EILEAN REC. – EILEAN 100
Right from the very start of its existence, Eilean Rec. had a very determined concept strategy that translated into all its artistic choices: the artists, the music, the artwork, ánd the release schedule.:
“The label is based on a map with 100 points. Each point is associated to a number. Each number to a release. Each release will fill an area on the map around one point, giving it colors, relief & details. When the 100 points will be on the map, the project will be close.”
And now, that time has come. In less than five years (the first Eilean Rec. album was released in April 2014) the label has reached the 100th map point (which means over 20 releases every year!).
By implementing the original concept down to the smallest detail, the label has gained a near-legendary status, and most of the (physical) releases were sold out it no time.
Unfortunately, this is also true for the #100 release: the (175) limited physical edition sold out in about two hours after it went up for pre-order. But, as usual, the collection remains available as a digital download.
The Eilean map (Eilean is Gaelic for Island) is completed in style: with a 5-CD compilation box presenting 82 tracks (more than 6 hours) of (109) artists that were previously featured in the Eilean series. 61 of these tracks were previously unreleased and new, the rest is taken from the back catalog.
It is, of course, impossible to list all contributors, so I’ll just pick a few of the more familiar names:
Aaron Martin, Seabuckthorn, Spheruleus, Arovane & Mike Lazarev, Daniel W.J. Mackenzie, Monolyth & Cobalt, Cicely Irvine, Benjamin Finger, Ian Hawgood, Ciro Berenguer, 9T Antiope, Ljerke, Andrew Tasselmyer, Sonmi451, Monty Adkins, Bill Seaman, Banabila & Machinefabriek, Sublamp, Autistici, Pascal Savy, Offthesky, Stijn Hüwels, Dag Rosenqvist, … and I could go on and on…
Needless to say, this amounts to an incredibly massive compilation, a great sample of the quality label that Eilean Rec. has become. And perhaps also this last release is the best starting point to check out the artists if you don’t know much about the label and its previous releases.
Is it sad to say goodbye to such a great label? In a way, it is, but on the other hand, we cannot whine about this because it was known from it would end here from the very start.
We probably won’t need to grieve very long: label curator Mathias Van Eecloo has announced the start of a different project in 2020, with a different concept. It’ll start off with a new release by the Alvaret Ensemble, so expectations are high already. I only hope we get enough time to digest this 100th Eilean Rec release!
SILENT RECORDS – FROM HERE TO TRANQUILITY VOL. 11: TONIC IMMOBILITY
Volume 11 of the series that Kim Cascone’s Silent Records label started in 1993, presents almost two hours of deeply immersive drones in 14 tracks. Contributing artists are Coagulant, The Star Pillow, Susan Drone, Fabio Orsi, Jared Sagar, John Hardin, Midcentury Modular, Mike Rooke, Normandy Falls, Offthesky + Selffish, Duncan Chapman, Snowbeard and CM von Hauswolff. With a few exceptions, most of these names are unfamiliar, but in its long years of existence, Silent Records has become a quality label you can easily rely on. If you’re into ‘their’ kind of ambient electronics, of course, which is often rephrasing a certain 90’s electronic atmosphere without becoming ‘retro’.
In a recent Facebook post about this album, the label stated that they “hope people will not just listen to, but learn to “listen through”, and “go beyond treating sound as a material object”.
To achieve this, Kim Cascone/Silent Records organize Subtle Listening workshops (probably comparable to the Deep Listening workshops as developed by Pauline Oliveros):
“Subtle Listening, happens when you develop super-sensory organs of perception. These organs enable the listener to use sound as a portal. These sound portals have shape (soundshapes), color, texture and movement and once sensed the listener can then learn to move through those portals, traveling into new areas of their imagination.”
If you don’t know how to achieve this skill of Subtle Listening, and are not in the position to attend a workshop: there are plans to describe these techniques in a book form in 2020. Something to look out for!
But in the meantime, the tracks on this album may help you trying to “listen through”, instead of “listening to” sound. Just “get started by sitting in a comfy chair, putting on headphones, closing your eyes and letting the music on “From Here to Tranquility Vol 11″ take you to exotic inner worlds.”
KOMPAKT – POP AMBIENT 2020
There are few certainties in life, but this is one of them: in the season when most music addicts are obsessed by compiling their end of year list (and, oh wow, this year even a decennium list!), the Kompakt label looks ahead and present their Pop Ambient collection for the coming year.
This year, it’s not only a preparation for 2020, but also a 20 year anniversary, since this is edition #20: the series started in 2001 and never skipped a year since then!
It’s not very easy to define what Pop Ambient exactly includes. But if you know the series (or if you listen to this edition), you’ll recognize that there is a somewhat different aesthetics from most other ‘ambient’ releases, in that it may be somewhat more accessible, less experimental. It’s not exactly the kind of ‘pop’ you’ll hear in the charts (or even on your radio), and it is definitely ‘ambient music’, no doubt. There are no (or hardly any rhythms, many of the tracks are drone-oriented). But all have their own fresh view, as beautiful as the album covers the series is known for.
“Pop Ambient Music is medicine against illnesses, that you don’t even suffer from.”
This particular edition presents 17 tracks (90 minutes) of music by known and lesser-known artists, Max Wuerden, Yui Onodera, T. Raumschmiere, Klimek, Morgen Wuerde, Markus Guentner, Thomas Fehlmann, among them.
With a start like this, 2020 can’t possibly go wrong (musically).
TXT RECORDINGS – NAGUAL 5
“There’s never enough of great music”, the folks at the Txt Recordings label seem to think. Or maybe they were just worried that you wouldn’t know what to do in 2020, so they released their fifth edition of the Nagual series just in time to fix that.
Unlike the previous editions, which were equally massive collections released on memory sticks, Nagual 5 is released as a 5-CD box set – totaling 6 hours of ambient music by 15 different artists.
Some familiar names are included: Iluiteq, Darren McLure, Tsone – but most of the contributing artists are unknown (to me): Takuya Morita, Fonemi, Spuntic, Five Minutes Alone, Ambidextrous, Beta Consciousness, Midnat, Confluent Phase, Canopy Of Stars, Saitoh Tomohiro, Aairria, Brian Grainger.
The different tracks of each artist are grouped together, which results in a nice flow of different kinds of styles: floating drones as well as sequencer based loop patterns. Track lengths range from 02:48 (shortest) to 27:20 (longest).
Overall, this music can best be classified as ‘classic ambient ‘ (often 90’s style, synth-based): “Immersive ambient dreamscapes and cosmic electronic voyages of discovery”.
Though the single tracks may vary in style, the artists here clearly share an artistic vision – with each other ánd with the Txt recordings label.
TAÂLEM – HOMEWORK – YEAR 4
For the fourth consecutive year, the Taâlem label closes the year with a Homework compilation. In this series, they “gather unreleased tracks composed/recorded/tweaked/finalized during the year by as much taâlem artists as possible.” The artists need not necessarily have released a title this year, but all artists have released at least once on Taâlem since it started 18 (!) years ago.
Homework – Year 4 presents a massive 10-hour selection in 59 tracks – and on a pay what you like basis too (just like the previous Homework editions)! Of course, Taâlem hopes that you like what you hear and thus support the label in other ways: preferably by buying one of their physical releases.
Due to the massive amount of artists and their versatility, Homework – Year 4 is not particularly an ‘easy listening playlist’. It definitely requires some dedicated listening and exploring, finding your own way between the experimental soundscapes, field recordings, and ambient music. Probably there will be only a few listeners that like all of the included tracks, but that is not the intention of a massive release like this. It is meant as an open invitation to pick your own cherries and investigate further from there.
If a compilation like this makes one thing absolutely clear, it’s that the Taâlem label is not exactly suffering from ‘tunnel vision’ in their “aim to explore the different sides of ambient music”.
It’s no use to start name-dropping contributors here: there are too many of them – familiar and unfamiliar. Best check the Bandcamp link for that info. And while you’re there, download the collection and start exploring.