ANDREW SHERWELL – ABOVE BELOW
Slow loops of a distant choir embedded in soft layers of ambient sounds, with the added crackling of long-forgotten vinyl: it’s a perfect match for the dark start of a new year. There is absolutely no need to hurry, just dim the light and concentrate on the flickering candlelight and see what happens.
Like in the accompanying story, quoted from Derek Jarman, where his grandfather teaches him to concentrate, meditate, even self-hypnotize by staring in the candle flame.
“The flickering grew brighter and brighter, the darkness around me swelled. Suddenly, I was aware that the blackness held within it colours that changed in waves. But still I stared….”
The six tracks, all called Above Below, all have this quiet, distant, ‘almost forgotten memories’-atmosphere. Peaceful, no need to be alarmed, but at the same time also slightly haunting. The picture is not entirely clear – just like the cover portrait of the grandfather with his candle.
While Andrew Sherwell created all the music himself, I’m convinced that the mastering of Stephan Mathieu added extra depth to this album. In many other recordings, adding the crackling vinyl sounds feels like an obligatory cheap trick, but here it is the extra instrument layer defining the mood, adding to the mysterious atmosphere. Sometimes it is slowly morphing into the sound of gentle rain: it seems there’s only a minor difference.
With Above, Below, Andrew Sherwell presents one of the most atmospheric albums I have heard this year. Its mysterious atmosphere lingers on even after its 42 minutes have ended.
CIRO BERENGUER – BRUMA
Ever since the very first release on Slaapwel Records (Wouter van Veldhoven’s ‘Ruststukken’, 2007) I’ve been a dedicated follower of the micro-label. Slaapwel means Sleep Well, indicating that their aim is to release music you can fall asleep to – it can hardly get more ambient than that.
Besides, each release is packed in a beautiful hand-stitched sleeve, making the label releases easily recognizable. At times I am proud to say that I have been able to release myself from the obsessive need to complete collections – but there are a few examples. The Slaapwel collection is one of those that I simply cannot resist.
Originally founded by Wim ‘Wixel’ Maesschalk, responsible for releasing the first 11 titles, Stijn Hüwels took over the label in 2014 and has curated 4 releases since then, the latest being Danny Clay’s ‘Periphery’.
And now here’s edition XV: Ciro Berenguer‘s “Bruma”. The single 35-minute track on the album is called Los Entresijos De La Noche (The Ins And Outs Of The Night). As expected, it is a soothing piece, created using electric guitar, synths, tape loops, field recordings, and processed sounds.
If, contrary to the label’s intention, you manage to stay awake and listen, you’ll notice that the piece consists of various different fragments which you could call tracks, but they are seamlessly mixed into one uninterrupted sequence.
Berenguer’s “typical abstract and minimal style with fading, constantly evolving themes, results in an original and warm consistent piece.”
Bruma means ‘mist’. Mist can wrap around you like a blanket, excluding the world around you. Which can be a strange but comfortable sensation.
This music can do that, too.