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London Docks – Tangaroa

London Docks

London Docks is the alias Nikita Sorokin uses for his solo work.
He’s not from London, but from Los Angeles.
Also a member of Insects vs. Robots – but don’t let that count as an introduction, because the music he presents as London Docks is quite different from that of this particular “psychotropicturesque quasi-nomadic music tribe”.

Tangaróa is a collection of tracks merging Nikita Sorokin‘s solo violin improvisations with “fields recordings and electronica into sonic dreamscapes that are inspired as much by science fiction and mythology as they are by musical ideas”.

As his sources of inspiration Sorokin mentions “Steve Reich, Indian Carnatic violin music” as well as “the electronic experimentalism of Amon Tobin and Flying Lotus”. But dropping names always has the risk of fixing expectations.
Nikita Sorokin clearly found his own musical place, at the intersection of different styles – thus creating his own instead of just simply doing what others also do.

There are three short tracks that are possibly somewhat more ‘conventional’ (and lighter) in nature, but for the largest part of Tangaróa, Sorokin lets the tracks take their time to find their course.
The long tracks are introspective masterpieces varying from around 10 minutes to 18 or even 24. They are the true heart of this album, and written to let your mind drift off guided by Tangaróathe Mãori god of the sea.

The longest of tracks is called “Smoke Raga” – a raga for violin solo improvisation, accompanied by the sound of a guitar, a campfire, night creatures and a continuous drone. It’s one of those tracks that I can keep playing on continuous repeat!
Closest to this raga form is “Violin Improvisation – La Lluvia” – which also has a relatively sparse instrumentation to maximum effect.

“400 Clouds Pt.1” and “Submarine Canyon” have a more ‘electronic’ background, with the violin parts somewhat less prominent. The latter, the closing track of the album, has an interesting twist when the track suddenly changes into a fully electronic ambient track (around 10 minutes, with still 8 minutes to go) – as if the submarine suddenly dives deeper and deeper into the darkness of the ocean.
Which is the place where you suddenly find yourself on your own again…

“Stay up late. Listen to these instrumentals on big fat headphones. Think of shapeshifting clouds, electric ghosts that roam the foggy streets, smoke spirits singing in the forest by the cover of night.”

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Bruno Sanfilippo; Lucho Ripley; Lucy Claire; Christina Vantzou; Ulises Conti

Claroscuro

BRUNO SANFILIPPO – CLAROSCURO

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Classically trained musician and composer Bruno Sanfilippo (Spain) presents a beautiful romantic and somewhat melancholic set of modern classical compositions for piano, violin (Pere Bardagi) and violincello (Manuel del Fresno).
“With the fragility and beauty of some Arvo Pärt compositions and a high cinematic touch, “ClarOscuro” brings the perfect soundtrack for an imaginary movie.”



Megablast

LUCHO RIPLEY – MEGABLAST

Also on Spotify

With a title like that you’d expect some raging metal, but of course it wouldn’t be mentioned here if it was. On his debut, Lucho Ripley (who is also from Spain) presents some lush guitar tunes, “packed with thoughtful chord progressions and gorgeous reverb tails.”
The immersive guitar sounds (somewhat comparable to that of Robin Guthrie) and relaxing tunes are a perfect accompaniment for summer twilight moments.



Collaborations 1

LUCY CLAIRE – COLLABORATIONS No. 1

Also on Spotify

This 5-track EP (almost 30 minutes) from contemporary classical composer Lucy Claire is based around two tracks: “Stille” (with vocals by Alev Lenz) and “Somnus”.
They are presented in their original orchestral form (piano, strings, guitar and voice) as well as remixed by Message to Bears, worriedaboutsatan and Bruised Skies – each offering quite a different view on the original material.



No 2 Remixes

CHRISTINA VANTZOU – REMIXES No. 2
Another fascinating (and equally short) set of remixes is offered by Christina Vantzou. Four tracks from her recent album No. 2 (“Sister”, “VHS”, “The Magic of the Autodidact” and “Brain Fog”), remixed – sometimes beyond recognition – by Motion Sickness of Time Travel, Loscil, Ken Camden and John Also Bennett, respectively. Definitely a valuable edition to the No. 2” album!



Ulises Conti

ULISES CONTI – LOS GRIEGOS CREÍAN….

Also on Spotify

From Argentina comes Ulises Conti, presenting his album with the lengthy title “Los Griegos Creían Que Las Estrellas Eran Pequeños Agujeros Por Donde Los Dioses Escuchaban A Los Hombres” (“The Greeks believed that the stars were small holes whereby the Gods listened to Men”).
The track titles are considerably shorter: each is named by a letter of the alfabet. 27 (27? – the “Ñ” is an extra letter) relatively short sketches with a remarkable array of different styles.
The Gods (and you) are welcomed by a choir arrangement that deserves a performance by a real choir (instead of a sampled one), and from there Conti switches from cinematic styles to jazz arrangements and modern classical themes (with the piano as the main instrument), interspersed with some gritty electronics and field recordings.
A caleidoscopic musical vision.


ULISES CONTI – K

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A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Atomos VII


Atomos

This 12″ EP Atomos VIIis the eagerly awaited follow-up to the 2011 self-titled debut of A Winged Victory for the Sullen (core members Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran, usually performing with different guest artists).

There are three tracks on this 25 minute EP album: two versions of “Atomos VII” (the second one being a remix by Ben Frost) and “Minuet for a Cheap Piano Part II”, an outtake from the debut album.

The Atomos VII tracks were composed for a dance piece by Random Dance Company’s choreographer Wayne McGregor (also known as ‘movement director’ from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”!).

The first two tracks are “classic” AWftS material: the first a quiet, stretched, ‘post-classical’ string arrangements, and the second a beautiful piano-arrangement.
The 13 minute Ben Frost remix strays into a more electronic – but equally immersive – sound than usual.

The opening track will appear on the full album (to be released later this year); the other two tracks are available on this vinyl/download release only.


A WINGED VICTORY FOR THE SULLEN – MINUET FOR A CHEAP PIANO NUMBER ONE

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Christina Vantzou – No. 2


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No surprise in the title: No. 2is the follow up to Christina Vantzou‘s “No. 1” from 2011.

The follow-up to a succesfull debut is often referred to as ‘the difficult second album’ – but not really difficult for Christina Vantzou it seems: the album feels like a natural progression, while at the same time a firm step forward.

“No. 1” was not her first venture into the world of music: in 2004, she performed as half of the The Dead Texan duo, together with Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid; A Winged Victory for the Sullen).
In 2007, she toured with Sparklehorse, before focussing her attention to creating ‘minimal ambient post-classical music’.

Vantzou, who has no formal musical training, created the basic tracks using a MIDI keyboard. The compositions were then arranged for a 15-piece orchestra (the Magik*Magik Orchestra from San Francisco) by Minna Choi. Finally, there were mixed with the help of Adam Wiltzie, whose ‘signature’ links the sound directly to that of the Stars of the Lid.
The process of creation perfectly merges the sounds of synthesizers with that of the orchestra, leaving enough room for both.

Compared to “No.1”, the compositions are somewhat less ‘minimal’ and somewhat more ‘modern-classical’ (more like a ‘symphony’) – resembling the works of Johann Johannsson or Max Richter. In fact, this would make great soundtrack music too (which is no surprise since Christina Vantzou is a video artist herself).
Expanding the orchestra from 7 to 15 (adding bassoon and oboe) results in a majestic sound, positioning Christina Vantzou as one of the important composers of this genre.

Also on Spotify


Christina Vantzou – VHS

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Aaron Martin + Christoph Berg – Day Has Ended

Martin Berg

With only a few releases, the relatively new Moscow-based label Dronarivm found its status as one of contemporary ambient music’s most important labels.

With the release of Day Has Ended“, with Aaron Martin and Christoph Berg contributing four tracks each, that status is definitely confirmed – if not enhanced.

Both Aaron Martin and Christoph Berg (who is also known as Field Rotation) are composers renowned for their work crossing the borders of ‘ambient soundscapes’ and ‘post-classical’ music. With the cello as their main instruments, most of their music breathe a sad yet beautiful melancholy.

The track titles and cover image of Day Has Ended immediately sets the atmosphere:
“This is quiet, intimate music, interfused with daylight and covered by a soft mist of evening dreams. This album spans the course of a day until the point where night falls.”

It is a ‘split’ CD, which means that Martin and Berg did not collaborate in creating these tracks, but both perform all instruments on their own half of the album. Clearly they knew what kind of album they were aiming for, since there is no clash in style or content – both halves of the album complete each other in describing the course of a single, calm and quiet, contemplative day.

“The first part, created by Aaron Martin, is a water-colour, cool and delicate. The twinkling sun reflected itself in a slow river, transparent silvery clouds sparkle and brush the heads of drowsy trees. The closer to the middle of the album, the lower goes the gentle shadow, saturating.
In the second part – Christoph Berg’s one, water-colour turns into gouache. The sound becomes more full, more sensuous, it comes in waves, like breath of a sleeping man.
Just close your eyes, be all ears and you’ll feel – the night is not silent. Sweet tune of twilight and darkness full of echo, humming blue, vague voice of the strings and clear gleaming of bright stars in a velvet sky – that is the night.”


CHRISTOPH BERG – TODAY HAS BEEN ALRIGHT

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Stray Theories; Rudi Arapahoe; Lucy Claire; Milkweed Assassin Bug; Jeremiah Pena

In the Shortlist sections, I will mention the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for. 
Still, I definitely think they deserve your attention, with or without extra words! 


Stray Theories

STRAY THEORIESTHOSE WHO REMAIN
With his latest release Stray Theories (Micah Templeton-Wolfe) adds another level of refinement to his already impressive (and independently produced) discography.
Micah is a master of widely cinematic arrangements and melancholic compositions, seemingly evolving out of nothing into a melodic hook that sticks with you for a long time.

The physical edition of “Those Who Remain” is a C47 cassette tape released on Already Dead Tapes (also including the download version), but if you’re not into tapes the download version is also available separately.
Regular Ambientblog visitors familiar with the Parallax” mix may be surprised to find the track “Promises” in this collection, which was then taken from the Elements 2 compilation and featured as one of the mix’s anchor tracks. Which may prove to be an indication of what beauty can be found on this album!



Rudi Arapahoe - Double Bind

RUDI ARAPAHOE – DOUBLE BIND

Also on Spotify
To my surprise here’s another release featuring a track that was included in one of the earlier mixes (Flowers And Bones): the title track of Rudi Arapahoe’s latest EP was also featured on the Hidden Landscapes 2 compilation.
With its heavenly vocals and haunting melody it definitely is the main track on this 19 minute EP, furthermore featuring atmospheric explorations of the Double Bindphenomena:
“Rudi has applied the theory to the relationships that define his world and voiced the findings as music. A face in the mirror, an intimate partner, a public face, a professional face, opponents in business, friendships, the relationships that make up a life; come together to speak, confound and contradict one another.”


RUDI ARAPAHOE – DOUBLE BIND



Lucy Claire - Suite

LUCY CLAIRESUITE
Starting out with gentle field recordings of city street sounds, this remarkable little album slowly turns into a beautiful post-classical composition for piano-violin-cello (with Lucy Claire Thornton playing the piano).
As a Masters Graduate of The Royal College of Music, these tracks are obviously not Lucy’s ‘first steps’ in composing music, which is clearly demonstrated by the daring dissonant turns she sometimes takes. The CD release features two tracks, each about 7 minutes long, and leaves me wanting to hear more of Lucy Claire’s work.
The digital download also includes an additional remix track by Winter Son (Thomas Ragsdale) which “takes the original’s moonlit chords and sets them to a distant beat; one that will never let you forget what time of night it is.”



Short Play

MILKWEED ASSASSIN BUG – SHORT PLAY

Also on Spotify
With a name like that, you’d expect some seriously hard noise, but in fact almost the opposite is true. On this little 17 minute album, Milkweed Assassin Bug (John MCrea and Ian Leslie) present some lovely soft crossover tracks from post-classical to atmospheric jazz, playing piano, saxophone, cello and electronics. The EP may be somewhat harder to find as it is not available on Bandcamp, but you can track it down on iTunes, Amazon – and even try it out on Spotify.


MILKWEED ASSASSIN BUG – FERNWEH



Jeremiah Pena - Fragmentations

JEREMIAH PENAFRAGMENTATIONS

Also on Spotify
Since he started making music in 2007, Jeremiah Pena has been composing music for films and games mostly. “Fragmentations” is his first full album and shows his versatility in creating cinematic music. Meandering through a lot of different moods, this could indeed have been a successful movie (or game) soundtrack.
“A foray into electronic ambience and beats, deep soundscapes and glitched drums, spiked with cello and piano”.

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Library Tapes – Sun Peeking Through


Library Tapes - Sun Peeking Through

Recording music since 2004, Swedish composer David Wenngren a.k.a. Library Tapes has a distinct personal style that perfecly matches the best in the  ‘acoustic ambient’/’post-classical’ genres.

His latest album Sun Peeking Throughflawlessly unites different kind of aspects from the genre: ambient electronics in the opening and closing Variations, romantic piano melodies combined with melancholic cello musings, all alternating with dark abstract ambient string soundscapes.

Title and cover image tell all there is need to know about this album: look behind the melancholy and sadness to find the Sun Peeking Through.

The ten tracks on this album barely add up to half an hour: most of them are short sketches, ranging from about one to four minutes. But the tracks are carefully arranged in such a way that the album feels like a single composition divided in 10 parts.

Judging by their length, the opening and closing Variations, together with the more abstract soundscapes “Lost” and “Found” are the core of this album.
But in-between, there are the different Parlour variations, along with the other shorter tracks, helping you to keep your feet on the -melodic- ground.

David Wenngren keeps his own piano parts relatively sparse – merely providing a melodic background for the string section.
The string section – Julia Kent, Danny Norbury (cello) and Sarah Kemp (violin) – delivers their beautiful sounds: melancholic on the verge of heartbreaking.

Those of you that already know earlier Library Tapes albums probably do not need this recommendation at all.
But if you’re not yet familiar with Library Tapes, I strongly advise you to start checking out some of his albums.
Sun Peeking Through may be a very good start to do so!


LIBRARY TAPES – THE END OF SUMMER

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Olan Mill – Paths


Paths

Paths” is the follow-up to Olan Mill‘s debut release Pine” (released in 2010 on the Serein label). 
Their second release (now on Facture) continues to explore their “unashamedly romantic music”, with a well-merged blend of violin, pipe organ and processed guitar.

Olan Mill‘s sound is somewhat comparable to the sound of the Stars of the Lid and A Winged Victory for the Sullen and will definitely appeal to the same audience.

It is hard to believe that this is not the sound of a full orchestra, but of just two people (Alex Smalley and Svitlana Samoylenko), “reconciling the ambition of an orchestra with the limitations of a duo”.

The basic tracks for these six tracks were recorded at two live performances in 2010. 
“Direct and melodic without the obsession of minimalism, Paths is an honest and engaging account of both melancholy and euphoria.” 

The full package of this release (which is limited to 300 and will probably be released within two weeks) consists of a hand-numbered/stamped/sealed (and scented!) package containing 180gr vinyl as well as CD, a booklet, limited edition print and A2 poster.
 


Olan Mill – On Leaving

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Szymon Kaliski + Stefan Wesolowski – 281011


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This collaboration by Szymon Kaliski (electronics) and Stefan Wesolowski (violin) – released as a limited  (50 only) edition on Few Quiet People – was commissioned especially to promote the new spatial audiovisual controller called the Dodecaudion.
A gesture-based controller which, by the looks of it, can best be described as some sort of nowadays Theremin

A fascinating device, which was presented at the Culture 2.0 in Warsaw on October 28, 2011.

Introducing a new musical device may lead to a lot of theoretical background discussions about technical details. As Kaliski explains the setup for this event:
“For this project I ve created custom application in MAX/MSP, that used OSC messages sent from Dodecaudion to control volumes and panning of prerecorded samples (drones and field recordings), as well as different effects. Sound was fed into long looper that helped me easily create layered composition. Stefan was also using this application, as his violin was recording on second, shorter looper.”

This is very interesting, but the question is: does the music of this experimental setup also work when presented on a regular audio(-only) CD? 
The answer is: Yes, it does. Quite good, in fact. It’s inspiring and innovative!

The beautiful sounds of Wesolowski’s violin work very well together with Kaliski’s electronic background, which is quite delicate on most tracks (the exception being 281011#3 which includes quite some feedback distortion).

Judging by the titles, these tracks were recorded in two sessions on october 27 and 28, 2011 (apart from 271011#2, which is a remix that Kaliski created afterwards).
It’s my guess that creating the Dodecaudion and the custom built MAX/MSP application used here probably took a lot more time!


Szymon Kaliski + Stefan Wesolowski – 271011#2

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Clem Leek – Lifenotes

Clem Leek

The album cover image may suggest this is another piano-based album. Not true, although the piano plays an important role.

The first two tracks on his new album Lifenotes clearly demonstrate that Clem Leek is a multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, as well as violin, guitar and various other instruments.
Along the album, the main instruments vary but the atmosphere remains effectively restrained.

“This CD was all about getting back to basics and recording pieces that were simple, which happens to be my best way of writing.”

“When your body hurts with emotion, only then do you know who you are.”
(inner sleeve statement)

Though Lifenotes may be an emotional album, that does not mean it’s a sad album.

Besides the different instruments Clem plays, he adds some delicate sound effects and field recordings to enhance the variety of acoustic images. This is what may distinguish his album somewhat from fellow contemporary musicians such as Peter Broderick, Max Richter, Nils Frahm, Dustin O’Halloran, and Helios/Goldmund/Keith Kenniff.

Lifenotes presents 16 tracks in just 35 minutes. This means the tracks are all short, in a range from under a minute to about three minutes for the longest tracks. They are Sketches, in a way, just like the beautiful album cover. Short notes, Lifenotes, indeed.

Piano, guitar, or subtle shortwave electronics (on Origami Soldiers): Clem Leek’s sound and compositions are right on spot. Sparsely coloured, restrained, but simple? I would not dare to call this pieces “simple“.


Clem Leek – Walter

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