself, William Ryan Fritch, Graveyard Tapes, Part Timer, and Cock & Swan,  to name but a few. The original Hymnal by Benoit Pioulard was released on the Kranky label and was influenced by religious architecture in the UK and Europe. The remixes hold the reverential tone of the original, but also take it in a dizzying array of new directions. The first CD fuses Pioulard’s delicate vocalizations into most of the tracks while the second CD takes a more instrumental path through the  vaulted aisles of the original.

This is definitely going to be one of my most played albums this year and has already seen lots of rotation.  Highly recommended !

I’ve caught snatches of Bryan Ruhe’s work on various remixes and compilations, but somehow overlooked his full releases until now. Easing was released in January last year on the excellent Cotton Goods label run by Craig Tattersall  (more on that label here http://tape-dust.tumblr.com/cottongoods ). The album sold out fast, but fortunately you can download the digital album on Bryan’s bandcamp page below. Granular synthesis can produce some harsh and jarring sounds in the wrong hands, but the manipulation of real world sounds and acoustic instruments on this album is a lesson in subtlety and the art of patient sound creation. Reality is processed into grains that reform here into expansive, shimmering drones accompanied by fluttering and panning guitar, piano notes, gossamer light hiss and deep distorted churn. Everything is fractured, gauzy and dreamlike, but perfectly realized into a pleasing whole.

Do check out more of Bryan’s work here http://worksbyruhe.net/ and the products of his own label, Clothbound, here http://clothbound.net/

Some new experimental pieces created by Jonathan Siemasko aka Schemawound from Naugatuck, USA. These tracks were originally produced for the Disquiet Junto communal group of artists on Soundcloud http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/ Schemawound’s work explores generative processes with the aid of Supercollider http://supercollider.sourceforge.net/ and these tracks cover output in the ambient, drone, experimental areas of music. He often releases the code for his projects which can be used in your own Supercollider projects and frequently invites people to re-work his pieces.

More on Schemawound and his earlier releases here : http://schemawound.com/releases

Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/Schemawound?ref=hl

Soundcloud:  http://soundcloud.com/schemawound

 

Well I seem to be one of the last people to post up their “Best of..” list this year, largely due to a hugely enjoyable two week holiday in Cornwall where there was no internet, TV or mobile signal, but plenty of rain and wind ! This list just reflects those albums I played the most throughout the year and is in no particular order. OK here we go….

belowsealevel

1. Simon Scott: Below Sea Level

Often described by reviewers as a hymn to the fens and I would have to agree with that.  Field recordings from fenland locations blend seamlessly on this album with hints of melodic guitar and drone ambience. Do get the accompanying booklet in the deluxe edition from 12k if you can as it adds hugely to the context of the recordings and includes site sketches and photographs together with a digital download of a live venue recording  http://shop.12k.com/products/500470-simon-scott-below-sea-level

mariellevjakobsonsglasscanyon

2. Marielle V. Jakobsons: Glass Canyon

Marielle is one half of the Oakland based duo Myrmyr (with Agnes Szelag) whose recent albums The Amber Sea (Digitalis) and Fire Star (Under the Spire) are also well worth picking up. On this solo album Marielle explores the meeting of timbres between violin and various synthesizers and its a great combination of sounds ! http://experimedia.net/index.php?main_page=product_music_info&cPath=578&products_id=5771

Hanetration

3. Hanetration: Tenth Oar

This anonymous EP was sent in for review at the start of the year and really took me by surprise. Hanetration describes his music as “ambient soundscapes, woozy atmospherics and glitchy sound collages – music for headphones”. With leanings toward the slurtronic vocalisms of Kemper Norton and a nod toward the hauntological scene this is a really interesting listen. This was followed up by a second EP, Torn Heat, in August. Both EP’s are free to download on Bandcamp here http://hanetration.bandcamp.com/

htda

4. How To Destroy Angels: An Omen EP

More inventive tracks derived from some distinctly quirky instruments (watch the “Ice Age” video) with a subtle hint of electronic tension and unease throughout from Trent Reznor, Mariqueen Maandig, Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan http://store.destroyangels.com/

 

carn

5. Kemper Norton: Carn 1

My most recent discovery of 2012 thanks to an article in The Wire magazine on the electronic music scene in the south west of England http://thewire.co.uk/archive/artists/hacker-farm

Kemper hails from Brighton, but has roots in Cornwall and describes his totally unique sound as “slurtronic coastal folk” – a suitably obscure description for a musical output which cannot quite be pigeonholed into any current scene or genre. On Carn 1 myth, legend and landscape are explored via sampled folk instrumentation and etherized vocals over constantly evolving drone style ambient layers. It’s a complex, mysterious and exciting sound which is in a constant state of flux and there is clearly development here from his earlier releases including Lowender, Libraries Act and the free Unrequited series of EP’s. Carn 2 will be released on Exotic Pylon early in 2013 and i’m really keen to see how the Carn project develops. You can listen to and purchase all of Kemper Norton’s previous releases here http://kempernorton.bandcamp.com/

 

dooks

6. Chris Dooks & Machinefabriek: The Eskdalemuir Harmonium

This was, without doubt, the most obscure concept for a musical project this year. Basically it goes like this – Chris retires to a countryside retreat for some convalescence to recover from an illness and discovers two decaying American harmoniums on the premises. He proceeds to record their wheezes, rattles and thunks, together with the occasional musical refrain, and then interviews the owner about their history and past use by her father. Later on Rutger Zuydervelt, aka Machinefabriek, from the Netherlands is invited to join the project that develops from these recordings and a drone ambient underlay is created. Tinged with folk nostalgia, perhaps a bit of melancholy, but also a healthy dose of optimistic renewal, this is a real undiscovered gem of an album full of character and inventiveness.  The LP is a work of art in itself, but if you don’t have a turntable there is also a download option too and both include extensive project notes and photographs. Order your copy here http://kominorecords.com/site/news/portfolio/k0m1n0-004/

 

elisaluu

7. Elisa Luu: Un Giorno Sospeso

Perfect music to relax to during a Sunday morning coffee with the papers. This is a more technical album then her previous ambient electronic releases with intricate rhythms and subtle melody interspersed with the electronic hum, pulse and chatter of synthesizers. Most tracks start quietly, but always develop in interesting ways – well worth a listen. http://agora.hiddenshoal.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=42&products_id=204

 

ERC-cover

8.  The Eccentronic Research Council: 1612 Underture

What’s not to love about this concept album release from the excellent Finders Keepers label ! It has a bit of everything – retro-analog radiophonic style pop, scathing northern political satire, actress Maxine Peake handling the spoken word content in style and witches, yes witches ! It makes you smile and shimmy whilst also giving you a subtle historical narrative about the terrible events surrounding the Pendle Witch trials in Lancashire in 1612, the 400th anniversary of which are hereby commemorated.  Highly recommended ! http://www.finderskeepersrecords.com/discog_014eggs.html

 

hidden birds nest

9.  Hiroki Sasajima & Takahisa Hirao: Hidden Birds Nest

The first of a number of pure field recording releases in my list. This one from the excellent 3 Leaves label concentrates in minute detail on the wildlife of the Togakushi region of Japan. After listening to the secret microworld activity  of a range of unnamed creatures the soundscape pulls back to the macro scale of the human environment and ends blissfully in a rainstorm at a Japanese temple with temple bells chiming. http://3leaves-label.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=18

 

holkhammovement

10. Peter Toll: Movement (Holkham)

An immaculate set of field recordings from Peter Toll which perfectly transport you to each location and envelop you in the daily lives of creatures inhabiting the Holkham estate grounds in Norfolk and the adjacent wildlife reserve leading down to the sea. Peter’s stated aim of hoping to convey the magic of moments spent in close proximity to wildlife, which seems completely oblivious of his presence on these recordings, is admirably achieved here. Completed over two years the recordings have a pristine quality devoid of human noise and you feel right there in the middle of the action as deer snuffle around in the undergrowth at your feet, owls hoot in the trees above, geese call at dawn as the sun rises and squirrels skitter up pine trees bending in the wind. It’s a complete tonic for the soul in audio form. Available from Jez Riley French’s excellent Engraved Glass label here http://engravedglass.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/peter-toll-movement-holkham-eg.html

 

madal oo

11.  John Grzinich: Madal oo (Shallow night)

This is another high quality recording by John Grzinich of five dawn chorus sessions completed during spring in Estonia. The sense of space and location in these recordings is immense and the sounds have tremendous depth from foreground pond life to distant background bird calls and dogs barking as the landscape slowly wakes. The Cookoo chorus on this release is one of the most amazing field recordings I have heard this year. Available from the Engraved Glass label here http://engravedglass.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/peter-toll-movement-holkham-eg.html

 

mushybreathless

12. Mushy: Breathless

Wonderful Italian darkwave electronica with a distinct 80’s analog flavour. Peppered liberally with thumping retro beats and topped off by the soaring melancholic vocals of Valentina Fanigliulo.  Available from Mannequin Records here http://mannequinrecords.bandcamp.com/album/mnq-030-mushy-breathless

 

nilsquakaether

13. Nils Quak: Aether

Easily the best use of a eurorack modular system to create an ambient album that I have heard all year. A wealth of constantly evolving sounds are conjured from the swirling tones of electronic hiss, thrum and pulse to create a melancholic and occasionally sinister narrative perhaps tinged by nostalgic reflection. This is one of those deep listening albums that requires headphones and multiple listens to get fully immersed. http://nqmusic.bandcamp.com/album/aether

 

offtheskyandmanwatchingthes

14. Offthesky & Man Watching the Stars: Afar, Farewell

This is a hugely moving ambient work that really defies words to explain the full gamut of emotions you will experience on listening to it. Something akin to a grand hymn to nature this release is given huge depth by the experimental violin constructs of Brendan Paxton working in perfect harmony with the electronic processing techniques of Jason Corder.  http://music.ruralcolours.co.uk/album/afar-farewell

 

ravenscar

15. Chris Whitehead: Ravenscar

Chris Whitehead’s field recordings capture nearly 2000 years of landscape change and development at Ravenscar near Scarborough in North Yorkshire in a sound exploration. Five key periods of human activity which sought to harness the topography and resources of this windswept stretch of coast are featured including a Roman signal station, a 17th century alum works, a 19th century railway tunnel, a failed holiday resort development and a WWII radar station. Collected material from each site was manipulated along with location recordings and some sound processing to create a highly atmospheric representation of site. The sense of long history and inevitable decay are palpable throughout. http://unfathomless.wordpress.com/releases/u12-chris-whitehead/

I can thoroughly recommend Chris’s earlier work Gryphaea on the Russian Obs label too which explores the Jurassic coastline near Whitby in a similar way http://abser1.narod2.ru/releases/

The new Savaran CD-EP featuring vocals by Barbara De Dominicis and Francesca Genco is now available and shipping early next week from Somehow Recordings http://www.somehowrecordings.co.uk/page20

This was originally intended to be an instrumental ambient release utilizing my own field recordings and photography to enhance the coastal theme, but I was then introduced to the amazing vocal improvisations of Barbara De Dominicis from Rome in Italy http://www.soonapres.com/  Barbara is a talented sound artist, musician and professional sound recorder with a string of previous album releases on Schema Records (Cabaret Noir, 2004), WM Recordings (Anti-Gone, 2009) and most recently on the Baskaru label with Julia Kent and Davide Lonardi (Parallel 41, 2012 http://www.par4llel.org/ ).  She has collaborated widely with ambient and experimental music artists across the world and I am really happy and grateful that she agreed to do a couple of tracks with me on this five track EP as her vocals add hugely to the texture and atmosphere of Strandline.

The music fuses sampled acoustic instruments, processed electronics and synthesizers mixed with some of my own field recordings made in coastal locations of Scotland and Wales over the last two years. The photography which forms the cover and CD art on this release includes images taken on Harlech Beach, North Wales  and the Dumfries and Galloway coast, Scotland. As ever with my music, it was the environment which informed the musical process that followed, with all cues being taken from visual and audible references in the landscape.

The EP is dedicated to all those people who can see the bigger picture in life by looking billions of years back in time as well as far into the distant future – they are life’s true explorers….

SEQUENCE3 – Free 41 Track Digital Download Compilation
SEQUENCE3 continues the series started in 2011. Curated by Futuresequence, the aim is to showcase the breadth and depth of experimental music around the world right now. With a clear focus on supporting independent artists and labels the compilations hopefully provide a platform for emerging as well as established artists. The first two editions saw around 2,750 downloads each, we’re hoping to reach 3,000 with SEQUENCE3. The series will continue with a release every 3 months, 4, 5 and 6 in Summer, Autumn and Winter respectively.
Just under 100 track submissions were received this time around, making the final selection very difficult. Artists involved have appeared on labels such as Hibernate, Moodgadget, Type Records, Bigo and Twigetti, Handstitched, Dead Pilot Records, Heat Death Records, Facture, Under The Spire and many more.
Tracklist 
1. Field Rotation – Breathing Slowly

2. Black Eagle Child – Things We Did
3. Machinefabriek – Cymbal I (edit)
4. Dalot – Haiku 10
5. The Oo-ray – Areore
6. Talkingmakesnosense – Burn In
7. Swartz et – Yours Mine Ours]
8. Leah Kardos – DFACE Alt Mix
9. Direwires – Homes
10. Guy Gelem – With All of This
11. Melton – Northern Fields
12. Accelra – Three Suns
13. Ed Hamilton – Stellatarum
14. Stray Theories – Everyone Falls
15. Wolf Maps & Valiska – Tunnels
16. Subnaught – Orogeny
17. Ben Barrett – Wedding March
18. Tone Color – Ebowed an’ Clear
19. Funeral Fireworks – A Suicide and a Wedding
20. stillme & Alvaro Casas – My Funeral Was On The Mountains
21. Sonnamble – Vespers
22. Endote – Lovest
23. J Butler – Dream Analysis
24. Ted James – P64
25. Heinali – A Handful of Snowflakes
26. Mike Shiflet – Pardon
27. Ekca Liena – We Are Drowning Flight
28. Landcrash – Time Exhale
29. Smyth – Beyond Cypress, Shoreline
30. Nils Quak – Disappearer
31. Florian Von Ameln – Oblique Texture
32. Sun Hammer – Requiem for Magne Andreassen
33. IXE-13 – You Die You Dead
34. James Murray – Floods
35. Clade – Templar
36. Montano – Billowing
37. I’ve Lost – A Study In Departure
38. Cinchel – Suspension
39. Easychord – Morante
40. Birds of Passage – Bullrush in the Sun
41. Maps and Diagrams – Oblonga
FREE DOWLOAD AVAILABLE HERE:  http://futuresequence.bandcamp.com/

MORE INFO: http://www.futuresequence.com/releases/sequence-three/

An anonymous debut EP dropped into my inbox last month from London artist Hanetration asking for some feedback. Currently unsigned to any labels Hanetration’s Tenth Oar EP has been released as a free download on Bandcamp where his anonymity remains intact with no additional info. on the artist.  He describes his music as “ambient soundscapes, woozy atmospherics and glitchy sound collages – music for headphones” and I would pretty much go along with that, but I would also add that the EP is compellingly different, sonically inventive throughout and one of the most promising debuts out there in the ambient/experimental field at the moment.

Opening track Rex immediately grabs your attention with its frenzied babbling vocal layered with fluttering flute tones and a quirky beat underlying a mumbling voice buried in hazy delirium. Piano notes meander above a low static layer here and there before the rhythm picks up again to fade out on that fevered vocal line – a superb track!  Alarm builds slowly with piano over dense layers of velvet drone into a mournful death march parade. Lifting the tone slightly, but still with a melancholic air, Rufus includes some wonderfully bowed psaltery-like sounds which stretch out over a steampunk mechanical rhythm full of hiss and steam. Final track Wreck has a delightfully twisted vocal like a lost soul wailing in a fog shrouded limbo with a slow pulse beneath supported by an insistent pickup glitch.

No hesitation here – go and download this now! This is a very exciting debut from Hanetration full of unusual and well mixed sound combinations and very worthy of the 24 minutes of your time that it will take to listen to the full EP.

Hanetration – Tenth Oar. Self released on Bandcamp 6/1/12  http://hanetration.bandcamp.com/

Hanetration – Soundcloud  http://soundcloud.com/hanetration/tracks

 

 

The online electronic/experimental/ambient music magazine Futuresequence has attracted a large readership since its inception back in August 2010. The slick design, lively interviews and well informed reviews have recently been accompanied by two huge collaborative ambient releases in the free-to-download SEQUENCE series, curated by Futuresequence’s owner Michael Waring. With the success of SEQUENCE 1 & 2 it seemed almost inevitable that Futuresequence would evolve into a fully fledged netlabel and so it has come to pass with the imminent digital download release of the label’s first album by Radere – I’ll Make you Quiet.

Radere is Carl Ritger who lives near the picturesque foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Colorado. He has been working as a sound artist since 2003 blending field recordings with electronic processing, effects and guitar. While Ritger apparently eschews synthesis techniques in favour of live instrumentation and organic looping this album does sound distinctly electronic and full of sound synthesis, a common result of processing original sounds to such extremes that the source can no longer be identified.

Opening track I’ll Make You Quiet sets the tone for the rest of the album where clear visual and audible influences from the mountainous scenery around his home filter down into Ritger’s expansive soundscapes, managing to sound by turns majestic, forbidding and melancholic. Soaring drone pads are gradually subsumed under an ear shredding layer of distorted white noise for much of the first track, which just barely manages to stay on the right side of listenable. The noise fortunately passes toward the end like a clearing storm and a gentle fading drone is revealed beneath.

The next three tracks have a similar format where an underlying repeated loop phrase is given dynamics through the use of effects processing with much reverb, echo and distortion thrown in to create some atmospheric pieces. Sometimes, I can’t Make Full Sentences actually manages to mimic the album cover in sound with a distinct sense of cloud rolling ominously down a dark mountain valley.

Final track Stay Away is the longest track on the album and, to my mind, the most fully developed of the tracks on offer. From a quiet start it builds into a menacing swirl with a little distortion here an there and some cold blasts of icy wind. The use of field recorded keys jangling around only serves to increase the heightened tension, as if you are following a climber, harness full of clanking belays and karabiners, into the maelstrom above.

Radere successfully manages to capture the essence of changing weather conditions, environment and scenery in this mountainous first offering from Futuresequence and provides a rock solid foundation on which the label can now grow. I look forward to traversing the many pathways of experimental music that will be on offer in the future.

Radere – I’ll Make You Quiet. Futuresequence FSoo1. Digital Download. Mastered by Jannick Schou. Released 24/1/2012  http://www.futuresequence.com/releases/ill-make-you-quiet/

Links:

Radere Blog: http://falsereactions.tumblr.com/

Radere Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/radere

Radere Bandcamp: http://radere.bandcamp.com/

The Hibernate label starts the new year in good shape with Tom Honey’s latest cure for sleep deprivation and tinnitus in the form of his new album Underneath the Stars.

The ten tracks on this release continue Tom’s  exploration of the gentler side of ambient soundscaping which started in 2009. Suffering with tinnitus himself he set out to write therapeutic pieces of music which subsume the din of our noisy world and the faint burblings of the troubled inner ear in a calm and blissful rapture. Amidst the reverbed, reversed and stretched guitar layers there are gentle electronic pulses, diffuse vocals, soft warbling strings and a host of cleverly muffled field recordings of kids playing, thunder, rain  and other sounds that interject here and there, or form a burbling undertone giving some bottom end weight to these otherwise airy pieces. The second track Another Day Out  really stood out for me with its opening gentle patter of rain and low thunder rumbles which slowly give way to gentle guitar phrasing and a wonderfully rich sounding piano and strings section joined by a choral overtone, playing out wistfully on distant kids voices.

Relaxed – check, soothed – check, drifting off to sleep with a smile on my face – oh yeah 🙂  I’d say that was mission accomplished for me.

Do check out this album whether you have tinnitus or not – you owe it to your ears !

Good Weather for an Airstrike – Underneath the Stars. Hibernate Records HB38. Released: 13th January 2012. Available digitally via Bandcamp http://goodweatherforanairstrike.bandcamp.com/  iTunes and Amazon. Also available in a limited run of 200 CD’s from Hibernate Records http://store.hibernate-recs.co.uk/products/14647